Anger like any other emotion is a healthy, completely normal human emotion. We all are very familiar with the experience of anger. The main concern surrounding anger is not its experience but rather its management. It is when anger spirals out of control or when it’s experience is overly suppressed, is when it becomes a problem. It definitely is a very powerful emotion, and if understood and managed in the right manner it does help signal to us something of concern which must be addressed. If you have a tough time dealing with anger or know someone who does, following are a few ways to understand what’s going on and if you should consider doing something to change it.
Before we come to ways on managing anger effectively, here are a few ways in which you can better understand your experience of Anger:
- Know the triggers: Pay attention and become aware of the people, situations and circumstances where you frequently find yourself angry. Is there something in common between these triggers? It’s generally not the person or the situation, but something about them which angers us, try understanding what that ‘something’ is in your case. ‘What about them makes me angry?’ Is it when you feel your authority is being questioned, or when you feel you are being treated unfairly, or a situation which feels difficult to manage?
- Know your Anger umbrella: Anger generally stems from varied emotions and feelings. It’s called an umbrella emotion because its expression may encompass experience of other emotions too. For a lot of people, when they get angry they are probably actually experiencing hurt, sadness, dissatisfaction or shame (to name a few). Try and understand what emotions and feelings you tend to carry under your anger umbrella. Are there other emotions that you respond to with irritation or rage?
- Physical changes: Observe yourself and notice the physiological symptoms you experience in anger. The state of arousal in anger may be expressed differently by different people. It may be tightening of fists, grinding of teeth, sweating, shortness of breath, heart racing or something very different. Ask yourself how intense are these changes and do they impact your reaction.
- Your response to Anger: The most important aspect in dealing with anger is understanding how you generally respond to it. What are your instinctive reactions to people or situations that anger you? People respond with aggression either towards the other person or themselves, physically or verbally. Some may move away from the situation till you feel calmer to deal with it. Some others may push away their feelings to avoid an unpleasant confrontation.
- Others response to your Anger: Apart from your own assessment of yourself, try to gauge and see how others react to your anger. It is an important aspect of assessing the intensity of your reactions. Do people step away and would rather leave you alone, have others made comments about being vary of your anger or that they feel intimidated? Or do you think others tend to push you in situations till you eventually react? Have you frequently felt guilty about your reactions in anger that your regret in retrospect? Even feeling that you cannot ever share your feelings of anger with others is a concern. Such a strong emotion should never be suppressed or bottled up.
- Extent of impact: It’s important to understand how the experience of anger impacts your relationships and functioning in various domains of your life. Are there frequent difficulties in your relationships with family, significant other, colleagues or friends that surround the experience of anger or the suppression of it? Has your work or other activities been affected by anger? There may be feedback from significant people in your life or even from superiors at work about your reactions to difficult situations. Reflect on those to understand how anger impacts your life and those around you.
If most of your responses to the above aspects lead you to feel that your experience of anger must be better managed or that you feel at the mercy of this powerful emotion, its reason enough to proactively work on this.