Anger is an emotion, experienced by all human beings. It’s a feeling that can range from mild irritation to strong rage. Anger is an emotion telling you that a specific situation is unjust, threatening or upsetting. It’s ok to be angry if you feel you have been wronged, but it becomes a problem when you express your anger in such a way that it harms you or people around you.
People who express anger in an aggressive or violent manner may feel justified in their action. But the angry reaction may be perceived negatively by others or it may impact your judgement or affect your success.
Why anger management is important?
Anger is usually considered a bad emotion, but it’s a necessary one like fear, sadness or stress. While feeling angry sometimes is ok, but if you flare up in raging anger very often it can have serious consequences.
Anger management is necessary as it affects you in the following ways:
Physical health – People who experience too much anger and stress have physiological changes. And feeling angry too often can lead to health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, impacted immune system and sleep problems.
Mental health – A person who experiences chronic anger expends a lot of mental energy that makes it hard for him/her to think clearly, has difficulty concentrating and is unable to enjoy life. It can lead to mental health conditions like stress, anxiety, depression and other such problems.
Career growth – Mild irritation due to debates, creative differences or constructive criticism can have a motivating influence and positively impact your career. But lashing out in fury in office or job scenario will erode your respect, and also alienate you from your colleagues, supervisors or clients.
Relationships – The brunt of your anger is mostly borne in relationships. It causes lasting damage to your relationship with friends, family and significant others. Other people will have difficulty in expressing freely and honesty if you display explosive anger in most situations.
How to manage anger?
Most people feel they cannot control their anger as it’s part of their personality. But you can control your anger. You just need to understand the innate reason for your anger and use some anger management techniques. So, take charge of your life and respond to anger instead of reacting to it
Healthy ways to manage anger:
- Assertive communication
A positive response to feeling angry is to communicate yourself through words to the person responsible for your anger. Use the “I” statement to describe the problem, avoiding criticism or blaming. At all times be specific and stay respectful. For instance, say “I’m upset that you didn’t offer to help me in cleaning the kitchen after dinner” rather than saying, “You never help me with housework.” In personal relations and other situations, communicating the cause of anger is a good way of managing anger.
- Laugh it out
Use humor to diffuse your anger. Laughing at a situation makes your body react in a different manner than when it’s angry. It’s better to pause, reflect and then respond, instead of giving knee-jerk reaction to your feelings of being wronged. However, avoid sarcasm as it can hurt feelings and will not help you in any way.
- Reframe unrealistic expectations
Face the reality that your expectations about situations are unrealistic making you angry with others around you and how they act/behave. How a person behaves is their discretion, we can only ask, plead or request. For example, a man who is always angry with his wife for being 20-30 minutes late when they go out for events can pause and rethink. Maybe the wife has been doing it for the last 10 years and it is unrealistic to expect her to change that behavior. It would help if the man uses statement like “I feel disrespected”. The wife will be motivated to change her behavior in this scenario.
- Practice relaxation
Anger and relaxation do not go hand in hand – you cannot be angry and relaxed at the same time. Using relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga, meditation, visualization or progressive muscle relaxation can reduce stress and help you to calm down. Relaxation helps to defuse anger and if practiced regularly, they can reduce your reaction to anger coming from potential triggers.
All things in your life or the environment around you cannot be changed. There is little or no scope to solve such problems. For instance, you can do little about political decisions, climate change, war, etc. – some amount of acceptance of the problem is needed in such situations.
- Forgive & forget
Ability to forgive and forget someone who angered you, is a great attribute. It’s a learning experience and helps to strengthen relationships. Allowing feelings of anger too often makes you a bitter person and people may avoid you.
- Physical exercise
Physical exercise helps you to de-stress and relax. Go for a walk, do some gardening or do something you like to distract yourself from the situation or things that make you angry.
- Seek help
Ability to control your anger can be challenging for most people. But if your anger seems out of control, making you react in ways that hurt others or you say things you regret later, it would be good to seek professional help.
What happens if you don’t manage anger?
Suppressing feelings of anger has negative effects on our lives. People who remain in denial of their angry emotions have problems relating to physical health as well as mental health. Here are a few consequences of avoiding anger management.
- Psychosomatic disorder
Suppressed angry feelings can lead to psychosomatic disorder, a case of a disease made worse by mental factors like stress and anxiety. Holding back your anger too often can lead to pent-up tension causing psychosomatic ailments like tension headaches, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and even cancer.
- Internalizing anger
Some people internalize anger as they suppress their feelings. Such individuals become self-haters and are critical of themselves. If this continues for a long time the individual becomes depressed and feels worthless. Their acts are self-defeating, self-destructive, and in many cases lead to suicidal behaviors. Psychologists interpret depression as a state of self-directed anger.
- Externalizing anger
People who frequently avoid anger tend to externalize anger. They disown it in themselves and project it to others, leading to an unhealthy perception of seeing others as hostile. Such individuals label the external environment as alien and dangerous. Their reaction to the perceived danger ranges from counter-aggression to paranoia, leading to behavior disorder.
- Social misfit
Prolonged period of suppressed anger can make a person react to their anger disproportionately. At times when they have an outburst they say abusive and hurtful things to others. And they frequently act against their own interests. They become social misfits.
- Passive aggression
Stifling anger for a long time makes a person resort to passive-aggressive behavior or withholding behavior. Passive aggression refers to a behavior where aggression/hostility is expressed indirectly. It’s a dysfunctional behavior that drives away people, induces guilty feelings and has negative effects on the perpetrator of the act.
Withholding behavior refers to acts like being late habitually, forgetfulness, procrastinating and provoking others – all of which are acts that alienate the person from others. They intentionally create distance with their partners in intimate relationships and bring problems in their workplace.
- Relationship problems
People who suppress anger find difficulty in acknowledging their feelings of anger, and resort to justification for their angry outburst. Such individuals feel misunderstood, victimized and wronged. The feelings of anger and victimization becomes obsessive that eventually ruins their relationships and happiness.