Control Anger before it Controls You

Published on July 13, 2015

Anger is one of the basic human emotions characterized by intense feelings of being antagonized or wronged (APA, 2015). Anger can sometimes be good, serving as the necessary motivation to remedy a situation. However, excessive anger can be detrimental to both mental and physical health. It has a wide range of intensity from mild (irritation, frustration) to severe (rage). Anger involves three distinct manifestations:

  1. Changes in body sensations: Where we usually feel the rush of adrenaline and responses such as an increased heart rate, blood pressure, headaches and tightening muscles; which is also known as the "fight or flight" response.
  2. Changes in thought process: How we perceive and think about what is making us angry. For example, we tend to blame or justify on something that happened to us is wrong, unfair, and undeserved.
  3. Changes in behavior: Our behavior varies in wide range. Behavioral changes in anger usually involve change of tone, facial expressions, and mild to severe expressions of aggression.

Research indicates that generally people experience anger few times a week. 58 percent of anger episode includes yelling or screaming and less than 10 percent involve physical aggression, (Kassinove, 1997). Another study found that high trait anger have reactions that are intense, frequent and enduring (Kassinove, R. Tafrate C., & Dundin, L.2002). Studies also showed that these people "also tend to report more physical aggression, negative verbal responses, drug use and negative consequences of their anger. In general, their anger negatively affects their relationships, their health and their jobs". Psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, has shared that such anger that "disrupts or interferes with sense of self or normal routines" might need therapeutic attention.

"Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy". Aristotle

While dealing with anger we often apply a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes. These processes involve expressing, suppressing, and calming. The healthiest way to express anger is through assertion and not aggression. Assertion is the best way to express anger without offending or harming anyone. The key is to identify our triggers for anger, and to communicate in a healthy way what dissipates those negative emotions, and solves the problem.

Resolving anger, however, is not same as suppressing anger. If we internalize anger, it may manifest itself as negative health outcomes like high blood pressure, hypertension, anxiety or depression. Our interpersonal relationships may be severely affected if we are unable to express our anger. Unexpressed anger can manifest in the form of passive aggressive behavior, constant criticism, and cynical comments.

Finally, we can all learn techniques to calm both our internal and external bodily responses to anger. For example, if we identify that our heart is racing and our thoughts are turning negative, we can all choose to remove ourselves from that situation, focus on something soothing and thereby controlling our heart rate and immediate expression of anger.

Techniques to control anger:

Relaxation: Deep breathing and learning to relax, can help calm down our angry feelings

Cognitive Restructuring: Focusing and changing our thoughts which leads to negative feelings

Communication Improvement: Learning how to communicate ‘what you want’ in an appropriate way about your feelings is key to successful anger management in any relationship.

Some other helpful tips:

  • Setting an appropriate time for you to communicate with your spouse/parent/colleague/or others about your needs would benefit you well instead of heated arguments.
  • Finding some alternative ways to handle challenging situation would assist in better understanding of the root cause of distress.

Conclusion:

We can manage anger reasonably, once we learn how to identify the trigger and also learn how to react to the situation by monitoring our thoughts and feelings. Like all emotions, it is always better, to learn controlling the emotion than being controlled by the emotion itself.

References:

Anger Research Consortium; American Psychological Association

http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx

http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar03/advances.aspx

http://www.guidetopsychology.com/anger.htm

JENNIFER DAW HOLLOWAY, Monitor Staff, March 2003, Vol 34, No. 3, Print version: page 54

Kassinove, R. Chip Tafrate, PhD, and L. Dundin, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2002, Vol. 58, No. 12

Deffenbacher, J.L. (in press). Psychosocial interventions: anger disorders. In E.F. Coccaro (Ed.), Aggression: Assessment and treatment. New York: Marcel Dekker.


Category(s):Anger Management, Stress Management

Written by:

Piyali Chakrabarti

Mrs. Chakrabarti is a Singapore Registered Psychologist (SRP) and an Approved Supervisor recognized by the Singapore Psychological Society. She completed her M.Phil from the renowned Central Institute of Psychiatry (CIP) in India after completing her Masters in Applied Psychology from the University of Calcutta. Besides being a Psychologist at Scott Psychological Centre, Piyali continues to offer her services part-time at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance of Singapore where she had previously served as Head of the Department of Psychology.

Piyali Chakrabarti belongs to Scott Psychological Centre in Singapore

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