“We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as a full-fledged rage. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems – problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.” (American Psychological Association, “Controlling anger before it controls you” Retrieved from APA) Everyone has their own triggers that make them angry. Here are some common triggers for anger: feeling threatened, attacked, provoked, frustrated, powerless, invalidated, mistreated, disrespected, violation of personal space, inequity, and relationship disputes.
Some individuals struggle with controlling their anger or they experience anger outside the normal emotional scope; inability to reason or rationalize. Here are some forms of anger disorders:
Chronic or habitual anger is when one holds onto their anger for a prolonged period of time; longer than several months. Holding onto anger can weaken the immune system, causing health problems like cardiovascular disease and hypertension. This form of anger can alienate an individual from family, friends, and other, as well as get them in trouble with the law.
Volatile angeror Intermittent explosive disorderis when there are sudden episodes of aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts that is deemed to be grossly out of proportion to a situation. This form of anger can put an individual at risk of self-harm, violence towards others, destruction to property, and strain on interpersonal relationships.
Passive-aggressive anger is associated with hidden anger. Signe Whitson states that it is “a deliberate but covert way of expressing feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2009) and it most often motivated by a person’s fear of expressing anger directly. (Whitson, S., L.S.W., Oct. 18, 2016, “Understanding passive aggressive behavior” Retrieved from Psychology Today) Here are some past experiences that could make someone hide their anger: grew-up thinking anger was not okay, punished for expressing anger, or witnessing anger as destructive and terrifying.
Overwhelming anger is when there are multiple challenges or high demands occurring in rapid successions that one’s coping skills are insufficient. Here are some situations that can make an individual feel overwhelmed: work demands, financial difficulties, life transitions (i.e., having a baby, buying a home, caring for your aging parents), and relationship problems.
Self-inflicted or self-directed anger is when one directs their anger onto themselves because of the perceived belief that they had done something wrong. Here are some self-inflicted or self-directed behaviors: self-cutting. binge eating, starving, or avoidant/restrictive eating.
· Judgmental angeris when an individual is critically nitpicking, putting others down, finding fault, or condemning. Individuals who are judgmental often have low self-esteem and utilizes this defense mechanism as a way to protect themselves from being hurt by others.
So, how does one understand and manage their anger instead of suppressing or becoming reactive? Here are some tips and tools to managing your anger:
Exercises to manager your anger:
Practice deep breathing, as it is a good way to reduce tension, relieve stress, and decrease anger symptoms. (Video: City of Hope: 15-minute deep breathing exercise)
Practice muscle relaxation techniques, as it helps to make you aware of your body and physical sensations through concentrating on specific areas of tensions and relaxing those areas. (Video: How to do progressive muscle relaxation)
Practice visualizing yourself being calm, as it will help reduce your anger symptoms. Imagine your favorite place, like sitting on the beach, laying in a grassy meadow, or watching the sunset on top of a mountain. If you imagine yourself laying in a grassy meadow, for example, hear the sound of birds chirping, the soft wind blowing in the trees, the smell of wild flowers, and the feel of the sun warm against your skin.
Practice knowing your body when you start to get angry. Here are some physical signs that one might experience when becoming angry: increased rapid heart rate, shaking or trembling, clenching of jaws or grinding of teeth, feeling hot in the face/neck, rubbing your head, cupping your fist with your hand, and raising your voice (i.e., yell, scream, or cry). Being aware of your body when you become angry will help you step away from the situation or utilize deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or visualization techniques.
Communication tools to manager your anger:
Practice thinking before you speak so to reduce the possibility of saying something that you might later regret. Take time to stop and reflect on the event or situation, check to see if your feelings are based on what actually happened or based on thoughts about the situation that emerged in your mind, and then contemplate on how you want to address how you felt, without the emotional bombardment.
Practice “I-statements” to reduce misunderstandings and jumping to the wrong conclusion. “I-statements” helps to communicate your feelings or beliefs rather than focusing on the thoughts and characteristics of the person (the listener), which often puts the listener in a defensive stance. (Video: I-Statements)
Practice active and reflective listening so to help a person feel that they have been heard, seen, understood, and supported. (Video: What is reflective listening?)
Practice taking a timeout so to decrease anger and de-escalate arguments. During the time out, practice one of the relaxation tools: deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or visualizing being calm. Make sure that you re-engage with the other person or partner to state your concerns utilizing “I” statements. Also, utilize active and reflecting listening to help each other feel heard, seen, understood, and supported.
Sometimes utilizing tools and resources to control anger can be challenging at times. If you feel that your anger is overwhelming, uncontrollable, or unmanageable, and that it is having a negative impact on your daily living, then seek out help from either a mental health counselor, therapist, and/or anger management support group.
I work with those struggling to manage their anger:
I provide a safe space for individuals to explore the root of his/her anger.
I provide a safe space for individuals to express him/herself. For example, to be able to express anger, frustration, hurt, annoyance, irritability, and etc.
I provide a safe space for individuals to talk about things that they would not normally talk about, such as past experiences, trauma, anxiety, depression, and other life challenges that might be triggering his/her anger-related symptoms.
I provide individuals with skills and tools, such as effective communication skills, conflict resolution skills, and emotional regulation to manage his/her anger.
If you are concerned that you, a loved one, or someone you care about are experiencing anger management difficulties, such as becoming angry when under the influence of drugs or alcohol, struggling with compromising, inward aggression that lead to isolation or self-harm, outward aggression (i.e., yelling, swearing, destruction of property) and/or problems expressing emotions in a calm and healthy way, I provide a safe space for you to talk and explore those concerns.