“Anyone can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way …that is not easy.” - Aristotle
Anger is a normal human emotion and when managed properly it is not a problem. Most people get angry at some time, and if directed appropriately can sometimes be useful to express strong feelings and address situations. But if anger is expressed in harmful ways, or continues for a long period of time, then it can lead to problems in relationships at home and at work and can affect the overall quality of your life. On rare occasions, anger may be related to an injury to the brain, or drug or alcohol use and if this is possible it’s important to get a professional evaluation.
The following points can help you understand anger and learn better ways to handle and express it.
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion that can range from mild annoyance to intense rage and is accompanied by biological changes in your body. When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure rise and stress hormones are released which can cause you to shake, become hot and sweaty and feel a loss of control.
When people have angry feelings, they often behave in angry ways including yelling, throwing things, criticising, ignoring, or sometimes withdrawing and doing nothing.
Anger can lead to aggression if not controlled and can be used as an excuse for being abusive towards others. Violence and abusive behaviour gives power and control over another person through creating fear.
Why do we get angry?
Anger often starts with frustration - things don't always happen the way we want and people don't always act the way we think they should. Anger is usually linked with other negative emotions or is a reaction to them such as feeling hurt, frightened, disappointed, worried, embarrassed or frustrated, but often people can express these feelings as anger. Anger can also result from misunderstanding or bad communication between people.
Men and women sometimes manage and express anger in different ways. Many men believe that anger is a more legitimate emotion to express in a situation and often find it harder to express the feelings underneath the anger, like hurt, sadness or grief. For women the reverse can be true – if they don’t feel powerful enough in the situation they can bury it and it can express as sadness, depression, anxiety or withdrawal from others.
When is anger a problem?
Anger becomes a problem when other people around you are frightened, hurt or feel they cannot talk to you or disagree with you in case you become angry. Some signs that anger is a problem are:
It can involve verbal, emotional, physical or psychological abuse. You feel angry a lot. People around you are worried about your anger. Anger leads to problems with personal relationships and work. You think you must get angry to get what you want. Anger is bigger than the event that set it off. Anger lasts for a long time, well after the triggering event has passed. Anger affects other people and situations not related to the original event. You become anxious or depressed about your anger. You use alcohol or drugs to try to manage your anger. You get angry with the people who are closest to you, or with people who are less powerful than you, rather than dealing with the situation that sparked off your anger in the first place.
Why manage anger?
Anger is not a good solution to problems, even if it seems helpful in the short term. Unmanaged anger creates problems for you and often for others around you. People with poor anger management are likely to have problems with personal relationships or work, verbal and physical fights and/or damaged property. They can also experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, illnesses and problems with alcohol or drugs. It is important to manage anger before it leads to other problems.
People used to believe that venting anger was beneficial but researchers have found that releasing it actually increases anger and aggression and does nothing to resolve the situation. On the other hand, sitting on your anger and not expressing it may lead to a sense of internal pressure that wants to explode. Expressing feelings of anger in a controlled way gives you an opportunity to release some of your underlying feelings, so that you can start to tackle the issues that are making you angry.
What is anger management?
Anger management is about understanding your anger, why it happens and learning and practicing better ways of expressing it, along with knowing how to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Specifically, anger management is about knowing the triggers and early warning signs of anger, and learning techniques to calm down and manage the situation before it gets out of control.
Some Tips to help manage anger
Identify triggers and warning signs of anger: The first step in being able to manage your anger is to recognise the situations that make you angry and identify your body's warning signs of anger.
List things that can trigger your anger: Make a list of the things that often set off your anger. If you know ahead of time what makes you angry, you may be able to avoid these things or do something different when they happen.
Notice the warning signs of anger in your body: Notice the things that happen to your body that tell you when you are getting angry (heart pounding, face flushed, sweating, jaw tense, tightness in your chest or clenching your teeth). The earlier you can recognise these warning signs of anger, the more successful you will probably be at calming yourself down before your anger gets out of control.
Learn strategies for managing anger: There are a many different ways of managing anger and some strategies will suit you better than others. Here’s some tips:
- Control your thinking
When you're angry, your thinking can get exaggerated and irrational so try replacing these kinds of thoughts with more useful, rational ones. For example, instead of saying ‘I can't stand it”, tell yourself ‘It's frustrating, and it makes sense that I'm upset about it'.
Develop a list of things of positive things to say to yourself before, during and after situations that may make you angry. Focus on how you can manage the situation rather than what other people should be doing.
If you feel your anger getting out of control, take time out from the situation by stepping out of the room, or going for a walk. Before you go, remember to make a time to talk about the situation later when you or others have has calmed down. During the time out, plan how you are going to stay calm when your conversation resumes.
- Use distraction
A good strategy for managing anger is to distract your mind from the situation that is making you angry. Try counting to ten, playing relaxing music, talking to a good friend, or focusing on simple tasks.
- Use relaxation
Relaxation strategies can reduce the tension and stress in your body. Practise taking long deep breaths and focusing on your breathing, or progressively relaxing your body and muscles.
- Learn assertiveness skills
Assertiveness skills can be learnt through self-help books or by attending courses and these skills make sure that anger is channelled and expressed in clear and respectful ways. Being assertive means being clear with others about what your needs and wants are, feeling okay about asking for them, but also respecting the other person's needs and concerns as well and being prepared to negotiate. Avoid using words like ‘never' or ‘always' as these are usually inaccurate, make you feel as though your anger is justified, and don't leave much possibility for the problem to be solved.
- Try to see what is making you angry
Acknowledge that an issue has made you angry by admitting it to yourself and others. Telling someone that you felt angry when they did or said something is better than acting out the anger. Make sure you think about who you are actually angry with and take care that you aren't just dumping your anger on the people closest to you, or on people who are less powerful than you, for example, don't yell at your partner, children, dog or cat when you are really angry with your boss.
Sometimes it can help to write down what is happening in your life and how you feel about the things that are happening? Writing about these topics can help give you some distance and perspective and help you both understand your feelings and work out some options for changing your situation.
- Rehearsing anger management skills
Use your imagination to practise your anger management strategies by imagining yourself in a situation that gets you anger. Imagine how you could behave in that situation without getting angry. Replay it in your mind and imagine resolving the situation without anger. Try rehearsing some anger management strategies with a friend by asking them to help you act out a situation where you get angry, so that you can practise other ways to think and behave. Also you can practise saying things in an assertive and non-angry way.
- Seeking professional assistance
You can seek help from a Perth Psychologist if you feel your anger is out of control. Your psychologist can assess if your anger is a problem, and help you understand what to do. Together, you can both work on how you can get what you want without using anger. They can also advise you about resources to help manage your anger, such as support groups, books and courses. Your psychologist can also help you manage other problems that may be associated with anger, such as anxiety and depression, violence or difficulties in your personal relationships.
To make an appointment or enquiry, please call 1300 70 50 55 or fill in your details for us to contact you.