Anger management skills are essential for everyone who wants to maintain healthy relationships and good mental health. Read this article to learn more about it!
There is a lot of anger and outrage around these days. Whether it’s global events or minor everyday things, for some of us (especially those hooked on 24/7 news cycles and social media) a heightened anger level is pretty common.
Anger in and of itself is not a bad thing. In addition to being one of the core emotions, it has been an evolutionary advantage, providing resources and motivation for self-protection and survival. Even today there is plenty of anger that comes as a response to all sorts of injustices and that can be channeled towards making the world a better place.
The main goal of this blog post is to understand anger and highlight things we can do to be better at managing it. Only through proper understanding of these things can we truly become masters of our anger and harness it to our advantage!
Anger management is impossible without some knowledge of anger itself. At the moment of anger – whether it’s our own or someone else’s – it doesn’t seem all too complex, but it shouldn’t be regarded as a monolithic and simplistic thing. Here are two things that you should understand about anger before trying to manage it.
Just as some people are introverted and others extraverted, so with anger – some express it externally, some direct it internally. The external kind may be flashier, but both ways of experiencing anger can be equally harmful to relationships, emotions, and mental health.
Understanding how we, our friends, or family members feel and channel anger is particularly important when it comes to spotting anger, understanding it, managing it, and finding solutions to any kind of conflict that may be at the root of it.
Anger – whether internal or external – is impossible to mistake for anything else. It’s such a powerful emotion that we end up thinking that it’s all there is. In fact, it’s only a secondary emotion. Think about it – we don’t get angry out of the blue. There is always a causal factor or condition which itself is usually tied to an emotion. It is this emotion that serves as a gateway towards anger.
So how to spot that emotion? Well luckily for you in the majority of cases there is a single cause of our anger – fear. Fear of loss, abandonment, or awkwardness, fear of losing control, being embarrassed, or exposed, fear of being wrong or different – any one of these or a combination of them can be a trigger of anger.
The reason why fear is always so difficult to identify as the cause is that it pales in comparison to a powerful, loud, and heated emotion like anger. This unfortunately is the key reason why dealing with anger is so difficult – anger crowds everything out and once you’ve calmed down, there is hardly any willingness to revisit those moments.
Now that we have a general understanding of how anger works, it’s easier to outline the ways and approaches it can be controlled. While each individual approach to anger management differs based on the character and the way we experience and channel anger, these basic principles remain the same.
You are angry. It feels like your head is about to explode, all sorts of nasty insults are about to burst out, and you may even want to punch something. While the experience of peak anger may differ between people, we all know when it’s approaching. At that point there is very little room for rational and cool-headed thinking, but if there is one thing you should remember, it is to step away from the person or the situation that is causing your frustration.
Stepping away doesn’t mean running from the conflict or the problem. Instead it freezes it until more constructive circumstances enable the situation to be solved without unnecessary escalation. Imagine how much less hurt feelings and broken items we would have if people just put a pause on things before they got out of hand.
What “stepping away” means in practical terms is simple – walk away from the conflict/problem and let your head cool off for a while. While the ways of calming down will again differ for each individual, usually some kind of physical activity especially outdoors helps a lot. For others watching a bit of their favorite TV show may help. Cooking or finishing some small tasks may also get you in the right headspace to reapproach the conflict/problem later.
Simple relaxation techniques can also help a lot in calming down.
All of this will help you resolve the problem more peacefully and effectively at a later time. Since this blog post is about anger management, we won’t focus on conflict resolution, but you can check out this blog post to learn some helpful conflict resolution tips.
With your mind at ease, you can look back on the whole anger episode and analyze it to find triggers. Was there a certain thing that happened that sparked your anger or was it a certain feeling, emotion, or circumstance that led to it? These can be anything from a nagging colleague to a too tight lid on your favorite jar of jam.
Understanding your triggers doesn’t always mean blaming them for your inability to limit your anger, but it can help prepare in advance. For example, if you are frustrated by traffic jams you can plan your day around potential congestion times and locations. Or if the trigger seems to be a person, you can try to understand what exactly rubs you the wrong way (their way of communication, work ethic etc.) and figure out how you can improve the situation by working on the relationship, the circumstances of interaction, or your own personal perceptions and biases.
As you are doing your trigger analysis you should also pay attention to whether the anger is justified or not. As I mentioned at the start, anger can also have justified reasons that spur people into action thus making a meaningful and positive difference.
For instance, if you witness someone’s rights, freedoms, or dignity being violated, you may not want to channel your energy into changing how you feel, but rather act to change the situation for the better. So much positive change, particularly emancipation of groups of people throughout history, has initially stemmed from anger!
That being said, you should never turn a blind eye to harmful anger! If it is seriously hurting your relationships, your future prospects, or your personal wellbeing, then it is the kind of anger that should be avoided as much as possible.
Angry people are very expressive in more ways than one. There can be a lot of shouting, gesticulation, and overall drama. But this is usually just an outward expression of how we think. Try thinking about situations and circumstances in a calmer way. Instead of despairing and thinking about how awful everything has been and will be, look at the situation rationally. Try thinking like this: “yes, the situation may be unfortunate and upsetting, but the world goes on. Getting angry about it definitely doesn’t help anyone.”
When it comes to being angry at someone, try avoiding accusations and words like “never” and “always”. They are doubly harmful as they are neither accurate, nor conducive to a constructive solution and settlement. Language like this only serves to rile you up even further.
Finally, whenever you are angry try to remind yourself that there is no major conspiracy and that the world is not out to get you. This will help you avoid giving in to reproaching the world for lack of fairness, appreciation, or willingness to do things “your way”. People who fail at this give into grievance and we see plenty of that across the global political scene.
Anger can be caused and aggravated by bad communication. When it comes to preventing anger, implement effective communication principles in your daily life!
When it comes to anger management, communication should follow the “step away” phase! You can’t rationally listen and understand if the adrenaline levels are off the charts. In such circumstances any attempts at managing your anger and solving the issue will just amplify the problem.
Another handy communication tool that will help in reducing anger and de-escalating a situation is humor. Anger is a serious emotion, but often the things we were angry about seem trivial afterwards. Laughing anger away is, of course, not a solution, but it usually leads to calmer minds. That creates the right circumstances for understanding the causes of your anger and the potential remedies.
Check out our post on conflict resolution to learn more about how best to communicate in a heated situation. Those principles are also applicable to personal anger management.
Anger management can be facilitated by simply changing the environment you are located in. This can be the case if a particular location is itself a trigger (e.g. a messy room or particular work location that is stress inducing) or if anger occurs in a particular place and/or is directly tied to it. For example, it wouldn’t be easy to calm down, if you were stuck in a small, windowless room with the person you just had a heated argument with.
Similar to stepping away, leaving a location that is strongly tied to anger, will help the emotions to subside and allow you to think more clearly and rationally about a problem.
Author: Lote Steina