Everyone gets angry at one time or another. Some people deal with their anger calmly and methodically, while others lash out with steering wheel locks and overreact to small things like minor car accidents.
Anger is a common emotion experienced by all humans. It’s our natural response to a threat or a challenge – provoking the impulse to protect, defend or attack, but unbridled anger can become problematic.
Psychologists often see it as a major symptom of underlying personal issues – which eventually needs to be addressed. If you often experience intense anger and find yourself unable to control your impulses, you need to tackle this issue fast.
Let’s start by really understanding just what anger is
Anger is an emotional state influenced by our cognitions, behaviour and physiology. When you feel angry, you need to assert yourself as the physiological response is triggered in the autonomic nervous system by adrenaline. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, sweating and flushing.
Cognitions refer to the emotional aspect of anger, where you respond to the situation by personalising it – like “He purposely upset me” – and catastrophising with ultimatums like “I will never promote you”. In short, anger arises when a person perceives that core values have been violated.
The starting point to addressing this personal issue is to learn adaptive responses – or behavioural responses towards anger. During anger management therapy, counsellors will commonly suggest possible solutions like problem-solving, assertiveness, tactical withdrawal and maladaptive responses – such as social withdrawal, self-harm, verbal and physical aggression.
Anger stems from both internal and external factors
Internal factors underlying anger triggers can usually be traced back to childhood experiences. These include a family history of violence or aggression, bullying, experience of physical and emotional abuse or neglect and even sexual abuse.
There are also external factors to be considered – and these include aggression, frustration and peer influenced factors. Equally important to note are environmental factors like noise; overcrowding and poor living conditions – which are usually categorised as external influential dynamics.
Some people are fortunate enough to learn healthy anger management skills during their childhood. As adults, they have access to these skills, which come naturally.
If you’ve never learned to use the angry feelings effectively as a child, you’ll have to devise new behaviours, and repeatedly try them – and with successes, continue to practise them. To manage anger effectively, relaxation is key.
1. Find out where your anger comes from
Anger relates to emotion. It is important to become comfortable with feelings in general and then with anger specifically.
You need to replace misinformation about anger, identify the uses of anger and replace unclear labels – so you can clearly identify the difference between anger and other emotions.
If you have difficulty experiencing the fear and anxiety that anger defends, or if you tend to blame outside sources for either your anger or your fear, you may try to replace the personal misinformation about anger.
For example, should you be angry with someone for making you work late when the response is really because you’re afraid of going home in the dark?
We have to learn to take responsibility towards the source of anger and finally, we should learn how to face up to our own fears.
Besides, we have to further re-educate ourselves by seriously dissecting the taboos which imply “badness” – and figure out for ourselves if the uneasy feelings triggered are based on false beliefs.
2. Identify the emotions you feel
Be aware that every feeling or emotion we experience is good. Each has a specific purpose that enhances your ability to cope with life, as well as to ensure the survival of the human race.
In general, there are six emotions you feel:
- Sadness is associated to feeling unhappy or being mournful.
- Loneliness can be described as feeling rejected or unwanted.
- Guilt is always labelled as something to be ashamed about and linked to needing to be remorseful.
- Inadequacy refers to embarrassment and humiliation.
- Fear is always related to being nervous, scared and terrified.
- Gladness that is able to reinforce our good actions can be categorised as content, relieved, satisfied, happy and joyous.
By identifying the underlying emotions and feelings, you will then be able to control your anger responses.
3. Realise that your judgments might be inaccurate
Our harsh and angry feelings are often heightened by inaccurate judgments. These judgments dehumanises the person our anger is aimed at. When you have identified such a tendency in your behaviour, you have to stop it immediately.
In anger management sessions, I always remind clients no treatment intervention for anger will work unless he/she is able to recognise it as a problem in the first place – and indeed, it is their problem.
4. Admit that you have an anger issue
To effectively manage anger, you need to first be motivated and committed to the cause. Clients who deny they have any problem with anger control, who have no motivation to change or have very significant impulse control problems need to be guided carefully – or their anger will simply make them dismiss any realisation of their problem.
Once this critical realisation is achieved, they might benefit from pre-treatment preparation such as building a therapeutic relationship, enhancing self-esteem, competency and control recognition, personal anger awareness and basic anger and aggression monitoring.
Note that this process which will take time to be effective and will require significant self-discipline to be successful. So, if you have destructive thoughts about yourself or someone else, seek professional advice now!
Do you have an anger management issue? How do you solve it? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!