This outline explains the mechanism of how anger is triggered and the possible benefits of controlling anger or to express it in constructive ways. This also outlines ways by which anger can be managed effectively and how to minimize wasted time and effort when anger overpowers the person.
Do you remember when you got angry the last time? Did you get mad when your kid narrowly missed getting hit by a truck? Were you angry when you got elbowed when you were getting out of the bus? Were you angry when you did not get the job even though you know you deserved it?
We get angry sometimes and it is a natural reaction to attacks and threats, disappointment and injustice. It is a strong and powerful emotion. It lets a person release the building pressure inside of them to help them cope up with problems as well as for them to move on. If anger is not managed properly, it will have drastic effects in a person’s relationships, life, mental well-being and achievements.
Anger is a basic human emotion and is a natural response to harm or attacks experienced in the past. It takes on many forms ranging from blinding rage, resentment to irritation that would linger on for many years.
Physical, social and mental factors often work together to make people feel a specific way. It is different for everyone and the feelings are strongly influenced by such emotions, how we perceive the environment, what is happening around us as well as our own circumstances. Anger is also a mixture of factors and it never acts alone.
How anger works
You go about your life weighing situations and our decisions whether they are bad or good for us, unsafe or safe. You interpret these events because of how you feel for them. If a person feels unsafe, it means danger; if we are criticized, it results to anger in most cases. Our emotions and feelings influence our reactions to certain events. We interpret the meaning of events too fast and with anger, reacting very fast would result to regrets on how we have reacted earlier on.
From the time we were born, we have been observing events, interpreting their meanings and we associate them with anything we find closely related to them. Our experiences on how to deal with these situations influences our emotions which would in turn influence our actions.
Response to anger
Much of your emotions are related to specific physical responses. Anger moves the body and mind to react. It stimulates the nervous system, increases heart rate, circulation of blood to the muscles, blood pressure, sweating and levels of sugar in the blood. It sharpens our senses and it increases production of a hormone during stressful events. The hormone is called adrenaline.
After affecting our physical actions, anger can also affect our way of thinking. When we feel threatened, anger can help us decide quickly what is right from wrong. This situation is useful in emergency events when we need quick thinking to save us from danger. But this could also be a problem because we act first before weighing everything relevant. We may need extra time to analyze a better way of behaving in that situation. When anger comes first before rational thinking, people will tend to act violently as urged by an instinct to protect someone or to survive.
Factors that make us angry
Factors which trigger anger include the following:
- Faces threat or loved ones are threatened
- Blow to self-esteem; a misfit inside a social sphere
- Physical or verbal abuse
- Distracted when inching towards a goal
- When something goes against a certain principle that the person considers important
- losing money
- discriminated and is powerless to do anything about it
- when their property is mistreated
- disappointment about ourselves or someone else
When we are wronged or judged unfairly, it affects our emotions and it triggers anger. Experiences can also affect our physical or emotional reactions. If a person is having a hard time, even the most mundane of things can anger or irritate him.
We can feel angry when we remember a situation and the negative emotions during that time in the past could resurface and wreck havoc in a person’s mood. Anger can resurface even after long period of time because it was not dealt sufficiently in the past: it had no closure to speak of.
Differences in anger
Other people deal with situations and their frustrations differently. They may show anger or not or keep it to themselves. Triggering anger is different for everyone especially since factors such as gender, ethnicity, age, family history or social position, and religion can affect a person’s emotions. Expectations can also influence people on how to deal with situations.
Other people may think that a woman raising her voice is unacceptable but for a man doing the same thing is okay. This could be one of the reasons why women internalize their rage and anger more so than men. Women tend to lash out to themselves instead of saying it out loud or acting it out.
People are used to act in particular ways in response to specific situations. This is called learnt behaviour because a pattern of behaviour is formed. How parents control their anger greatly influence their children’s response to anger in their entire lives. It is essential for the parent to set the best example for their children.
