What is Anger
Anger is a term for the emotional aspect of aggression, as a basic aspect of the stress response in animals whereby a perceived aggravating stimulus "provokes" a counter response which is likewise aggravating and threatening of violence. Very mild types of anger are typically described as "distaste," "displeasure", or "irritation," while "rage" refers to an extreme degree of anger associated with a loss of calmness or discipline (in the case of human conduct).
In modern society, anger is viewed as an immature or uncivilized response to frustration, threat, violation, or loss. Conversely, keeping calm, coolheaded, or turning the other cheek is considered more socially acceptable. This conditioning can cause inappropriate expressions of anger, such as uncontrolled, violent outbursts or misdirected anger, or, at the other extreme, repressing feelings of anger (or lacking them altogether) when those feelings would be an appropriate response to the situation. Also, anger that is constantly "bottled up" can lead to persistent violent thoughts or nightmares, or even physical symptoms like headaches, ulcers, or hypertension.
Anger Side Effects
Anger can aggravate several mental health problems. Anger can fuel depression. People who are depressed generally don't take care of themselves. They indulge in self-destructive activities, such as too much drinking, smoking, overeating, taking risks, and not watching their finances. Depressed people have less energy, reduced appetite, and need more sleep. Their work performance will drop and relationships will deteriorate.
Many people believe that depression is in fact anger turned inward. The reason for this assumption is because many depressives react to stress by turning their anger inward as a response to physical or emotional abuse, or neglect from parents or parent figures. After a while, the coping mechanisms become habits that they use inappropriately and indiscriminately whenever they perceive loss or frustration.
Depressives tend to grow up believing that if they are hurt or abused, there are merely two options available, which are self-blame and denial of blame. One secondary effect of the depressives denial of anger is that their interpersonal relationships are often unhappy and they do not get the 'breaks' that other people seem to get. They may not get promotions, social invitations or love because the reality is that most people do not want to be around depressed people for any length of time, both at home and at work. Another side-effect of anger is that it can fuel obsessions, phobias and addictions.
Obsessions and phobias arise from situations when, for some reason or another, we feel we are either losing control of ourselves or the world around us. Anger can also fuel manic tendencies. Many people who are not able to express their anger let it out in furious activity. Sometimes this activity reaches a breaking point and results in clinical depression or even bipolar disorder.
Anger can also fan the flames of paranoia and prejudice, even in normal, everyday situations. People tend to express their anger either passively or aggressively with the basic 'flight' response, which is repression and denial of anger. Aggressive behavior is associated with the 'fight' response and the use of the verbal and physical power of anger to abuse and hurt others.
Symptoms of anger
Anger can be of one of two main types: passive anger and aggressive anger. These types of anger have some characteristic symptoms:
Passive anger can be expressed in the following ways:
1. Secretive behavior, such as stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people's backs or through sly digs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact, putting people down, gossip, anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, and conning.
2. Manipulation, such as provoking people to aggression and then patronizing forgiveness, provoking aggression but staying on the sidelines, emotional blackmail, in genuine tearfulness, feigning illness, sabotaging relationships, using sexual provocation, using a third party to convey negative feelings, withholding money or resources.
3. Self-blame, such as apologizing too often, being overly critical, inviting criticism.
Self-sacrifice, such as being overly helpful, pointedly making do with second best, quietly making long suffering signs but refusing help, or lapping up gratefulness and making friendly digs where it is not forthcoming.
4. Ineffectual, such as setting yourself and others up for failure, choosing unreliable people to depend on, being accident prone, underachieving, sexual impotence, expressing frustration at insignificant things but ignoring serious ones.
5. Dispassionate, such as giving the cold shoulder or phony smiles, looking cool, sitting on the fence while others sort things out, dampening feelings with substance abuse (to include overeating), oversleeping, not responding to other's anger, frigidity, indulging in sexual practices that depress spontaneity and make objects of participants, giving inordinate amounts of time to machines, objects or intellectual pursuits, talking of frustrations but showing no feeling.
6. Obsessional behavior, such as needing to be clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking, over-dieting or overeating, demanding that all jobs are done perfectly.
7. Evasiveness, such as turning your back in a crisis, avoiding conflict, not arguing back, becoming phobic.
The symptoms of aggressive anger are:
1. Threatening, such as frightening people by saying how you could harm them, their property or their prospects, finger pointing, fist shaking, wearing clothes associated with violent behavior, driving on someone's tail, setting on a car horn, slamming doors.
