What does it feel like when you experience anger? Maybe you start to shake, clench your fists, or feel hot. Maybe you feel the need to yell, hit something, or maybe you shut down and get quiet. No matter how you experience anger, it is an emotion that we all experience at some point in our lives, and one that we will experience frequently. But why? What purpose does anger serve?
Anger is often seen as a “negative” emotion. However, I would suggest that there is no such thing as a negative emotion. Emotions are simply emotions and do need to take on a positive or negative label. Emotions are felt because our mind is trying to communicate with us. When we experience anger, we perceive that some wrong has occurred and needs addressing. Anger can be used in healthy ways, such as being assertive to get needs met. On the other hand, anger can also be expressed in a more destructive way if we are not careful. Although anger may seem difficult to control at times, there are many things we can do to manage our anger in a healthier way.
When trying to control anger, it is important to first understand how you experience anger. One way you can do this is to imagine or draw an old-school thermometer. What does your anger look like when at the lowest temperature? What about at the highest? Take some time to determine these points and then fill in the space in-between.
For example, let’s say that my lowest sign of anger is I start to feel hot, while my highest sign of anger is yelling. I know that if I get to point of yelling, I’m probably not going to come down from that anger very easily. However, if I notice myself getting hot, I can then do something about it before it escalates. There are several strategies to use when managing anger and I would encourage you to try them out and determine which ones work best for you.
Practicing relaxation has been found to be very helpful when experiencing anger. This can be as simple as taking a moment to take deep breaths or imagine a calming scene. If you prefer something a little more active, you can try yoga or stretching to relax your muscles which can help you feel more calm. Personally, I like to go to the gym when I am experiencing anger and have the time to do so.
Another way to manage anger is to change the way you think. Instead of immediately jumping to dramatic and exaggerated conclusions about a situation, try to remind yourself to stay rational and tell yourself that getting overly upset will not solve the problem. Logic can be very helpful in overcoming anger. Try asking yourself if the situation will matter a week from now? A year from now? Putting the situation in a different perspective can help to reduce anger before it gets out of hand.
Another strategy to try is learning assertive communication. Oftentimes when we get angry, it is easy to come across as aggressive, which will typically make the situation worse. Being assertive means that you are able to communicate your needs firmly and respectfully. There is no need for language that will hurt others and being passive may not improve your situation. Finding balance is the key.
Managing anger can be challenging and may require more work than tips that have been provided above. If you feel that you struggle with your anger, reach out to a licensed therapist for help. A therapist can help you to examine your anger more closely and determine the best ways to manage it. Being able to better manage your anger will result in an improved quality of life.