Anger is something most of us feel at some point or another. We could be angry about being asked to stay late at work, complete extra tasks, not feel listened too or feel as though we are being treated unfairly to name but a few reasons. Anger is a natural reaction and can be relevant and justified if we feel under threat, however, it is how we respond to the anger that is relevant. Anger should never result in violence; this is when all self-control has been lost.
We all experience anger differently depending on things such as; age, gender, upbringing, childhood experiences such as bullying, stress, environment and influences such as drugs or alcohol or availability of other coping mechanisms. The list is extensive on the influences that affect how we react.
Physical sensations frequently go hand in hand with anger, it may be that you feel your heart race, muscles tense; perhaps across your shoulders and neck or in your jaws and you may clench your fists. For some people it may be a feeling of nausea or headaches. These physical symptoms can be brought on by the same chemicals that are released when we are in a fight or flight mode; adrenaline and noradrenaline. These are the chemicals that prepare the body for, in this instance, action. So not only do we have an emotional response but a physical one, physical symptoms can make it harder for the brain to think logically as this part of your brain at this point is not the dominant part operating.
There are strategies to help manage anger which can be of great benefit, however, anger is a secondary feeling and there tends to be an initial feeling behind the anger such as guilt, fear, resentment, hurt, loss, etc. Being able to identify this initial feeling can be of great benefit as it can help us understand the anger response. If we understand the anger, we are more likely to be able to deal with it and find an effective strategy to help control it in the future.
Is suppressing anger a good idea?
The answer is no! Think about the analogy of the bottle of fizzy drink which has been shaken, the lid comes off and there is an explosion of suppressed liquid. It is the same for anger, if we keep it in at some point it will be triggered, and a much bigger anger reaction will emerge than is relevant to the situation.
What can you do to help?
Firstly, do not respond immediately, give yourself time to think. Hard, I know when everything may be screaming to get out, however, you are more likely to respond and get a more positive result if you take time to consider your response. A considered response is less likely to have negative consequences. If necessary excuse yourself and come back to the situation when you are calm. Not easy when you are angry, but keeping things in control will work to your benefit in the long run. Silence is another strategy which is an excellent tool and can take others very much by surprise. Silence allows you time to think and the other person to reflect on what they have just said and the impact it has, this can work in your favour.
In your responses use constructive language and use ‘I’ statements such as; ‘I feel frustrated by what you just said’ or ‘when you talk to me like that I feel disrespected.’
Try to come up with solutions in your responses rather than just arguing back as this will not help to diminish the anger.
Humour can be a powerful tool to try and release feelings of tension, however, do not get this confused with sarcasm!
Stick to the facts and try where possible not to bring previous disagreements into any current situation as this is likely to inflame the situation.
Reducing your stress levels will have an impact on your ability to deal with situations. Meditation, exercise, calming activities and enough quality sleep all help with this. Should you need further support then do get in touch with a counsellor near you.
Asking for help with issues around anger is a strength not a weakness.
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