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Anger : What It Is & How To Manage It

Everyone has had an experience with anger at some point in their life.  But when does it become an issue?

For some, anger is something that comes on without warning, can be blinding, and can have real life consequences. There are many myths about anger and countless suggestions on how to manage it.

In this post we will cover five core topics about Anger:

  • The underlying emotions of anger
  • The ways in which anger can become an issue
  • The myths that are associated with anger
  • The physical impacts of anger and the cues/warning signs of anger approaching
  • The tools that you can put into place to help manage anger

UNDERSTANDING THE EMOTION BEHIND THE ANGER

The first step to managing anger is understanding it and the true emotions underneath. Understanding the physical implications anger can have on one’s health and recognizing cues and triggers are important skills for managing anger.

Anger is often a mask for something deeper, meaning that there is an underlying emotion behind it.

Here are some common underlying emotions behind anger:

  • Fear
  • Embarrassment
  • Jealousy
  • Being wronged
  • Feeling unjustified
  • Feeling unimportant

HOW ANGER CAN BECOME AN ISSUE:

When it is felt too often.

  • Anger is a natural response to other emotions but when an individual is experiencing anger daily or multiple times a day it can indicate an inappropriate response to situations.

When it is felt too intensely.

  • When anger is felt too intensely it can consume an individual where it can impact their day and make it difficult to manage other emotions appropriately.

When it is expressed inappropriately.

  • There are many ways to express one’s anger, but sometimes it can be expressed in the wrong way. Some inappropriate ways are physical altercations, destruction of property, and intense verbal altercations. These ways of managing anger can have very negative and life impacting consequences such as jail time, loss of relationships, and loss of respect.

MYTHS OF ANGER:

Myth #1 – Anger is inherited.

  • Many individuals believe anger is inherited, but it is a learned behavior. The way we express our anger comes from our exposure to those closest to us when we were young such as family and friends. The good news is the behavior can be unlearned.

Myth #2-Anger is the same as aggression.

  • Anger is an emotion and aggression is a behavior meant to cause control and intimidation of another. Anger and aggression do not mean the same and do not go hand in hand.

Myth #3-A person must be aggressive to get what they want.

  • Again, aggression is meant to control the situation of another. Assertiveness is a more appropriate way to achieve a goal. 

Myth #4-Venting is the best way to manage anger.

  • In fact, venting is not the best way. Venting is allowing an individual to be angry and possibly express the anger in an inappropriate way. The better alternative is to calmly discuss the situation with a trusted individual that was not involved in the anger provoking situation to minimize the amount emotional impact.

PHYSICAL IMPACTS OF ANGER:

One thing that seems to be overlooked with anger is the physical impact it can have on an individual. Anger is related to the fight or flight response in the brain. When we are involved in anger provoking situations our brains go into a mode of either fighting off the emotional danger or running away from it. The body will release chemicals, such as adrenaline, in preparation of the incoming altercations. Since in most cases we are not fighting in a physical sense, this reaction can have negative impacts on one’s health such as:

  • Raised blood pressure
  • Stress on the heart
  • Raising body temperature
  • Stunting blood away from vital organs in the body and rerouting to the larger muscles of the body

These reactions can cause negative impact on the cardiac system and can linger for hours even after the anger provoking situation has passed.

CUES/WARNING SIGNS OF ANGER:

These are treated like warning signs that our anger is getting harder to manage.

  • Cognitive cues-Cognitive cues refer to the thoughts that occur in response to the anger provoking event. When people become angry, they may interpret events in certain ways. For example, we may interpret a friend’s comments as criticism, or we may interpret the actions of others as demeaning, humiliating, or controlling. Some people call these thoughts “self-talk” because they resemble a conversation we are having with ourselves.
  • Physical Cues-Physical cues involve the way our bodies respond when we become angry. For example, our heart rates may increase, we may feel tightness in our chests, or we may feel hot and flushed.
  • Behavioral Cues-Behavioral cues involve the behaviors we display when we get angry, which are observed by other people around us. For example, we may clench our fists, pace back and forth, slam a door, or raise our voices.
  • Emotional Cues-Emotional cues involve other feelings that may occur concurrently with our anger. For example, we may become angry when we feel abandoned, afraid, discounted, disrespected, guilty, humiliated, impatient, insecure, jealous, or rejected. These kinds of feelings are the core or primary feelings that underlie our anger.

TOOLS TO HELP MANAGE ANGER:

  • Learn breathing techniques to help slow down the body’s response to the anger
  • Counting to 100 to assist the heart rate to slow down
  • Remove one’s self from the anger situation
  • Communicate your feelings and anger with those involved
  • Engage in calming activities such as listening to music, reading, exercising
  • Take timeouts
  • Confide in a trusted friend (who was not involved in the situation)
  • Develop immediate thought stopping interventions such as walking away
  • Practice cognitive reconstruction such as trying to view the situation from different points of view
  • Understand that not everything is in your control
  • Understand triggers
    • Taking time to understand what makes you angry such as long lines, disrespectful humor, and not being paid back, to name a few.
  • Get the body moving
    • When becoming angry the body will react in a way that it feels is in a dangerous situation. Removing the self from the anger and stress and utilize the energy to one’s benefit.
  • Explore the deeper feelings beneath the anger
  • Learn and understand possible consequences
  • Develop a plan of action on how to handle a situation you feel may be anger provoking

It will take time to understand and perfect these techniques. Just by taking time to understand the body, mind, and emotions involved with anger you can create the framework for making positive changes.

    About the Author

    Wade Stark, LPC

    Wade is one of our therapists here at Elliott Counseling Group and specializes in anger management as well as teenage adjustments and executive fuctioning issues. 

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