How trying to be calm can make you angrier

If you are seeking help, you may start the conversation by saying: “I have a problem with my anger.” One of the places people most often experience a problem with anger is in their relationships. One of the ways people try to solve this problem is by trying to be calmer; however, paradoxically this can worsen angry outbursts.

Everyone has an emotional and physical space they like to keep around themselves. When other people intrude on this space, we tend to react to this threat by becoming angry. This might be when someone leans across you, or makes unreasonable demands on your time. The feeling of anger helps you to reassert this space.

However, if you decide you need to stay calm and not react to these situations, then your feeling of anger has to be re-directed in some way. You might deny you are angry; tell yourself it doesn't matter; explain it away; hold it in; or direct it at someone or something else.

By staying calm, the original situation goes unresolved. The person involved may never realise, and indeed may do it more. If your manager doesn't realise that the last bit of work they gave you was too much, then they are likely to assume you can cope and give you more.

Eventually your ability to remain calm will fail and you will have an angry outburst. Generally we tend to direct this at someone other than the person who angered us, hence the phrase, “kicking the cat.” Our angry outburst is then followed by regret, and a resolve to remain calm in future...and so the cycle begins again.

From a counselling perspective, there are 3 connected strands which can help with this kind of experience of anger:

  • Better awareness of anger. Being more aware of when you are getting angry can help you respond to the event which caused your anger.

  • Constructive ways of responding. Increasing your choice of how you respond to anger can help you feel more in control in angry situations.

  • Managing conflict in relationships better Conflict in relationships is the most common source of anger, and the one we most often try to avoid. Being able to respond constructively to feelings of anger in relationships can actually help strengthen them.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO50
Written by Mark Redwood, BA (Hons) Counselling
Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO50

I am a humanistic counsellor, which means I believe we are born with the potential to lead full and rewarding lives. Sometimes, we can get stuck and need some help to get going again. I have a BA (hons) in counselling. My experience includes working with young people, bereavement, anxiety, depression and anger.

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