Updated: Mar 7, 2019
Excessive and inappropriate anger expression can cause problems to physical and mental well-being.
According to the American Psychological Association, anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something that you feel has done you wrong.
Benefits of anger:
It gives you an opportunity to express your negative feelings or motivate you to find solutions to the problems you face.
Consequences of anger:
Excessive and inappropriate anger expression can cause problems to physical and mental well-being. For example, anger increases blood pressure and other associated physical changes. It also prevents you from thinking straight and make poor judgements.
What makes you go on your nerves??
Grief (losing a loved one), rudeness, tiredness, hunger, pain, withdrawal from drugs or medication, physical conditions (e.g., PMS), physical illness, mental illness, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, injustice, being teased or bullied, humiliation, embarrassment, deadlines, traffic jams, disappointment, sloppy service, failure, infidelity, burglary, financial problems.
But not everyone gets as angry as I do?
In an event, do you wonder why your partner can analyze a situation in a calm mind while you are always the one who bursts into anger and starts shouting? Anger arises depending on how one interprets and reacts to certain situations. The existing problem or situation does not change, but, one can interpret a situation differently. For example, while you might burst into anger when being teased, others may merely feel annoyance, hurt or amused. However, interpreting a situation and getting angry easily does not mean that you are wrong. There are several factors that define how one interprets and reacts in a situation.
Genetic or physiological
Some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered, and these signs may be present from a very early age.
Childhood experience and upbringing
Our upbringing often influence how we learn to cope with our angry feelings. For example, if you were thought to think that it is alright to act out your anger aggressively or violently, you won’t learn to understand and manage your angry feelings in another meaning. Alternatively, you might have been taught to not complain, thus, you would tend to suppress your anger. Seeing your parents argue and get out of control may lead you to feel afraid of your own anger and thus not feeling safe to express your feelings.
Similar past experiences in the past that has made you angry where you were not able to handle your emotions smoothly might lead to current feelings towards similar situations. Therefore, you might find certain situations more challenging than others due to bad experiences.
If there are a lot of problems occurring at the same time, you might find yourself agitated more easily than usual or getting angry at unrelated things. Not being able to handle a particular situation might lead you to express your anger at other times.
What can I Do? Anger Management
Recognize your anger signs
Pay attention to your physical responses prior to getting yourself smoked. Some of the common signs of getting angry are such as raising heart beats, rapid breathing, and muscle tension on shoulder or clenching fists. When you noticed these physical signs, try to get out of the situation, or start relaxing yourself.
Count to 10 and Breathe slowly
Counting to 10 gives you time to calm down your mind and not to act impulsively out of rage. Rapid breathing is one of the common signs of getting angry, so try to control your breathing by breathing out longer than you breathe in (Breathe out more than in).
Think before you speak
In the midst of anger, it is easy to say something that you might regret. Take a few moments to think before saying anything. Only when you feel calm, express your frustration and concerns clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
Changing your environment
It is often the environment or circumstances that gives us reasons for irritation and fury. Given a situation that is particularly challenging, give yourself a break to have some personal time. For example, if you know that you will be having a possible argument with your partner when you get home, stay in the room for 15 minutes or so once you get home. Give yourself some time to relax, have a clear mind, and to prepare for a conversation.
Life style changes
Physical activity can help reduce stress that may be one of the reasons to your anger. If you feel your anger escalating, spend some time doing enjoyable physical activities such as running, walking, swimming, yoga, and meditation.
Use humor/ Get creative
Writing, making music, painting, dancing or other relaxing activities helps release tension and reduce feelings of anger. Sometimes using humor can defuse rage in few ways. For example, when you call someone a name, stop and picture what that word would literally look like. For instance, when you call your colleague a ‘scumbag’, you may imagine a dirty bag at the workplace receiving phone calls or going through files. Such humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.
Try not to pick a fight when you or your partner are tired or distracted. Try to change times when you talk about important matters so that it does not turn into arguments easily.
Don’t deliberately make yourself look into things that makes you frustrated. For example, if your child’s messy room makes you angry, shut the door. Don’t complain that if only your child cleans the room, you won’t be angry. The point here is to keep yourself calm rather than making your child clean the room.
If the traffic makes you irritable in the morning, try finding alternative routes, leave earlier, or take a public transport.
When one gets angry, you tend to exaggerate and react over dramatically. Changing your thoughts by replacing the angry thoughts with more rational ones will help. For example, instead of thinking ‘now everything is going to be ruined’, try to think ‘it’s frustrating and I am upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry won’t help it’. Mind the words that you use when angry as those words such as ‘never’ ‘always’ makes you feel that your anger is justified and that nothing can be done. In other words, find other words to rephrase the situation.
Even when anger is justified, it can become irrational quickly. Try to think logic by thinking that you are merely experiencing a rough day. That is, think positive. During cognitive restructuring, angry people should be aware of the nature of their demand and their expectations towards something. For example, instead of saying ‘I would like’ is healthier than ‘I demand’. When you don’t get what is ‘demanded’, you tend to get more furious. However, when you don’t get what you want, you experience emotions such as frustration and disappointment, but not anger.
After which you have make changes to your thoughts, find alternatives to the problem. Anger can be a natural response to the different challenges. While we always hope for a solution to every problem, it is sometimes not the case and this adds to our frustration. At such, the focus is not to find the solution, but how to handle and face the problem. You might not be able to solve the problem right away, but the efforts and intentions to attempt facing the problem will make you less likely to lose patience and to fall into an ‘all-or-nothing’ mood.
When you are angry, you tend to jump on conclusion or judgement that may not be accurate. During a heated discussion, it is best to not say things that first comes into your head, that is to think twice of what you want to talk about. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is trying to say. Try to figure out what is the underlying anger. For example, during an argument with your partner about turning up late for the party, the conversation may indicate that your partner is feeling neglected or unloved. Keeping cool in such situation can help keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one.
An alternative way to controlling your anger is through neurofeedback. Like learning to control your physiological responses such as breathing and heartbeats, neurofeedback allows one to better control their emotions. Anger can then be expressed in a rational, appropriate and more conductive manner. Neurofeedback helps build a stronger connection between the midbrain (emotional center) and the forebrain (executive control center). This means that a person will be able to gain better control over their emotional responses and behaviors.
Boston Children’s Hospital. (2012, October 24). Video game with biofeedback teaches children to curb their anger. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121024164731.htm
By: Ms Jolene Yeo - SOL Psychologist