Anger is a very strong emotion. Anger can range from mild irritation and impatience on one end of the continuum to extreme rage on the other end. Frustration is perhaps the most common form of anger that most of us experience.
Research shows that withheld anger can lead to proneness to phobias and obsessive-compulsive behavior. It has been seen that the person becomes more preoccupied with phobias, obsessions during those times when he or she feels most frustrated, thwarted, and otherwise angry. Very frequently, the person is unaware of these angry and frustrated feelings. Generalized anxiety can be a sign of suppressed anger. Also, withheld feelings can lead to depression and psychosomatic symptoms like ulcers, neck and upper back tension, or tension headaches.
Anger affects the following areas of our lives:
Health, Family, Work and School, Financial, Social, Legal, Mood and Personality, Values and Spirit.
Anger is accompanied by physiological changes like increase in heart rate, blood pressure, levels of adrenaline and nor adrenaline. Strong anger is an emergency reaction. When angry, the person thinks that there is some danger and something needs to be done about it. As a result, the person experiences the physiological changes in the body, clenched fists, and the face gets red. Additionally, the person feels like a pressure cooker and becomes ready to explode. People who are angry and hold resentments are more likely to suffer from cardiac problems, stroke and other major illnesses. Angry people also get angry with them and engage in self destructive behaviors like hitting against the wall, cutting or burning. Sometimes rage can cause blackouts and make you lose consciousness. In this state of mind, the person tends to yell and scream, attack and become aggressive towards the other person.
Anger can be triggered by both external and internal events. External triggers could be a coworker, spouse, children or events like a traffic jam. Internal triggers could be memory of traumatic events like betrayal by a loved one. There are three approaches to deal with anger: expression, suppression, and calming. The most effective method is the assertive method which means being aware of your needs and express yourself without hurting others. Suppression of feelings can make the anger turn inward and cause depression and hypertension.
Charles Spielburger, who specializes in the study of anger, asserted that anger is a health hazard. He further warns that minor irritations are normal in our lives but holding anger for long periods of time can result in resentment. The cumulative effect of holding anger and resentment can be detrimental to health.
Techniques to Deal with Anger
1. Use of Relaxation, Meditation and Abdominal Breathing.
Since anger triggers the “fight or flight” response, it is important to use relaxation techniques, visualization with guided imagery and deep breathing techniques. Calming breath exercises are extremely effective in reducing the intensity of angry feelings. Lack of oxygen caused by the “fight or flight” reaction tends to cause tension and by allowing the oxygen to enter your system with deep breathing, you will be able to delay the reaction to anger arousing situations. When people are angry, they do shallow breathing and it can be remedied with relaxation, meditation and deep breathing exercises.
2. Decrease the Tendency to be a People Pleaser
Passive people who are always trying to please others tend to hold in anger and then they are ready to explode when their barrel is full and they can no longer contain the anger. It is better to be assertive and not feel guilty when you express your feelings to others. Consider, it is your bill of right to express feelings and this will diminish the guilt. Avoid statements which communicate blame and attack and use “I” statements to express your feelings versus “you” statements which imply blame and make the other person defensive. It is quite possible to convey your anger or frustration toward other people in a way that respects their dignity and does not berate or belittle them. It is important to note here that other people do not make you angry. You react with anger due to your own interpretation of the event and colored perception about the person, situation and triggers. Something they say or do is against your standards of what is acceptable or fair and this makes you angry. However, you can learn to convey your angry feelings without hurting, judging or blaming others with good communication skills.
3. Change the Way You Think.
Angry people view situations in a distorted manner. Their thinking can get very irrational and they can distort the reality due to having distortions in their thinking. There are several distortions that can play a role in changing your perception of the situation, for example, overgeneralization, magnification, minimization, absolute thinking, mind reading, fortune teller error, self blame, overestimation, mental filter and many more. It is important to dispute and challenge these distortions with Socratic questions like “What are the odds of this really happening?” ” Am I being fully objective”, “Where is the evidence?” and so on. This exercise will assist you in finding errors in your thinking and replacing them with positive coping statements, like, “This is not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix the problem”. It is important to work on the self talk and remain stable versus letting your subjective thinking take over and misguide you.
4. Rational Problem solving.
When you are angry, your reasoning capacity becomes diminished and you are more likely to get carried away by your emotions, prejudices and subjective bias. It is important to note that you need to focus on the solutions and not the problem. The more you obsess and dwell on the problems, the angrier you will get towards the person who has betrayed you. Think of solutions to the problem so that you can avoid further aggravations.
5. Use Humor.
Humor tends to deescalate angry feelings. If you are angry with the person, sometimes it is helpful to imagine the face of the person in exaggerated manner like the moustache growing, or nose getting bigger and laugh. This can change the person’s affect and reduce the intensity and frequency of angry feelings. Laughter is a good medicine and keeps doctors away is a very popular saying and it is extremely helpful in anger management.
6. Countering Mistaken Beliefs:
Sometimes we hold mistaken beliefs about people, places and situations, which give rise to distorted perception and eventually angry feelings. Just like we change our self talk to counter anger provoking situations, it is equally important to challenge your irrational beliefs as beliefs actually give rise to negative self talk. Please refer to the blog written by the writer on Rational Emotive Therapy to learn about how to challenge beliefs. We hold these beliefs since our childhood and they play a major part in distorting our perceptions and thus causing our anger.
7. Avoid the Tendency to be a Perfectionist.
Angry people are often perfectionist and they expect and demand too much. It is very important to watch out for perfectionist tendencies and work on accepting minor imperfections in life. It is also useful to make a distinction between a “demanding should” and a “desirable should” to reduce the tendency of being a perfectionist. When you put a demand on yourself and expect things to be more than one hundred percent, you are more likely to experience let downs and frustration. On the other hand, if you say it is desirable to have one hundred percent perfection but it is not the end of the world if things are less than one hundred percent perfect, you will be able to accept things the way they are. Thus by reducing your demands, you are more likely to manage your anger and deal with the situation more effectively.
8. Use of Affirmations and Positive Programming
Affirmations are like mind chatter that a person does to change the mental set. By repeating affirmations, you tend to program the subconscious mind in a positive manner. Affirmations need to be phrased in the present tense and should be repeated frequently with feelings and convictions, for optimal effectiveness. By saying affirmations, you are more likely to prepare yourself to face the situations and people who tend to trigger your anger. Monitor self talk and feelings periodically and use affirmations to change the negative self talk.
Hopefully, when these guidelines are used, the person becomes more stable and less likely to react when triggered by external and internal events.Hypnosis can also help the person calm down and manage anger effectively. Please visit our Blossom Hypnotherapy page to learn how hypnosis can help reduce symptoms of Anxiety disorders.