How to manage your anger effectively

“Anger is a valid emotion. It’s only bad when it takes control and makes you do things you don’t want

Ellen Hopkins

Anger has become one of our predominant emotion as our freedom remains strained due to the pandemic. With all the stress and pressure in our lives, it is easy to lose our cool at the slightest irritation. Beneath the anger we feel, there are usually other emotions like fear, confusion or disappointment. We experience this emotion because of unjust or unfair actions or a loss of control or when other people do certain things that go against our values or when others don’t live up to our personal standards or expectations. While it’s perfectly normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged, but anger becomes an issue when you tend to internalise or vent it out aggressively and can damage your personal or professional relationships. Chronic patterns of anger not only raises the body’s stress levels but also weakens your immune system and clouds your thinking, making it harder to concentrate. While it’s true that suppressing and ignoring anger is unhealthy, venting or letting it out in an aggressive way only fuels more frustration and anger.

Even though anger impacts negatively, it is a healthy emotion that conveys a message, telling that a situation is upsetting, unjust, or threatening. It also enables us to fight and overcome injustice. While anger creates unnecessary hatred and feelings of animosity that lead to more hostility, tension and stress, necessary anger on the other hand serves a purpose. It shows us a new perspective or sometimes it makes us realise something within us that we still need to work on. Constructive criticism, creative differences, and heated debate can be healthy, but lashing out or expressing your anger in unhealthy ways lowers your tolerance and result in conflicts in your personal and work relationships. However, 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 turn it into a healthy emotion if you learn to manage it constructively.

Why some people are less tolerant than others.

Some people get angry more easily and more intensely than the others. There are also those who don’t show their anger in loud ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride. Also people who are not skilled at emotional communications are easily angered. There are number of things that make people react impulsively. They can be genetic, psychological or sociocultural. It is also when we are taught that it is alright to express anxiety, depression or other emotions but not anger as it is often regarded as negative. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle it or channel it constructively. Here are Some common negative thinking patterns that can also be one of the reason of having less tolerance:

Overgeneralisation, “You ALWAYS interrupt me.”” You NEVER consider my needs.” “EVERYONE disrespects me.”” I NEVER get the credit I deserve.”

Obsessing over should or must. Having a rigid view of the way a situation should or must go and getting angry when reality doesn’t line up with your vision.

Assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Assuming you “know” what someone else is thinking or feeling—that they intentionally upset you, ignored your wishes, or disrespected you.

Looking for things to get upset about, usually while overlooking or blowing past anything positive. Letting these small irritations build until you reach the “final straw” and explode, often over something relatively minor.

Blaming. When anything bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. You tell yourself, “life’s not fair,” or blame others for your problems rather than taking responsibility for your own life.

Aggressiveness. Habit of demanding things like fairness, appreciation, agreement or willingness to do things your way. When your demands are not meant, your disappointment becomes anger.

Why is it important to express your anger

When anger is not expressed outwardly, it will be manifesting inwardly in the body and develops into a dis-ease or dysfunction.”

We use both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with our anger. We approach feelings of anger either by expressing, suppressing or calming. The denial of anger and its suppression both are unhealthy emotionally and physically. Learning to control your anger and express it appropriately will help you build better relationships, achieve your goals, and lead a healthier life. Having said that, managing your anger will become far easier and simpler once you understand and familiarise yourself with how your anger tends to manifest in your life. Here are some ways, how anger manifests into various side effects based on its expression.

Repressed anger. Some people are afraid to show their anger. They hate making a scene and don’t like to offend others because they are scared of rejection. Many people are taught that anger is a bad emotion and that losing your temper makes you a bad person. So, many try to swallow their anger and suppress it. Despite being angry, they feel they don’t have a right to express it. This built up anger which is not expressed over a long time turns into bitterness and resentment which ultimately turns into depression and sadness.

Passive aggression. Some build anger against others or situations over time. They express it by sulking or criticising and tend to hold a grudge. They may not be screaming and shouting, but there is a good chance they’ll finally snap. This is aggression veiled in passive terms. Sometimes they end up venting their frustration on wrong people. Holding on to grudges will keep you in a state of constant anger that negatively impact your physical and psychological well-being.

Habitual anger. Some are angry for major part of their lives. This is habitual anger and becomes their second nature. They always want to get their own way and are impatient. They are less tolerant to people and circumstances, they verbally express it and frequently get into arguments. They have short fuse and slightest thing can set them off. Habitual anger is not good for the body as it gets lodged in there and might manifest into major health issues.

