Anger Gets a Bum Rap

If anger is an emotion like happy, sad and glad, why does it have such a bad reputation?  Before answering that we need a definition.  Like all emotions, it is a response to a person or event that involves our thinking, feeling and usually our actions.  With anger there are strong feelings of annoyance, displeasure and even rage.  Anger allows us to respond and take action against danger and injustice.

However, there are two problems with anger.  The first is the hurt we experience when someone’s anger is out of control and they lash out at us.  The second is when our anger is out of control and we hurt ourselves by alienating people, causing ourselves headaches, upset stomachs, and sleep disturbance to name a few. If we have some insight, we also experience shame, creating another issue.

Since we can’t change other people, let’s look at how we can manage our anger.  It is potentially dangerous to “let it rip.”  Anger can easily escalate into aggression and does nothing to help us or the person we are angry with.  However, we can learn to deal with anger in different ways.

  1. Become an expert on your anger by reflecting on what typically causes your anger. There are patterns in our lives that will lead us to wisdom. For example, am I more prone to anger when I am tired or hungry?
  2. Recognize the attitudes, environment, events and behaviors, which trigger your anger. Find your “buttons” so you know when they are being pushed.
  3. Take responsibility for your anger. When I say, “You make me so mad”; I am not taking responsibility for my emotions.
  4. Be able to monitor the stress in your body as it begins to grow.
  5. Learn to calm yourself with breathing exercises and other forms of relaxation.  We all need to buy ourselves some time.  Consider this quote. “Once triggered, the chemical released in my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience.  Within 90 seconds, from the initial trigger, the chemical component of anger has dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over.  If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”  *
  6. Develop listening skills. So often we can barely wait for someone to stop talking so we can blast him or her.  Total focus on what is being said will relieve some of the anger because we will have a deeper understanding.

These are only a few thoughts on anger.  The next article will deal with what we learned about anger as a child.

* My stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

 

Article Written By: Barbara Kennedy, OSM, LPC