Coping With Anger
Anger is a normal and basic human emotion. It is a response to threats to our safety, well being and happiness. It is a survival function because it communicates to others and ourselves that something is wrong. We get angry when we are frustrated, hurt, annoyed, disappointed, harassed or threatened. The way we express our anger depends on our life experiences. This can make our anger a friend or an enemy. For example, your anger at the protocol parking situation on campus could be channeled such that you run to be a senator in the student government body so that you can effect changes. The same anger can be expressed differently. The good news is that because the way we express our anger was learned, we can also learn how to manage it and express it appropriately so that it works for us rather than against us. This is especially important for those of us who handle our anger inappropriately by hurting others or ourselves or remain unhappy and miserable because we cannot get rid of the anger.
Harmful Side Effects of Anger. If anger is held in or expressed in hostile outbursts rather than dealt with in a positive way, there are various harmful side effects.
1. It short-circuits your reasoning power and you are likely to hurt others physically or emotionally.
2. It can lead to low self-esteem.
3. It could drive away friends, families and potential friends. This could lead to loneliness and depression.
4. It could promote the development of unhealthy behaviors like drinking too much, drug use, or bingeing on junk food.
5. Pent up anger contributes to physical problems like headaches, ulcers, bowel problems, skin flare ups, tiredness and heart attacks.
Ways to Handle Anger
Admit to it.
Though this sounds so simple and some do it well, many of us deny our anger and even suppress it.
Suppressed anger is an underlying cause of anxiety and depression. The relationship between depression and anger is very interesting.
Admitting our anger to ourselves includes acknowledging that we are having a problem coping with it.
Take time to find out why or what about the situation or person made you angry.
Could it be that you are physically tired and stressed out?
Try to tease out mistaken beliefs and attitudes that predispose you to excessive angry outbursts. Do I believe strongly that the world should be a fair place or people should always like me?
If I don’t express my anger, what in my past contributes to this? Fear? Ignorance? Denial?
Some counselors suggest that we keep a “hostility log”. Here you write down and thereby monitor your cynical and aggressive thoughts. This gives you an idea of the frequency and kinds of situations that provoke you.
This may be difficult to do and may not happen in the middle of a rage.
However, putting oneself in the other person’s shoes helps us gain a different perspective. We may not agree with them but it might shatter some of our beliefs that’s fueling the anger (e.g. he’s trying to make a fool of me).
Express it and nurture you.
Find a way to calm down a notch before you express your anger.
Take a few deep breaths, go for a walk or instruct yourself to be calm so that you can stay in control and not explode while talking about the situation.
If at any point in time you feel the anger welling up again, take time out again and calm down.
Other techniques that help interrupt the anger cycle are positive self talk, and thought stopping.
In expressing your anger, stick to the facts, what about the behavior bothers you and why.
Use “ I” statements and assert yourself constructively.
If it is a situation where you can talk to the person later, it may be a good idea to first vent with friends.
Learn to relax and ignore some things because frequent outbursts alienate others.
Look for humor in situations and laugh at yourself.
If you cannot confront the source of your anger then vent your feelings constructively. For example you could cry, exercise vigorously, clean the house or mow the lawn. A constructive physical activity outweighs punching bags, yelling in the middle of an open field or throwing nerf balls.
This step is the most difficult for many people. Yet, It is important to let go of the anger after we have expressed it.
We are doing this for ourselves even if the person or situation does not change. Otherwise resentment will fester and cause additional problems.
Who is in charge anyway?
Ask yourself if you really want to give another person or a particular situation power over you, your emotions and your behavior. Empower yourself to be the person you want to be … a person who can express emotion effectively or “let it go” in your own interest. To learn more about how to deal with anger, call the Counseling Center at 878-4436.