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By Rita Maulucci

Anger is an uncomfortable feeling for many people and it is one of the most suppressed and repressed feelings we experience.  Yet many of us probably carry a lot of anger around.  We can feel angry not just about events that are happening in the present, but also about events in the distant past (‘old’ anger*).

Anger has three different forms: passive, aggressive and constructive.  Passive anger leads us to fixate on the ‘wrongness’ of what has happened and turned against ourselves, can result in depression.  It shows in sarcasm, ridiculing, feeling resentful, withdrawing, impatience etc.  Aggressive anger can lead to physical danger, violence and destruction.  For example, hitting out at others, yelling, threatening and breaking objects.  Constructive anger is concerned with solving problems, such as, expressing anger appropriately by communicating in an assertive manner and then finding solutions to the problems at hand.

Anger Management

Anger is a feeling we all seek to understand and manage well. Like all other feelings, anger needs to be acknowledged and accepted and if it is not, we will continue to mismanage it.  In our everyday lives, if we become angry over ‘small’ incidents or we vent our anger onto others, we are probably trying to express our deeper, suppressed feelings related to ‘old’ anger.  The truth is, the anger was there in the first place and the situation just triggered it. 

  • Anger is one of those feelings that gets a lot of criticism and most of us try to keep it under control, however, it is a normal and natural feeling which can be managed and expressed appropriately.  Before we express it however, we need to identify the triggers.  Take notice of:
  • When you get angry (eg. when driving, when you are tired, when you drink alcohol or when you are sorting out your finances).
  • Who is around (eg. work colleagues or family members)?
  • What is happening (eg. is someone disagreeing with you or not meeting your expectations).
  • The physical cues, that is, where do you feel anger in your body (eg. tight chest, sweaty palms, muscular tension, headache).

Once identified, then we can choose ways to express anger and manage it constructively. For example, you can:-

  • Recognise the signs of arousal as soon as they occur in your body.  As you become more attuned to your feelings of upset and tension inside you, you can begin to control it before it gets out of control.
  • Recognise the anger.  Acknowledge it.  Own it.  Remember, it is not a bad feeling.  It’s just a feeling.  Try not to place a value on it.
  • Do not think you have to avoid it. 
  • Do not vent your anger on others - get it out of your system, by writing, punching a pillow, and talking about it.
  • Don’t take everything personally.  If you feel you are being directly offended, try to stay on the task at hand and stick to what must be done in the situation you are in.  When you begin taking insults personally, you get distracted from your task and get caught up in an unnecessary combat.  Don’t let yourself become sidetracked – the other person may be merely provoking you.
  • If you anticipate becoming angry in certain situations, do not avoid it.  Instead, think of other ways of handling anger-provoking situations.  This helps you to control your anger and the situation more effectively.
  • Look at why you reacted the way you did.  Is it justifiable?  Are you misreading the other person?  Are you being oversensitive?  Is the other person triggering ‘old’ anger?
  • Be consistent in your responses and behaviours so that you are more predictable and other people can understand you.  Learn to be assertive by communicating honestly and directly with the people involved, taking into account their feelings and concerns.
  • Take responsibility for your anger.  You have reacted angrily because of your suppressed anger and because of the way you perceive the situation.
  • Accept your anger with no thought of changing it – tell yourself: “it’s okay to be angry“.  Do not act on it.  Simply allow yourself to feel it.
  • Recognise you have the power to carry it around with you or release it by using forgiveness.
  • Listen to your body and act accordingly.
  • Laugh.  This allows all tension to leave the body.
  • Believe that deep inside yourself, you are positive, nurturing, cheerful, bright, good and happy.

Short-term solutions to anger management are:

  • Admit your anger – say to yourself, “I’m angry” or “I feel anger.”
  • Say positive statements to yourself, such as, “take it easy, cool it, stay calm, chill out, relax.”
  • Deep breathing – take a few slow deep breaths (this will help to reduce tension).
  • Backward counting – count backwards from 20 to 1.  (If the provoking person is present it may help you to turn away from the person whilst you count and collect your thoughts).
  • Pleasant imagery – imagine a peaceful scene that has a calming effect, eg. beach, mountains, lakes etc.
  • Cry, scream, shout – not to yourself or the other person, just to the air.
  • Punch a pillow or other soft item.

Responding To An Angry Person

  • If there is the slightest chance of violence, LEAVE.
  • Know and understand your own response to anger and prepare for and practice hostile scenes.  How do you normally respond to anger?
  • Remember the dynamics of anger; frequently an attack comes from a person who is unhappy because of unfulfilled needs not related to the precipitating incident.  As soon as you show the angry person that you are trying to understand these needs, you begin to reduce the anger.
  • Let the angry person talk.  The angry person is not going to feel good or be receptive to your help until his/her bad feelings are communicated and understood.  It is futile to try to force a logic or information on a person who is filled with strong emotion – at the moment he/she simply does not have the capacity to utilise it.
  • Accept his/her right to be angry and you must always allow the other person the freedom to be wrong.
  • Show non-verbally that you are listening.  Nod affirmatively, pay close attention, do not crowd the person or give any motion that might be interpreted as anger on your part.  React calmly but with clear meaning.
  • If there is a quick solution to the precipitating incident give it.
  • When the angry person is ready for you to speak, respond to his/her feelings.  Communicate verbally and non-verbally that you recognise how important the situation is to him/her.  Communicate caring and concern.  Clarify the meaning of the anger.
  • If you have been part of the problem, admit it, fully and willingly.  If you do not, no restoration is possible and the problem can only become more serious.
  • Always communicate helpfully.  If you have been verbally attacked, assert yourself.

* Old anger = anger that has been denied for months or even years.

More articles:  1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5 . 6 . 7 . 8 . 9 . 10 . 11 . 12 . 13