Encyclopedia of Psychology [edited by Alan E. Kazdin, PhD and published by American Psychological Association] says that anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. Everyone knows what anger is. We all have felt it either as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage. Often, anger is an automatic response to ill treatment. Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. When it gets out of control it becomes destructive. Then it creates problems—problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. Therefore it is essential to understand and control anger.
The natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.
On the other hand, we can't physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us.
The three main approaches to manage anger are expressing, suppressing, and calming.
1. Expressing your anger in an assertive, but nonaggressive manner is the healthiest way to manage anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.
2. Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger and stop thinking about it. You start focusing on some other positive subject. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. There may be some consequential effect if anger isn't allowed outward expression. Anger can turn inward. Anger turned inward may cause high blood pressure and/or depression. Unexpressed anger can create other psychological problems too. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as abnormal behaviour of attacking people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on. The person with anger turned inwards may become perpetually cynical and hostile. They aren't likely to have many successful relationships.
3. Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.
The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional tension and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can't get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions.
We know that some people really are more "hotheaded" than others are; they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person does. There are also those who don't show their anger in loud spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Sometimes they withdraw socially or get physically ill.
People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they think that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They are particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake.
There are two causes for this disposition. One cause may be genetic or physiological: There is evidence that some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered, and that these signs are present from a very early age. Another cause is sociocultural. Research has also found that family background plays a role. Typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communications.
Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books and courses that can teach you relaxation techniques, and once you learn the techniques, you can call upon them in any situation. If you are involved in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both of you to learn these techniques.
Some simple steps you can try:
· Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut."
· Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
· Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
· Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.
Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you're in a tense situation.
Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your thinking can get much exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "oh, it's awful, it's terrible, everything's ruined," tell yourself, "it's frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow."
You have to be careful of words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or someone else. The self suggestions like "this @#%&* machine never works," or "you're always forgetting things" are not only inaccurate, but they also serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there's no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything that it won't make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse).
Logic defeats anger, because anger is irrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is "not out to get you," you're just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each time you feel anger, and it will help you get a more balanced perspective.
Handle and Face the Problem
Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it's a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. There is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to find out that this isn't always the case. The best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem. Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. Resolve not to punish yourself if an answer doesn't come right away.
Angry people tend to jump to—and act on—conclusions and some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if you're in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don't say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.
"Silly humor" can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective. Humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.
Angry people tend to feel that they are morally right, that any blocking or changing of their plans is an unbearable indignity and that they should NOT have to suffer this way. Maybe other people do, but not them!
Sometimes it's our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh on you and make you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap. Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some "personal time" scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful. One example is the working mother who has a standing rule that when she comes home from work, for the first 15 minutes "nobody talks to Mom unless the house is on fire." After this brief quiet time, she feels better prepared to handle demands from her kids without blowing up at them.
1. Timing: Try changing the times when you talk about important matters with your spouse so that these talks don't turn into arguments.
2. Avoidance: Don't look at what infuriates you. The point is to keep you calm.
3. Finding alternatives: If your daily commute through traffic leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a project—learn or map out a different route, one that's less congested or more scenic. Or find another alternative, such as a bus or commuter train.