“Speak when you are angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret” Laurence Peter
“To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves” Alexander Pope
What is the main cause of anger?
First of all, it’s important to begin by noting that anger is not necessarily a negative emotion. It is usually signaling something else that is wrong and needs attention. Anger is what we call a “secondary emotion,” which is caused by and conceals a deeper, “softer” emotion. For example, if someone close to you makes fun of you in front of a friend, you may feel and express anger, but what you are truly feeling is betrayal or hurt. These “primary emotions” can often feel too vulnerable and risky to express, so we revert to a defensive posture that lets the offender know to keep their distance. Anger is one of the most common protective mechanisms that we employ when we feel threatened or attacked, scared, depressed, distressed, or in pain.
Unaddressed anger breeds disconnection, and although it is often rooted in sadness and fear, it is commonly communicated in a harsh, loud, rude, or malicious manner.
Anger can yield the same effects in the body and mind as worry or stress and can negatively impact various areas of your life (i.e. withdrawal in communication with loved ones, sleep issues, decreased sex drive, unhappiness, lethargy, low stress tolerance, agitation, difficulty relaxing, and increased likelihood of addictions).
5 quick tips to manage anger
How you deal with and manage your anger is important! Some people learn to bottle up or suppress their anger, failing to understand how to express it, while others are overtly and demonstratively angry, lacking the awareness of how to regulate those emotions. Here are five quick ways to work through your anger when it comes up!
Physical activity is important is releasing stress, anxiety, and depression that can lead to or exacerbate anger. If you begin to notice yourself getting agitated or frustrated, choose to go to the gym for 30 minutes, take a jog or walk, jump on your bike, or do some push-ups. Even a small amount of exercise can interrupt anger’s ability to escalate.
These are not just for children! Choosing to take a timeout when you are upset allows you to find some space between whatever created the feelings of anger and your response. Don’t misinterpret taking a timeout for “backing down” or being passive… this strategy is a mature way to consider, challenge, and change your thoughts.
Timeouts give us the ability to think about possible consequences of our words and behavior, to challenge negative thoughts, and to choose a response, verses reacting instinctively. Our immediate reaction can tend to be more defensive and damaging. Responding helps us to be more thoughtful and prepares us for “time-in” to be productive, compassionate, connecting, and helpful. Once you are calm, you will be able to express your anger in a more constructive way.
3. Pay Attention!
Self-awareness is one of your best weapons for fighting damaging anger. We use the word “mindfulness” to describe the practice of maintaining an awareness of what’s going on in our thought-life, our bodies, and our surrounding environment so that we can respond with intentionality to things that trigger us. Everyone experiences anger in different ways, and is triggered by different things.
For example, one person may feel overwhelming anger or “road rage” in traffic, while another may experience an opportunity for relief and rest in traffic. Mindfulness helps us to understand our triggers and to change our perspectives in the current moment, so that we can experience more positive emotion and therefore, respond with more positive behavior.
Although it sounds cliché… deep breathing really is important, especially when it comes to dealing with anger because it helps our brains to function more correctly. An article from Harvard Medical School explains:
“Shallow breathing hobbles the diaphragm’s range of motion. The lowest portion of the lungs — which is where many small blood vessels instrumental in carrying oxygen to cells reside — never gets a full share of oxygenated air. That can make you feel short of breath and anxious.
Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, this type of breathing slows the heartbeat and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.”
Along with breathing deeply, try:
-Engaging your creative side (i.e. coloring, drawing, painting, writing, playing an instrument, crafting, or cooking) –Repeating calming words or phrases (i.e. “you can do this,” “take it easy,” or quotes/scriptures that bring peace and reassurance) -Taking a bath -Listening to music
It’s good to know when to seek professional help in dealing with anger. If you are feeling out of control, your anger is causing you hurt others, or it’s causing you to experience increased feelings regret and shame- involving a therapist to help teach you these skills and process through past pain and trauma that may be at the root of your anger, could be an important step!