Behaviour when a person feels anger
Anger is not always bad. It can also be good like moral outrage for example which drives activists to fight for people’s rights, change and reinforcement of rules in our society. Aggression and anger are not the same although a lot of people think that they are the same. Anger is a state of emotion while aggression is how people react when they feel anger. Aggressive behaviour could either by verbal or physical in nature. People who act with aggression often find themselves overwhelmed that they act instinctively fro protection against harm. Alcohol plays a major role in making people act aggressively. Similarly, drug abuse can lower inhibitions as well.
For those who verbally let out their anger, they may do the following:
- use intense, dramatic words
- exacerbate the effect of someone else’s actions on them
- attack someone with aggressive questions
Some angry people act as martyr to get other people to feel guilty. By this way, they get what they want. Other people can develop cynical behaviour wherein they criticize everything but do not constructively address the problems.
Others internalize their anger or they keep it to themselves. They do not show that they are angry even though they are seething with anger inside. Some people who internalize their anger can develop self-mutilation or self-harm reactions to cope with their own emotions. This is their way of dealing with their intense and angry feelings which they cannot express in any other way. This is very common among the young people. Relief from their anguish is temporary and soon they will realize that harming themselves will not solve their problems at all.
Complications linked with anger
Anger is neither bad nor good but it can become an issue when it causes trouble for other people. This is the one of the causes of relationship troubles in work, family or with friends. Individuals, who have bad anger management tend to become poor decision makers, are at risk for substance abuse and take risks than anyone else.
Intense and long-term anger is linked to mental health illnesses which include anxiety, self-mutilation and depression. It has been linked to poor physical health and other conditions like the following:
- high blood pressure
- coronary heart disease
- flu and cold
- gastrointestinal trouble
Overlooking anger problems
Anger management issues are common like anxiety and depression but for those who have trouble controlling their anger, they fail to see anger or the lack of control of it as a serious problem. It is very rare that they seek medical consultation and will want to consult other people for their problem. If their close friends or family convince them seek medical help, they will become less willing in following the instructions of the doctor. They have to realize by themselves that they need medical help and that change is easier with the help of friends and family.
Many individuals get angry all the time but angry these people express is well within the normal range. But other people will get angry more frequently that it will start to affect their daily lives. These two types of people will benefit from proper anger management. Studies have suggested that with proper anger management, one’s health and mental state would improve tremendously. With proper anger management, people will feel positive, achieve their aims, solve their problems as well as enjoy having relationships with other people.
Anger leads a person to act violently which he may regret doing afterwards. Controlling one’s temper is a good thing to practice because it saves the person from humiliation or trouble which may come after an angry outburst. Keeping your anger locked up is not good either. It is important to find ways to manage your anger and be able to move on once it has been dealt with.
Buying time to relax
Taking a breather before acting out your anger is an effective way of controlling it. Think of the reason why you got angry and the possible consequences before choosing your reaction. A delay in reaction can help a person deal with the problem in a more constructive and calm manner. This method works well even when the person is in the midst of a heated argument. Rational thinking is prioritized before acting out in pure rage.
- Counting to 10 before reacting
- Whenever you feel like throwing things out to someone or something, try imagining yourself hitting something that would not get damaged or hurt you.
- Breathe deeply and learn to relax shoulders by dropping them. Your body tells you to fight when you are angry so reverse this feeling by relaxing or chilling out.
- Scream as long as it does not disturb other people. It releases your tension very well.
- Talk to yourself and stay calm as possible
- Do other things that could distract you away from the situation. Try doing fun things like playing with a pet, walking outside or listening to music.
- Tell your problems to someone to get a perspective of the situation.
- Try writing to relieve yourself from tension. This redirects your anger into more creative ways.
- Do regular bouts of exercise whenever you are angry. This channels your negative energy into more productive work which will increase endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are feel good chemicals that helps us to relax.
- Yoga and meditation are relaxing techniques which the person can also do to channel his negative energy to exercise regimen. This also induces the release of endorphins which would inhibit a person’s will to act on impulse.