2. Hurtful, such as physical violence, verbal abuse, unfair jokes, breaking a confidence, playing loud music, using foul language, ignoring people's feelings, willfully discriminating, blaming, or punishing people for deeds they are known not to have committed, labeling others.
3. Destructive, such as harming objects, knowingly destroying a relationship between two people, driving recklessly, drinking too much.
4. Bullying, such as threatening people, persecuting, pushing or shoving, using power to oppress, shouting, using a powerful car to force someone off the road, playing on people's weaknesses.
5. Unjustly blaming, such as accusing other people for your own mistakes, blaming people for your own feelings, making general accusations.
6. Manic, such as speaking too fast, walking too fast, working too much and expecting others to fit in, driving too fast, reckless spending.
7. Grandiose, such as showing off, expressing mistrust, not delegating, being a poor loser, wanting center stage all the time, not listening, talking over people's heads, expecting kiss and make-up sessions to solve problems.
8. Selfish, such as ignoring other's needs, not responding to requests for help, queue jumping, 'cutting in' when driving.
9. Revengeful, such as being over-punitive, refusing to forgive and forget, bringing up hurtful memories from the past.
10. Unpredictable, such as blowing hot and cold, explosive rages over minor frustrations, attacking indiscriminately, dispensing punishment out of the blue, inflicting harm on other just for the sake of it, using drink and drugs that are known to destabilize mood, using illogical arguments.
Tips on Anger Management
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:
1. Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut."
2. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
3. Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
4. Non-strenuous, 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.
2. Cognitive Restructuring
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 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, every thing'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."
Be careful of words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or someone else. "This !&*%@ machine never works," or "you're always forgetting things" are not just inaccurate, 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, even when it's justified, can quickly become 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 getting the best of you, and it'll help you get a more balanced perspective. Angry people tend to demand things: fairness, appreciation, agreement, willingness to do things their way. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when we don't get them, but angry people demand them, and when their demands aren't met, their disappointment becomes anger. As part of their cognitive restructuring, angry people need to become aware of their demanding nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other words, saying, "I would like" something is healthier than saying, "I demand" or "I must have" something. When you're unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions-frustration, disappointment, hurt-but not anger. Some angry people use this anger as a way to avoid feeling hurt, but that doesn't mean the hurt goes away.
3. Problem Solving
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 to give it your best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer doesn't come right away. If you can approach it with your best intentions and efforts and make a serious attempt to face it head-on, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.
4. Better Communication
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.
Listen, too, to what is underlying the anger. For instance, you like a certain amount of freedom and personal space, and your "significant other" wants more connection and closeness. If he or she starts complaining about your activities, don't retaliate by painting your partner as a jailer.
It's natural to get defensive when you're criticized, but don't fight back. Instead, listen to what's underlying the words: the message that this person might feel neglected and unloved. It may take a lot of patient questioning on your part, and it may require some breathing space, but don't let your anger-or a partner's-let a discussion spin out of control. Keeping your cool can keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one.
5. Using Humor
"Silly humor" can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective. When you get angry and call someone a name or refer to them in some imaginative phrase, stop and picture what that word would literally look like. If you're at work and you think of a coworker as a "dirtbag" or a "single-cell life form," for example, picture a large bag full of dirt (or an amoeba) sitting at your colleague's desk, talking on the phone, going to meetings. Do this whenever a name comes into your head about another person. If you can, draw a picture of what the actual thing might look like. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury; and humor can always be relied on to help in a tense situation.
The underlying message of highly angry people, Dr. Deffenbacher says, is "things oughta go my way!" 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!
When you feel that urge, he suggests, picture yourself as a god or goddess, a supreme ruler, who owns the streets and stores and office space, striding alone and having your way in all situations while others defer to you. The more detail you can get into your imaginary scenes, the more chances you have to realize that maybe you are being unreasonable; you'll also realize how unimportant the things you're angry about really are. There are two cautions in using humor. First, don't try to just "laugh off" your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Second, don't give in to harsh, sarcastic humor; that's just another form of unhealthy anger expression.
What these techniques have in common is a refusal to take yourself too seriously. Anger is a serious emotion, but it's often accompanied by ideas that, if examined, can make you laugh.
6. Changing Your Environment
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.
7. Some Other Tips for Easing Up on Yourself
Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight when you discuss things at night-perhaps you're tired, or distracted, or maybe it's just habit-try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks don't turn into arguments.
Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes you furious every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don't make yourself look at what infuriates you. Don't say, "well, my child should clean up the room so I won't have to be angry!" That's not the point. The point is to keep yourself calm.
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.