Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, but when long-lasting, explosive anger spirals out of control, it can have serious costs for your relationships, your health, and your state of mind.
With insight about the real reasons for your anger and these anger management tools, you can learn to keep your temper from hijacking your life. Click here to find out more.
The emotion of anger is neither good nor bad. It’s perfectly healthy and normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged. The feeling isn't the problem—it's what you do with it that makes a difference. Anger becomes a problem when it harms you or others.
If you have a hot temper, you may feel like it's out of your hands and there's little you can do to control it. But you have more control over your anger than you think. You can learn to express your emotions without hurting others—and when you do, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more likely to get your needs met. Learning the art of anger management takes work, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. And the payoff can be huge. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately can help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a healthier, more satisfying life.
Myths and facts about anger
Myth: I shouldn’t “hold in” my anger. It’s healthy to vent and let it out.
Fact: While it’s true that suppressing and ignoring anger is unhealthy, venting is no better. Anger is not something you have to “let out” in an aggressive way in order to avoid blowing up. In fact, outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and reinforce your anger problem.
Myth: Anger, aggression, and intimidation help me earn respect and get what I want.
Fact: True power doesn’t come from bullying others. People may be afraid of you, but they won’t respect you if you can’t control yourself or handle opposing viewpoints. Others will be more willing to listen to you and accommodate your needs if you communicate in a respectful way.
Myth: I can’t help myself. Anger isn’t something you can control.
Fact: You can’t always control the situation you’re in or how it makes you feel, but you can control how you express your anger. And you can express your anger without being verbally or physically abusive. Even if someone is pushing your buttons, you always have a choice about how to respond.
Myth: Anger management is about learning to suppress your anger.
Fact: Never getting angry is not a good goal. Anger is normal, and it will come out regardless of how hard you try to suppress it. Anger management is all about becoming aware of your underlying feelings and needs and developing healthier ways to manage being upset. Rather than trying to suppress your anger, the goal is to express it in constructive ways.
Why anger management is important
You might think that venting your anger is healthy, that the people around you are too sensitive, that your anger is justified, or that you need to show your fury to get respect. But the truth is that anger is much more likely to damage your relationships, impair your judgment, get in the way of success, and have a negative impact on the way people see you.
Anger management tip 1: Explore what’s really behind your anger
If you’re struggling with out-of-control anger, you may be wondering why your fuse is so short. Anger problems often stem from what you’ve learned as a child. If you watched others in your family scream, hit each other, or throw things, you might think this is how anger is supposed to be expressed. Traumatic events and high levels of stress can make you more susceptible to anger as well.
Anger is often a cover-up for other feelings
In order to get your needs met and express your anger in appropriate ways, you need to be in touch with what you are really feeling. Are you truly angry? Or is your anger masking other feelings such as embarrassment, insecurity, hurt, shame, or vulnerability?
If your knee-jerk response in many situations is anger, it is very likely that your temper is covering up your true feelings and needs. This is especially likely if you grew up in a family where expressing feelings was strongly discouraged. So now you may have a hard time acknowledging feelings other than anger.
Clues that there’s something more to your anger
If you are uncomfortable with many emotions, detached, or stuck on an angry one-note response to everything, it might do you some good to get back in touch with your feelings. Emotional awareness is the key to self-understanding and success in life. Without the ability to recognise, manage, and deal with the full range of human emotions, you may spin into confusion, loneliness, and self-doubt.
Anger management tip 2: Be aware of your anger warning signs and triggers
While you might feel that you just explode into anger without warning, in fact, there are physical warning signs in your body. Anger is a normal physical response. It fuels the “fight or flight” system of the body, and the angrier you get, the more your body goes into overdrive. Becoming aware of your own personal signs that your temper is starting to boil allows you to take steps to manage your anger before it gets out of control.
Pay attention to the way anger feels in your body
Identify the negative thought patterns that trigger your temper
You may think that external things—the insensitive actions of other people, for example, or frustrating situations—are what cause your anger. But anger problems have less to do with what happens to you than how you interpret and think about what happened. Common negative thinking patterns that trigger and fuel anger include:
Avoid people, places, and situations that bring out your worst
Stressful events don’t excuse anger, but understanding how these events affect you can help you take control of your environment and avoid unnecessary aggravation. Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings. Maybe you get into a fight every time you go out at the weekend with a certain group of friends. Or maybe someone continuously does something that drives you crazy. Then think about ways to avoid these triggers or view the situation differently so it doesn’t make your blood boil.
Anger management tip 3: Learn ways to cool down
Once you know how to recognize the warning signs that your temper is rising and anticipate your triggers, you can act quickly to deal with your anger before it spins out of control. There are many techniques that can help you cool down and keep your anger in check.
Quick tips for cooling down
Give yourself a reality check
When you start getting upset about something, take a moment to think about the situation. Ask yourself:
Anger management tip 4: Find healthier ways to express your anger
If you’ve decided that the situation is worth getting angry about and there’s something you can do to make it better, the key is to express your feelings in a healthy way. When communicated respectfully and channelled effectively, anger can be a tremendous source of energy and inspiration for change.
Pinpoint what you’re really angry about
Have you ever gotten into an argument over something silly? Big fights often happen over something small, like a dish left out or being 10 minutes late. But there’s usually a bigger issue behind it. If you find your irritation and anger rapidly rising, ask yourself “What am I really angry about?” Identifying the real source of frustration will help you communicate your anger better, take constructive action, and work towards a resolution.
Take five if things get too heated
If your anger seems to be spiralling out of control, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes or for as long as it takes you to cool down. A brisk walk, a trip to the gym, or a few minutes listening to some music should allow you to calm down; release pent up emotion, and then approach the situation with a cooler head.
Always fight fair
It’s okay to be upset at someone, but if you don’t fight fair, the relationship will quickly break down. Fighting fair allows you to express your own needs while still respecting others.
If your anger is still spiralling out of control, despite putting the previous anger management techniques into practice, or if you’re getting into trouble with the law or hurting others—you need more help. There are many therapists, classes, and programs for people with anger management problems. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. You’ll often find others in the same shoes, and getting direct feedback on techniques for controlling anger can be tremendously helpful.
Consider professional help if:
If your loved one has an anger management problem
If your loved one has an anger problem, you probably feel like you’re walking on eggshells all the time. But always remember that you are not to blame for your loved one’s anger. There is never an excuse for physically or verbally abusive behaviour. You have a right to be treated with respect and to live without fear of an angry outburst or a violent rage.
Tips for dealing with a loved one’s anger management problem
While you can’t control another person’s anger, you can control how you respond to it:
Anger isn’t the real problem in abusive relationships
Despite what many people believe, domestic violence and abuse is not due to the abuser’s loss of control over his or her behaviour and temper. In fact, abusive behaviour is a deliberate choice for the sole purpose of controlling you. If you are in an abusive relationship, know that couples counselling is not recommended—and that your partner needs specialised treatment, not regular anger management classes.
It's Not Personal! A Guide to Anger Management by Alice J. Katz - Publishers A.J.K. Pub: ISBN 0965172902
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