Anger is one of the most misunderstood emotions and one that is often suppressed. People often view anger negatively. However, it is an emotion that holds an important place in our emotional life, which is why it needs to be honored. It is better to understand the purpose of anger and find ways to manage it.
Anger is an emotion that stems from the primitive brain as a way of indicating that something in our lives needs to change, or that we need to act. Just as your car indicates when it needs more fuel, anger tells you that you need to make changes within your life or the environment that surrounds you. Understanding how your emotions work, particularly anger, allows you to use them as a powerful tool.
By understanding your anger better, you are essentially giving yourself the opportunity to assert yourself, your needs, and the changes you want to see happen within your environment. Just like an alarm system, anger lets you know that there is a problem so that you can correct it. If you decide to suppress or ignore your anger instead, you run the risk of causing your internal alarm system to go awry.
Fortunately, identifying common triggers that tend to trip our anger alarm system is the best way to sort ourselves out.
- Feeling that you are being treated unfairly
- Feeling like you have been ignored or excluded
- Lacking control over a situation
- Believing that you are misunderstood or contradicted when carrying on a conversation
- Believing that someone is either angry or upset with you
- Physical discomfort
- Not getting your way
- Injustice or disrespect
Aside from the triggers for anger, you must also keep in mind that anger commonly causes certain reactions. In fact, it is not uncommon to have a knee jerk reaction that then sends the body into defensive mode when feelings of anger arise.
- Making passive aggressive or sarcastic remarks
- Insulting the person who triggered your anger
- Using closed body language and avoiding feelings of anger
- Raising your voice at others
- Interrupting people while they are talking
- Avoiding eye contact
- Devoid of energy or feelings of sadness
- Constructing narratives about unpleasant experiences
- Avoidant behavior
- Refusing to communicate
- Checking out of tense situations
Fortunately, there are ways to make anger work better for you by choosing alternate reactions to the anger.
- Processing the feeling: Allow your anger to speak to you by focusing on the feeling. Stop and ask yourself, “Why do I feel so angry right now? What has me this upset?”
- Journal your anger: Write down your feelings. Determine if your anger resembles another point in your life when you were disrespected or ignored. Are there any childhood memories you can recall in association with your anger?
- Determine if there is any validity to the way you feel: Do you feel that someone is treating you unfairly? If so, come up with a plan to address your feeling with the individual. Let the person know how you feel and request a change or a way to address your needs.
- Check in with your emotions: Take the time to review your emotional and physical state of being. Do you feel tired? Stressed? Overworked? Hungry? Is anger a common occurrence at a particular time of day? Figure out what triggers your anger and work to change or rid those triggers from your life.
- Take deep breaths: Deep breathing can help you relax. Inhale deeply while counting to four. Exhale slowly to the count of six.
- Take a break from your anger: Gain a better perspective of yourself and your situation by setting your anger aside, at least temporarily. Go outside and enjoy nature, the fresh air. Get your body moving by going for a brisk walk to help clear your head.
- Bring mindfulness to your anger: Explore what part of your body is most impacted by your anger. For instance, do you suffer from a headache or a stomach ache as a result? How does your anger feel? What color is associated with it? Warm or cool? Is it a consistent feeling or does it come in waves?
- Accept your anger: Show your anger some compassion by accepting that it is a normal reaction to certain situations. Cradle your anger with a sense of tenderness and acceptance. How do you feel when you do this?
- Say goodbye to your anger: Once you have managed to pinpoint the purpose of your anger, and you have taken the steps needed to address it, let it go. Imagine your anger as if it were leaves on a tree. Now pictures those leaves falling to the ground away from you.
By following the suggestions listed above you can learn to accept anger as a normal part of living and being human. You can also better control your emotional state of mind so that anger does not consume you. If you find that dealing with your anger is a difficult process, you can always reach out to a reputable therapist for assistance.
Monica Ramunda is a solution-focused online therapist with an office located in Louisville, Colorado for in-office visits. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 16 years experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).