Dr. Aryn Ziehnert
You can learn how to control anger, even if it feels like it controls you now. If you ever felt there is a super-sensitive nerve inside that starts an unstoppable chain reaction when you are triggered, you may have an anger control issue. However, it can be brought under control with several steps, including a qualified counselor’s help.
Controlling anger is a taught skill.
We are all familiar with anger, whether we experience it as a brief annoyance or out-and-out rage. We often feel types of anger throughout our day, as it is a normal and healthy emotion under certain circumstances and very much part of being human. The emotion anger has been compared to fire. It is very useful when under control, but when let loose, it can cause fear and destruction in your work and family relationships as well as reduce your quality of life.
Getting a handle on anger.
Anger is defined as being a strong feeling of displeasure or annoyance and often of active opposition to an insult, injury, or injustice. It can vary in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury. Just like any other emotion anger is characterized by physiological and biological changes within our bodies. This is demonstrated when you feel yourself go red in the face or when you suddenly become aware of your heart beating much faster than usual.
To understand how to control anger, remember it is a secondary emotion. This does not mean that it is less important than primary emotions, but rather it means that it does not occur in isolation all by itself. It arrives in response to other feelings that we experience. Because of this it is often understood to be a social emotion, which means that there is normally a particular person who is the target of the emotion.
You see this when you say hurtful things towards a friend, shame the dog, hang up on your parents, or even punch the wall to hurt yourself.
At the core of anger emotional pain is often found, and this pain triggers a thought or assumption that leads to an angry response, such as:
- Interpretation of a situation.
- Assuming the motivation of others.
- Evaluating actions that happened before the event.
- Our assessment of the situation, others or ourselves.
- The hunch that someone is out to get us.
- A feeling of helplessness or frustration, and the list goes on.
While each of us respond to situations and thoughts differently these points represent a common set of issues that, together with emotional pain, have been found to trigger anger. Understanding these triggers is important when learning how to control anger.
Keep in mind that both internal and external events can cause anger. You can become angry at a specific person, such as a work colleague, or an event, such as slow-moving traffic. Traumatic memories, unjust events, and worrying about your personal problems can all trigger angry feelings.
Giving vent to anger.
Anger is a learned response in the face of threats. It brings feelings to the surface that are powerful and often aggressive. We feel anger when we feel a fight response; it allows us to take appropriate defensive actions when we feel under threat.
The behavioral norms of society require us to always respect the rights of one another, including when we feel angry. So, we do not physically attack a retail assistant at a retail store who is presenting false evidence about a particular product to ensure a sale.
Rather, we refuse the purchase and move on. However, we may feel moved to physically attack someone who is trying to bring physical harm to those we love. We can control our response to our own feelings of anger inside of ourselves and there are recognized degrees of social and legal acceptability for this.
To control our anger, we actively use processes that will keep us calm. An example is reminding ourselves that the driver who bumped into our car is also shocked and possibly angry at some infringement for which they have blamed us.
How to control anger: express, suppress, or calm.
The three main approaches to anger are to express it, suppress it or to calm it.
Experts agree that the assertive manner to express anger is the healthiest way because it clearly communicates the needs of the angry person and how they require their needs to be met without causing harm to others. It is a display of respect towards yourself as well as respect towards others.
People who suppress anger inadvertently redirect it. The anger may not be expressed in the moment and the person may rather distract themselves through focusing on something else that brings them joy, such as physical exercise or a creative process. In this way, suppression of anger can be used to convert the energy into a more constructive outcome than losing your temper.
However, it is very important to consider that without outward expression, anger can turn inward. This can result in the anger bubbling up in other ways like affecting your physical health through high blood pressure, or your mental health through depressive feelings.
Without releasing anger and having it build up inside, it can come out in other indirect ways – such as passive aggressive behavior. Someone who is passive aggressive often looked to extract vengeance on another without confronting them or explaining to them why they hold feelings of anger towards them.
A passive aggressive person sometimes often also displays cynical personality traits such as sarcasm, putting others down verbally, and being critical. If taken to an extreme these types of behaviors will make relationships difficult to maintain or even establish.
Calming yourself down inside means that not only are your actions calm, but so are your thoughts. It will mean proactive taking steps to lower your heart rate, still your racing thoughts and let red-hot angry feelings subside through deep breathing and other self-soothing methods.
When learning how to control your anger remember that anger management is a process where we actively and significantly dial-down our emotions and thoughts from tipping us over the edge. While we often cannot remove, change or avoid the actions, words or events that provoke us to lose our temper, we are able to learn to control our reactions.
Cooling the fire of your anger.
There are tests and questionnaires that can reveal more about your relationship with anger, whether you fly off the handle quickly, or are able to handle it well. But taking these to determine whether or not you have a problem with anger will likely just confirm what your intuition is telling you.
If you find yourself repeatedly recovering from situations where you felt out of control or frightened others with your outbursts, you may well need help finding constructive ways to manage this fiery emotion. You may be the only person who you know that is looking for help to learn how to deal with anger. That is okay. Some people are more naturally predisposed to anger, and often find themselves getting intensely angry far easier than others.
As discussed, how the anger is revealed comes in different forms of expression and suppression. Sometimes people shout and act out physically, while others may be quiet but chronically irritable. They seem to go about with a dark, super-charged thunder cloud over their head, using any excuse to strike through sarcasm and gripes. Anger can also lead to withdrawing from social events or becoming ill.
Unlearning and relearning how to control anger.
The characteristic that is often shared among people who are easily angered is their low tolerance for frustration. They are often unable to put up with any form of annoyance, inconvenience, and frustration. These emotions seem to quickly rock them beyond their ability to deal with it in a way that shows respect to themselves and those around them.
Their unease is heightened if they feel the situation is unjust. For example, being corrected for a small mistake may make them see red immediately.
While it is possible to be born as a person more irritable than most, there are other established reasons that anger becomes a bigger part of our lives. Part of this will be from the way we are taught to handle anger as a negative emotion that cannot be expressed. Suppressed anger does come out in ways that are allowed by our family and social circle.
These ways include sarcasm, manipulation, procrastination, avoidance, lateness, the silent treatment, and, unfortunately, much more. Research shows that people who are easily angered are typically brought up in disruptive, chaotic families who do not communicate their emotions well.
Christian counseling for how to control anger.
If you’re looking for additional help to learn how to control anger and the problems it creates, or perhaps even if someone you love is unable or unwilling recognize their anger and the challenges they face, contact our office to learn how we can help you. We would be honored to walk with you on this journey of healing.
“Stressed”, Courtesy of Simran Sood, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Punch”, Courtesy of Engin Akyurt, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Grizzly”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Snowy Mountains”, Courtesy of Eberhard Grossgasteiger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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