Anger is an emotion just like sadness, happiness and excitement which is commonly experienced by individuals of all ages. Aggression is a behavior as a response to anger and the levels of aggression may differ.
We may experience mild anger due to everyday life stressor or due to feeling tired. People feel more angry when their basic needs (food, shelter, sex, sleep etc.) are not met. Responses to anger may sometimes be acceptable, sometimes not. We can be angry or irritated to somebody’s criticism, attitude or opinion which will make it difficult for us to communicate effectively at that moment.
On a deeper level, anger is a secondary emotion as it may be due to feeling sad, frightened, threatened or lonely deep inside. Think about the last time you were feeling angry. Were you in a situation where you actually felt sad, frightened, threatened or lonely?
Let me explain this with an example. A mother is at home with her 6 year old child. The child is playing and the mother is doing chores around the house. All of a sudden the mother realizes she doesn’t hear her child anymore and the street door is open. She runs out and sees that the child went out without telling her, and the child is playing on the street. The mother appears angry, her face becomes red, yells the child to go inside and gives the child a time out. In this case, the mother’s primary emotion is “fear” but she appears “angry”. You can think of other examples of when you remember feeling angry, but you were actually sad, frightened, threatened or lonely.
Some people complain of anger and they don’t know why. Some loved ones complain of their loved ones’ anger and they don’t understand why they are like that either. There can be so many reasons. Here are some of them: grief, sadness, poor interpersonal skills, fatigue, hunger, injustice, receiving bad news, being bullied, sexual frustration, financial problems, stress, failure, drugs and alcohol, pain, serious illness. These could be triggers for anger and understanding these triggers will help you better express your feelings or help your loved one.
Just like all other emotions, we cannot dismiss anger. What we can do is to learn how to deal with it so that it will not cause damage in our lives and our relationships. Here are 10 strategies that can help you better manage your anger:
- Think before you speak: Especially in the heat of anger, it is easy to say things that you will regret later on. Once your anger goes away, you will feel calm but the other person will still remember everything you said. Writing an angry e-mail and then reading back that e-mail 2 days later will cause a lot of regrets. Write that e-mail when you’re angry, but don’t send it. Trust me, you will be grateful you didn’t send it.
- Express your anger once you calm down: When you realize you are angry, stay away from expressing it, because it will hurt and you will not be heard. You can be much assertive and more understood when you express your feelings after you calm down.
- Exercise: Physical exercise is a great tool to let the tension go away. If you feel like you are getting angry, do something that will allow you to be physically active.
- Time out: Don’t wait for things to build up. Take short breaks during the day. If you feel like there is an irritating situation coming up, make sure you take a break to calm down before handling the situation.
- Find solutions: Is your current reaction helping you find solutions? If not, shift your focus on finding solutions instead of acting out of anger and blaming.
- Avoid blaming: Many people tend to blame others for things that don’t work out or things that don’t go well. We look for something outside of ourselves to blame. That doesn’t help, that just makes things worse in relationships.
- Forgive and teach: If you hold grudges, you will have anger explosions very frequently. If you get a chance, explain to the other person what makes you upset so they will learn and will not repeat their mistake. If you don’t express your needs clear enough, you cannot expect other people to read your mind.
- Use humor but avoid sarcasm: Find ways to communicate the same complaint in a better way. You can name a problem, or imagine a funny image every time you see a person who irritates you.
- Learn and apply relaxation skills: There are so many relaxation skills and you can try all of them until you find the one that fits the best for you. You have to practice these regularly so the tension doesn’t build up. You can practice deep breathing, repeating calming phases such as “take it easy”, count down from 10 to 0, listen to music, imagine a relaxing scene and much more.
- Seek help: If you anger has been impacting your relationships and your overall functioning, it might be a good time for you to seek help. You can speak with a psychotherapist about your options. You can learn to better manage your anger and you can learn new skills to express your anger in healthier ways.