Most of us tend to bottle up our anger and suffer in silence. But that’s probably the worst thing we can do. “Anger is a normal natural emotion that can range from frustration to extreme rage, but if it is not managed, it can lead to violence and abusive behaviour,” says psychotherapist and life coach Antoinette Giacobbe. “The most negative or unhealthy thing about anger is when we don’t express it. The more we hold it in, the more damage that anger can create.”
Get to your primary emotion
Antoinette says anger is a secondary emotion and the purpose of anger is to help you express your
primary feelings — those real reasons why you’re feeling angry. Some of those primary feelings that lead to anger include:
A good way to see how these feelings relate to anger, and to recognize the triggers for your anger, is to make a list using the following formula:
I feel __________ when you __________ because _____________.
I feel frustrated when you interrupt me because it makes me feel like my opinions don’t matter to you.
Now, while you may react in anger when someone constantly interrupts you, based on this example you can see that frustration is your primary emotion — but you display that emotion as anger.
Once you review your list, you may see the real reason, or primary cause of your anger in different situations. And that will help you express yourself rather than lash out.
Take charge of your anger
Once you know your anger trigger points, you can then work to manage your anger effectively. Antoinette suggests using the following strategies:
- Pay attention to your body’s signals. Anger can cause elevated blood pressure and heart rate, sweating, teeth grinding, chest tightness, shaking and a feeling that you are losing control. And the earlier you can detect these things happening, the sooner you can work at calming yourself.
- Use distractions. Count to 10 (or 100, or whatever works) or focus on doing a routine chore, like washing the dishes or organizing your closet. Use these distractions to help calm down and send a signal to your body and mind to get off the anger merry-go-round. You can also try this 5-minute stress busting exercise.
- Take a time out. Sometimes the best thing to do is just walk away from the situation until you can calm down. But make sure that you return later to deal with the issue properly.
- Take a deep breath and relax. This will help you fight your body’s stress reactions.
- Take control of your thoughts. Your thoughts may be wildly exaggerated when you’re angry and they need to be brought under control before you act. Tell yourself that you can handle this problem, and to stay calm and relaxed. Then look for the positive in what you did.
- Use your imagination to prepare yourself. Take time to visualize how you’re going to deal with a problem and mentally rehearse it. This is especially useful with recurring issues.
- Practice your assertiveness skills. Don’t suffer in silence. Take charge, take responsibility for yourself, and be clear about your needs while respecting the needs of others. And be ready to negotiate a win-win solution.
- Get professional help. If you feel your anger is out of control. Search “anger” in Find Support for services in your area.