Anger is often an emotion that is misunderstood. Anger is a normal emotion. Anger is useful as it can protect you, help you to stand up for good causes, alert you that something is wrong.
Anger becomes an issue when it is too frequent/intense and/or lasts too long that causes you significant distress. Other warning signs of unhealthy anger include violence that hurts yourself or others and has the intention to hurt or punish (as opposed to protect/defend). Additionally, some issues with anger are where you are unable to express anger (e.g. bottle it up, avoidance/blocking out anger in the form of alcohol/drugs). This is also harmful as the anger can often be internalised.
Anger can be expressed in several different ways. Some examples include (but is not limited to):
– Flashes of rage
– Inability to think clearly
– Physical sensations of chest tightening, heart pounding, sweating
– Behaviour may include shouting, throwing an object, hitting out
– Shutting down in yourself, disconnecting, isolating, feelings of depression
Things that can help
If your anger is creating difficulties in your life, it does not mean you are a bad person. It simply means that you have not learned effective ways yet to express and manage anger.
Talk about it: Although it can be difficult to share, speak to a trusted friend or family member about what you are experiencing. It’s more beneficial to speak to someone that you are going to feel assured and validated by as opposed to speaking to someone who may judge you for your feelings and actions.
Additionally, reaching out to someone outside of your close circle can offer non-biased support and an outsider’s perspective. Counsellors and therapists can help explore the root of your anger and what factors trigger and maintain your anger. They can help you to understand what’s going on around you, what changes you can make in your life, and develop techniques to release your anger in a healthier way.
Understand your anger – Identify what your triggers are (e.g. traffic, certain people, alcohol) and when are you more likely to feel anger. Understanding your triggers can assist you in learning to be more assertive instead of reacting or shutting down your anger. If you can understand the patterns of your anger, it can make it easier to release your anger in a healthier way also. For some people, some physical activities such as joining a boxing class, running, throwing/kicking a ball can be beneficial. For other people, ripping up paper, drawing, painting, or writing their thoughts is more helpful.
Timeout – If you’re noticing your warning signs that you are becoming too angry, it can be useful to temporarily leave the situation that is making you angry. This doesn’t mean that you are avoiding the situation. Instead, you are giving yourself space to release your anger in a more effective way. Perhaps it is to take a few deep breaths and ask yourself questions such as “Why is this making me angry?” or “What other emotions am I experiencing?”
Breathing – To help with the physical response of anger, taking a minute to breathe deeply can be useful. It’s important to practice deep breaths when you are calm and not just during moments of anger. In the moment, this might be difficult to remember to do but as best as you can, try to recognise and become aware of your breathing. Counting your breaths can also help regain your focus on the here and now.