We are born with the ability to experience anger. Many of us have experienced the wrath of others and many of us have dealt that wrath. If this is a problem you notice in others or in yourself, what can be done to handle this powerful emotion?
Some say it's best to shut down all feelings of anger. They say being angry can be dangerous, so to avoid being dangerous, don't feel it, don't feed it, don't express it. While on the outside, a person holding in all this anger may seem to have things under control, ignoring feelings of anger can lead to a blow out, one in which the fury may be even greater from all the pressure.
Others say you need to let out all your anger. They say you ought to let people know what you really think and feel, tell them off because they deserve it. While this can feel freeing by taking things off your chest, it can lead to a path of destruction that can include verbal or physical harm, arrests, damaged relationships, and horrible memories you cannot undo.
There is a another way to handle anger.
Consider the following:
- Anger is telling us something. Acknowledge it. Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest.
- Reflect on why you are angry. Pause and think about the situation: Do you feel wronged? Disrespected? Betrayed? Blocked from doing or getting something?
- What other feelings might also be present? Hurt? Fear? Sadness? Shame? For many it is easier to show anger than to acknowledge other feelings which we feel makes us vulnerable.
- What is the most positive outcome you are seeking in this situation for yourself and others?
- What are your core needs and values?
- What kind of person do you want to be known for?
- Very rarely is the use of violence justified. If no one's life is in danger, a violent response to protect someone is not needed.
- Lower your volume, soften your tone (words) and posture/stance to help the other person know are are wanting to talk things out and not trying to attack them.
- Consider: What do I naturally want to do in anger? STOP. Don't do what comes naturally. Don't do what you have automatically done while angry in past situations. Don't do what first comes to mind. Think: what is a second alternative to that response that would take this anger and its impact a notch lower? Is what I want to do going to bring honor and peace to the situation?
- If your words, tone, body, and actions show that you are in "fight" mode, take a break, leave the situation, and respond at a later time when you are more calm and thinking more clearly.
- What are other things going on that is leading to lower patience, lower self-control, and higher irritability? For some, it may include insufficient sleep, food intake, substance use, worry, anxiety, and/or depression. Reach out to a counselor to help you evaluate factors that may be contributing to your anger and ways to manage it.
A haunting quote:
"...as we look at violence and abuse in the family, our idea of the family changes, from a place of safety to a place of danger, from a context of nurturing to a context of nightmare." David Moltz
What are your thoughts on this emotion? What has helped you manage it?
For more resources on addressing anger:
Center for Anger Resolution
"How to recognize and deal with anger"