How to handle anger
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Jenny Charles MBACP (Accred)
13th August, 2007
What is Anger?
Anger is a natural human emotion and feeling angry does not necessarily mean you have a problem. Anger is a part of a range of natural responses that help us to survive and protect ourselves and others. Anger is helpful and appropriate when it gives us the courage to defend ourselves and those we love or appropriately warns others not to take advantage of us. It may also motivate and inspire us to fight injustice and take social action.
A person who doesn't acknowledge their feelings of anger risks feeling depressed or having a lack of self-worth and may find themselves pushed around or victimised. However, frequent or excessive anger is not useful either, in fact it is likely to have a negative effect on health (high stress, raised blood pressure), spoil relationships with others due to aggressive and destructive behaviour patterns and limit satisfaction and enjoyment of life.
For some, there is a pay off for getting angry, it may be to do with feeling powerful, or the opposite, a way of pretending that we are not afraid, but whatever the short-term gains, frequent angry outbursts usually make things worse rather than better.
How to handle anger
If you are trying to deal with your anger in a more responsible way then the following check list may help you bring about some changes.
Get to know your warning signals. There may be obvious signs such as a rapid heart rate, tension and the urge to act impulsively. It may be that more passive symptoms arise, defensiveness, withdrawal, silence. If you feel yourself getting angry, breath, pause and think! It is possible to feel angry and not to act on those feelings. Develop good communication skills - this is one of the most important things you can do. Don't escalate a situation, try to negotiate - tell the person what is making you angry, "I get really angry when you.......", rather than, "You don't care about me! You're always........" Take 'time-out'. If you are getting nowhere in a heated discussion and you feel the warning signs of an angry outburst coming on, it's quite ok to say, "I don't think it's helpful for us to talk about this any more right now, I need some time to think". If it's a situation that often occurs with the same person, come to an agreement with them that you will take time out if you need to when things get heated. You are trying to control your behavious and may need your friend/partner/colleague to know that this is a constructive way to manage your anger. It's not helpful to make this into a way of withdrawing in order to punish the other person, it is a recognition that angry outbursts or bullying behaviour are not acceptable and you are trying to take control of your feelings and actions. Learn some relaxation and breathing techniques, assertiveness skills or meditation; they can be useful strategies, as can sport and all physical exercies, when you are trying to deal contructively with angry feelings. Speak to a counsellor if you would like further support.
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