When the red mist descends

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned. Many will recognise this, regretting their anger, perhaps even feeling guilt or shame as a result. Many people feel that their anger is out of control, that it controls them rather than the other way around. What is anger management and how can you use it to control your anger?


Perhaps the first thing to realise before looking at anger management is to realise that anger in itself is not a bad thing. Anger is an important and natural reaction to threatening situations. It is a way of responding to situations that threaten you.

When does anger become an issue?

Anger becomes an issue when it harms you or the people around you. In many ways, it is about how you manage the release of the huge surge of emotional and physical reactions that you undergo when you become angry. In simple terms all that energy has to go somewhere, so we may punch a wall or similar. If there is no release and we suppress our anger, the feelings do not disappear and this may mean that we overreact to situations or we become angrier the next time, till we can no longer control our anger to suppress it.

Yet, it seems that letting your anger have full reign is equally as bad, perhaps you have been physical with the person you are angry with or felt guilt or shame at what you have said or done in the heat of the moment. Perhaps in the anger, you feel that no one has understood how you felt about the situation that made you angry in the first place.

Controlling your anger and expressing yourself 

There are ways in which you can help yourself to control your anger and still express your feelings. One of the key steps is to be in control of the physical effects on your body. As you become angry one of the changes is to your breathing it becomes shallower and quicker. Breathing deeply (from your diaphragm) and steadily will help you to stay calm. Often repeated work or a practical thing like counting to 5 before speaking will help you to think more clearly before you act.

Express how you feel and say what you would like to happen, be assertive but not aggressive. Try to avoid absolute words like “never” or “always” or generalisations like “You always do this”. These leave no room for anything other than a defensive response and you are unlikely to have someone address your actual concern (i.e. what it is that they never or always do).

Try to avoid jumping to conclusions or making connections without checking them. In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to misunderstand or to assume the worst. Listen, check, digest the answer and respond.

There are practical changes that you can make in your life. One of the best is in finding a way to relax and unwind, like a hobby, fishing, a non-contact sport or the like. If you do become angry analyse what happened and what were the trigger points, and decide looking back if you would be able to avoid those trigger points and respond in a better way.

Finding help

If you need help with your anger consider seeing a counsellor or going on an anger management course. The key is understanding how your anger works and taking steps so that you are in control of expressing the feelings and emotions, without doing or saying things that damage you, your relationships or those around you.

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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Glasgow, G46
Written by Graeme Orr, MBACP(Accred) Counsellor
Glasgow, G46

Graeme is a counsellor and author, living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice, he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.

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