Dealing With Anger — Learn to Control It Before It Controls You
I was so angry I could feel a fire horse galloping inside my chest. I felt like I wanted to punch the man along with his pretentious wife. My face felt hot, and my extremities, along with my mouth, started shaking. I didn't know how to react. My instincts were telling to be aggressive, but my mind was telling me that it probably wasn't going to be such a good idea.
Anger is a very human emotion. We all get angry when we feel frustrated or threatened, and the first way in which we want to react is by being aggressive and punching the living lights out of the person that is causing our anger. Sometimes even murderous thoughts might cross our mind, even if it's just for a very brief moment.
The problem with anger is that it could begin to control us if we don't learn how to control it first. Some people have gone as far as torture and murder because they haven't learned to control their emotions. Anger could become a monster inside of us, and we could become its puppet.
What is anger?
Anger is an emotion, and like all emotions, anger is energy in motion. I'm sure you have felt how your body becomes filled with energy when you become angry. It's as if a fire suddenly turned the engine on. Suddenly you feel like you have the energy to kick and punch and scream at the top of your lungs. That's all very normal because when we feel angry our body goes through some psychological as well as some biological changes:
- Heart beat increases
- Blood pressure increases
- Energy hormones (Adrenaline & Noradrenaline) increase
Since anger is energy in motion, this energy needs to find its way out of our bodies. Usually people choose to deal with anger in one of three ways:
- Calming down
Anger is not bad.
Anger in itself is not bad. It's actually a very helpful reaction. It gives us the energy we need to fight or flee in case we are threatened. The problem comes when we choose to express in ways that could harm us or others, or when we hold on to this feeling for hours, days or even years. This is bad, not only for our emotional health, but our physical health as well, since anger, much like stress, comes with altered physical symptoms such as increased heart beat and blood pressure.
Expression of anger
The expression of anger can happen in two different ways. You could express anger in an aggressive way or in a firm, non-aggressive manner. Of those two, the latter is the healthiest choice. Many outbursts of anger happen because the person doesn't know how to express himself, and thus shuts down or reacts either physically or verbally aggressive. So how can you learn to express your anger in a positive, affirming, non-violent manner?
Here are a few ideas:
- Give yourself sometime before you respond. The old "count to 10" advice is actually very helpful. Give yourself some space between you and your anger so that you can know how to answer appropriately.
- Try to find what's the real cause of your anger.
- Speak slowly. Think thoroughly before you speak.
- Start your sentences with "I'm mad because..." or "I feel (insert emotion here) because..."
- Be patient. Ask questions to get to the root of the problem.
- Listen to what the other person has to say. Some fights or arguments happen due to misunderstandings. Give the other person a chance to explain himself, and give you some time to decide whether you wish to believe what the other person is saying.
- Be confident, never sarcastic or aggressive.
Reaction vs. Response
When you are upset, mad or furious, you should respond to your anger, not react. A response is an action based on logic. A reaction is an emotional state without logic.
A lot of people choose to repress the anger, either because they don't know how to express it correctly or because they have been taught that expressing anger is wrong. However, the results of keeping anger inside can be pretty dire. Accumulated anger can lead to:
- Self-harming behavior
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Severe and frequent headaches
If you're able to calm down and really monitor your external as well as your internal response, well then, that's just awesome! Ideally we should strive for this kind of behavior in which we choose to redirect or even change our anger into more positive emotions. It's not that we don't feel anger, it's that we choose and know how to put that energy to better use. Remember, our body is trying to get rid of all that energy that the hormones are providing it with. Some people choose to exercise or to focus all the energy in a hobby or any other activity that completely grabs their attention.
Calming down is excellent for your body, but it could have a downside: if you don't speak about what's making you angry, sometimes the annoyance or abusive behavior could continue. Therefore, even if you know how to calm down and redirect your energy, it would still be helpful to learn how to express yourself assertively to stop the anger causing behavior.
Other ideas to control your anger
Keep a diary. Create an entry in your diary every time you get mad and answer these questions:
- Why did I get mad?
- Why do I think that happened?
- What did the other person do?
- Why do I think s/he did it?
- What do I think of that person?
- What do I think of myself?
Also write how you have expressed your anger in the past and how you think you could improve. There are some situation that you will not be able to avoid regardless of how much you try. Write what would be the best responses whenever an unavoidable situation arises.
Write everything that comes to your head, don't filter it. The more you write, the easiest it will be to spot your exact anger triggers.
Talk to someone. Sometimes you need to vent and let all that emotion out. Call or visit someone that you know will listen. Don't go to someone that will just further your anger.
Forgive. We are all imperfect and it's unrealistic to expect that every one should behave exactly as we expect them to. Maybe along the process we might realize that we were at fault as well.
Repeat calming affirmations. Choose a sentence that helps you relax and remain focused and say it over and over. You may choose affirmations such as "I'm angry but I can control it."
Breathing exercises. Sit down with your back straight. Close your eyes, place your hand on your stomach. Breathe with your stomach, and feel your hand elevate every time you breathe. Focus solely on your breathing. Do this until you feel relaxed.
Change your environment. Once you have identified the people and places that trigger your anger, avoid them as much as possible. There are some people that are toxic to our well being, and regardless of how much we try to understand them, they will always irritate us. Identify these people and stay away from them as much as possible. You don't have to be rude to them, but you also don't have to be their friend.
Don't think in terms of winning or losing. Sometimes we become even more agitated because we think we lost an argument and the other person went home victorious. The only person that loses is the one that lets anger affect his well being.
Place yourself in the other person's shoes. How would you have reacted if you were the other person? How did your actions (or reactions) affect the other person's reaction? Analyze this as objectively as possible.
Humor. Try to see the humor in the situation. Sometimes this might be extremely difficult, but try. It's hard to stay mad and angry when you're busy smiling and laughing.
Keep your emotional and physical health. Learn how to control your anger and live happily!