People oriented anger.This type of anger is directed at other people and is expressed via insults and hurtful criticism where they use words to harm others on an emotional level. This form of anger is often very unhealthy and can cause a lot of emotional harm to yourself and others. 

Self-directed anger. This anger has more to do with you then it has with other people. It stems from an internal sense of dissatisfaction you have within yourself. This form of anger is often unhealthy and can cause a lot of internal turmoil and instability. It can also harm other people when it is directed at them out of frustration. However, some forms of self-directed anger can actually be helpful and productive. 

How to manage your anger effectively

You can’t get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control how you respond and express your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner to manage your anger efficiently. Here are some strategies to develop in order to manage anger more effectively.

Practice Self-awareness

We cannot fight anger, but can be aware of what causes and when it arises. Becoming aware of signs and symptoms of anger and recognising how they are beginning to manifest in your life can help you choose a different and more appropriate response. Acknowledge your habits and tendencies to begin the process of change. remind yourself about your goals in the situation: What were you hoping to gain? Also, have a think about your most important values or the things that you might purposefully sabotage if you lose your cool. Develop awareness of what is that you are really angry about and what are the situations that are making you react versus your priorities and purpose.

Ask yourself, What am I hoping to gain from the situation? What goals am I hoping to achieve? Why is it important to maintain calm in this situation? to remind yourself about the importance of staying calm under pressure, about the importance of maintaining good social relations with others, and about finding the strength within yourself to respond appropriately and intelligently. Recognising and accepting with total awareness protects you from its damaging effects.

Develop emotional regulation

If your knee-jerk response in many situations is anger, it’s likely that your temper is covering up your true feelings and emotions. This is because we only train our minds to be more reactive to them as we believe that emotions occur in reaction to the events of our lives and assume that they arise in response to what others do or say to us. Ignoring the message your emotions are trying to deliver will only intensify your frustration. Instead of avoiding them, take time to deliberately reflect on your emotions. It means paying attention to them and labelling them. Whenever you feel “bad” or “upset”, ask yourself, what specific emotion am I feeling right now? Frustrated? Nervous, Ashamed? Sad? For instance, if you think, “I’m feeling angry,” begin to ask yourself, “ Am I really feeling angry? Or is it something else? May be what you are really feeling is hurt.

Ask yourself, Do I pride myself on being tough and in control? Do I feel that emotions like fear, guilt, or shame don’t apply to me? What emotions am I avoiding? What emotions am I using to coverup my anger?Everyone has those emotions so you may be using them to mask your anger. If you are uncomfortable with different emotions, disconnected, or stuck on an angry one-note response to situations, it’s important to get back in touch with your feelings.

Reframe your thought patterns

We all become defensive and tend to over react during unfavourable situations as our thought process gets dramatised and exaggerated. Anger sometimes has less to do with what happens to you than how you interpret and think about what happened. When you identify patterns that fuel your anger, you can reframe them through cognitive restructuring. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, “oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,” tell yourself, “it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.”

Using words like ‘never’ or ‘always’ when talking about yourself or others are not just inaccurate, but they also serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there’s no way to solve the problem.

Ask yourself: What’s the evidence that the thought is true? That it’s not true? Is there a more positive, realistic way of looking at a situation? What would I say to a friend who was thinking these things? Are my thoughts rational or logical? Anger when it’s justified, can quickly become irrational. Use logic on yourself, remind yourself that the world is “not out to get you,” you’re just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it’ll help you get a more balanced perspective. 

Express your anger in a healthier way

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. Fighting fair allows you to express your own needs while still respecting others. Once you are in the heat of arguing, it’s easy to start throwing past grievances into the mix. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the present to solve the problem. Go beyond your emotional hurts and get out of ‘done me wrong’ syndrome. Become aware of your demanding nature and translate your expectations into desires. In other words, saying, “I would like” something is healthier than saying, “I demand” or “I must have” something. This way, when you’re unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions—frustration, disappointment, hurt—but not anger. 

Learn to communicate your issues openly to the person with whom you are angry. It is always better to say and communicate your issues rather that to ‘Show’ your anger.

Ask yourself, Am I able to communicate my needs and expectations clearly without being too demanding? Am I drawing fair interpretation of this conversation or situation? Am I expressing or repressing my anger? Do I handle disagreements constructively? Convey why you think your point of view is right through proper reasoning and by expressing your disagreement in a constructive way.