To be assertive is another healthy means of expressing feelings of anger rather than being aggressive. Before allowing yourself to get angry, take control and hold back your feelings while explaining yourself:
- Tell others you are angry and the reason behind it
- Use ‘I’ to give others the impression that it is about you and not them
- Talk clearly and slowly
- Use ‘I could’ or ‘I might” rather than ‘I must’ and ‘I should’
- Suggest requests than threats or demands
Being assertive is for people who find it difficult to speak about their feelings and for people to manipulate aggression into assertiveness. There are helpful tips on using body language and communication skills to improve being assertive. Good communication helps to get the message across and enables the person to listen to the opinion of others.
It helps a lot knowing what gets you mad and what helps you get over your anger. This helps in how a person behaves while wanting to react in anger. Talk to someone about your problems.
- What makes you angry?
- Do you have unhealthy behavioural patterns?
- What are the signs that show you are nearing your breaking point?
- What were the consequences after?
- Are there factors in your surrounding which you can change?
- What calms you down?
Solving and finding out what the problem is can help a lot in avoiding to become a victim of humiliation after sudden angry outbursts. Some of these factors are well beyond your control and by accepting this, you can work out a plan in changing other aspects in your life which could help you control your anger. Giving time to accomplish your goals can help a lot in controlling anger.
Protecting One’s mental state
Being stressed makes people more susceptible of losing control over their temper. People with a health mental state are capable of coping better when events go from bad to worse.
- be physically active
- Eat a proper and well-balanced diet. Some foodstuffs are able to change our moods like nutrients while others will supply us with the necessary fuel to keep us from functioning well.
- Caring for other people
- Drink in moderation and avoid substance and alcohol abuse
- Socialize with family and friends. Talk and maintain constant communciation with them as often as possible. Talk to them about problems and your feelings.
- Enjoy and relax yourself
- Do something you are good at
- Learn to accept who you really are
Dealing with another person’s anger
Receiving one’s anger can be hard but many people are able to handle it because they can tolerate their loved ones. They also fear them in some way but if you are feeling depressed because of this, you should not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Being calm while the other person is mad can be a hard thing to do but you can think of the following ways to help you cope up:
- Remember the tactics that help people cam down and use these tactics
to remind the other person
- Explain that in some cases anger is justifiable, although it can make other people lose their perspective
- Help them to consider the reasons for their anger and help them to calmly explain it
It is easy to become affected of other people’s negative emotion so before becoming enraged yourself, remove yourself from the situation and give the other person and yourself time to calm down. Talk to them if they have calmed down and talk about resolving the issue in the best possible way.
Where to turn to for help
Going to the doctor to seek medical advice regarding anger management or mental health is the best way to start treatment. The doctor can advice the patient some self-help anger management techniques or he may refer the patient to a service support group for further help.
This type of therapy uses the cognitive behavioural therapy principles where it helps people to explore themselves: what triggers their anger and how to modify their response mechanism to typical situations that make them mad. This therapy is good for several weeks to a couple of months.
This is a session of therapy where people who have the same problems gather together to tell their problems to one another. They find comfort in one another and learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences. The course takes place in a day, a couple of weeks or months depending on the severity and need of the patients.
Domestic violence courses
This type of therapy is for those people who have resorted to violent behaviour against their own family. The therapy helps the people to take more responsibility, understand their violent actions and contemplate the subsequent impact of it to their loved ones. They can also seek help regarding alcohol or substance abuse.
Local support group
People who share the same problem and experiences can gather together and support one another in an effort to modify their attitude and behaviour. This type of therapy can be headed by a person who has had the same problem before but has successfully changed himself for the better.
There is a community or group of people who turns to religion for comfort amidst problems in life. They offer help and make the person get a perspective on the situation that made them mad. These people place the circumstances in context with the values or principles of the kind of faith they follow.
Support groups, therapies and courses
Courses on Anger Management
The British Association of Anger Management has evening and weekend courses for those who need help in managing their anger as well as for those who help other people manage their anger.
Going through counselling helps people talk about their problems in relationships, work or in their social life. Counselling is also recommended for people who need intervention in their married life as well as if they are separated, in a homosexual relationship or divorced.
Relate runs counselling and requires a small fee for their service. Inquire about their services through your doctor.