Identify your anger triggers

Rejecting and fighting the feelings of anger will only make you more agitated. Instead it is best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge. It’s also important you tune-in to the conditions that triggered your anger. Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings. What specifically within your environment, or within yourself stirred your emotions the wrong way? Your anger might be triggered by specific things, by people’s words or behaviour, by environmental factors, or even by relatively unimportant, insignificant and silly things that make absolutely no sense at all.

Ask yourself, “What am I really angry about?” What specifically triggers my anger- is it the people, behaviour or the circumstances? How do I respond to these things? What are my emotional and thought patterns when I am angry? Identifying the real source of frustration will help you communicate your anger better, take constructive action, and work towards a resolution. When you identify your triggers, think about ways to either avoid them or try to view it with a different perspective.

Practice forgiveness

No matter what happened — even if you responded inappropriately — it’s important you forgive yourself. Without forgiveness, you will wallow in self-pity and will most likely continue making the same mistakes over and over again. Forgiveness is an act of freedom unto yourself. Holding on to the feelings of bitterness and anger will only make the issues bigger than they originally were. When you hold onto something from the past, it will continue to make your present moment disharmonious.

Ask yourself, What can I learn from this experience? Could I have responded differently? How must I handle such circumstances differently next time around? What were the consequences of my response in the past? How could my anger have potentially affected other areas of my life in the short and long-term? Forgiving the person with whom you are angry and letting go of the anger will dissolve the disharmony and removes hostile thoughts and feelings. This gives you freedom to move on with present.

Keep your expectations realistic.

Have a think about your personal standards and the expectations you are bringing into the situations. Maybe one or more of your standards have not been met? Maybe your expectations are unrealistic? Or just maybe one of your rules has been broken? Sometimes our anger and frustration are natural emotions caused by very real inescapable problems. The best way to deal with such situations is not to focus on finding the solution, but how to handle the face of the problem. This way you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.

Ask yourself, Is my anger justified, appropriate and acceptable? Am I making any assumptions about things? Are my expectations realistic? How could I potentially deal with this situation without getting angry? How can I face this problem with positive attitude? Sometimes you might feel angry because you feel as though your needs aren’t being met or acknowledged by others. In such instances it’s important you communicate your needs to other people more appropriately.Once other people understand your needs and get a better idea of your expectation and they will be in a receptive position to meet those needs and expectations.

Choose to respond mindfully.

Practice taking a handful of deep breaths before responding when you are angry. Select the most appropriate and helpful response. And this could very well mean that you still choose to project your anger if you feel that this is the most appropriate response in this situation. However, this will no longer be an uncontrolled form of anger. It will instead be a form of constructive anger that can help you get what you want most effectively.

Sometimes, we tend to jump to and act on conclusions, some of those conclusions can be inaccurate. If you’re in a heated discussion, instead of saying first thing that comes into your head, slow down and think through your responses.

Ask yourself, Is it really worth getting angry in this situation? Is my response appropriate ? How can I manage my frustration in this moment constructively? How can my response influence the circumstances positively?What would be the consequences? Being mindful helps you better equipped to manage your frustrations and impatience.

Shift to different perspective

How you interpret a situation will often influence how you respond to a situation. This is significant because the moment you change or alter your interpretation of a situation is the moment you begin seeing things in a new light and in a new way. You are no longer constricted by the limitations of your own biased perspectives. Instead, you open yourself up to the possibilities — to alternate interpretations that might also make sense and provide you with a more appropriate means of moving forward.

Ask yourself, Am I misreading this situation? How will I think about this situation two years from now? How would another person interpret this situation? How would they respond? How else could I interpret this? Answering these questions will help you understand that there is more than one way to interpret a situation, and there is also certainly more than one way to respond to a situation.

Space for self-reflection

How prone are you to anger and how well can you handle the most difficult people and situations ?

Do you respond mindfully to most annoying people and disagreements?

How constructively can you express your feelings of anger? How often do you use your emotions to mask your anger?

How aware are you of your anger triggers? How good are you in communicating your unpleasantness, dissatisfaction and disagreements?

Are you tolerant with yourself and others when it comes to feelings of anger and frustration?

How often do you reflect on the consequences of your past actions?

To conclude,

Anger becomes an useful emotion once you learn how to manage and control it. Like any other emotion, being aware of your agitated feelings lets you you recognise, accept and deal with them in a positive way. It will certainly help you put the consequences of your actions into perspective and can control your anger in a productive way. The true goal is not to suppress feelings of anger, but rather to understand the message behind the emotion and express it in a healthy way without losing control. When you do, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll also be more likely to get your needs met, be better able to manage conflict in your life, and strengthen your relationships. Mastering the art of anger management takes work, but the more you practice, the easier it will get.

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