Anger is an emotional response that is triggered by a real or perceived threat. We often get angry when we have a difficult time communicating our feelings. When we aren’t given the tools to understand our thoughts and emotions, expressing anger is usually the easiest way to show our frustration. When there is a disconnection between our mind and body, we are usually unaware of why we react in the way we do. Here are six common reasons we get angry:
- When we feel hurt, we may attack others.
- When we feel helpless and become defensive, angry and feel the need to take back control of the situation
- When we feel vulnerable, we push people away and internalize our anger
- When we feel disrespected, we may lash out to prove importance
- When we are overwhelmed, we have difficulty expressing feelings, which causes us to get angry to reduce our discomfort
- When we become anxious, anger might be a symptom.
The first step to understanding your anger is to recognize that you are angry. When you first notice that you are getting worked up, notice where you feel the anger in your body. Does your face flush red and get hot? Do your muscles tense up in your neck and shoulders? Becoming aware of the physical signs you are getting angry is a helpful way to recognize anger. Once you realize you are angry, the next step is to try and understand the underlying causes of your anger. Once you become aware of what’s causing your anger, it becomes easier to manage. The next step to managing anger is to recognize and challenge distorted patterns of thinking. For example, you may feel hurt when a friend cancels last minute on you, and the next time you see them you might tell them that you will never trust them again. It might be difficult to communicate that you felt hurt because you expected something different. However, this may be a black and white view of the situation-so consider approaching it from more of the middle ground. Here are exercises that can help start to manage your anger.
- Describe a situation in which you might easily become angry. For example, when your partner criticizes your behavior or nags you to do the dishes.
- Write down what makes you angry about this situation. For example, “my partner is always criticizing me and it makes me angry”
- Notice your self-talk and write it down. Self-talk is the inner voice we have to talk to ourselves silently, aloud, or mentally. Self-talk can be either positive or negative. An example of a self-talk thought is “I am a complete failure” or “I can’t do anything right”, which are common negative self- talk thoughts.
- When you become angry in this situation, how would you usually respond? Would you attack the person and start to yell? How might there be a better way to express your feelings? Instead of cursing someone out, communicate your feelings of disappointment or hurt by using “I” statements, such as “I felt hurt nagged me about the dishes because it made me feel unappreciated for the other chores I do around the house. It is critical to express your feelings and not hold them in.
Techniques for letting go of anger
Once you recognize situations that make you angry, you can begin to let go of that anger. We often react without understanding our thought process, meaning we get angry without knowing the underlying causes. As you slow down your reaction process you can start to change how anger is expressed. We may be unable to control the way that other people behave and act, but we do have the ability to control ourselves. It is difficult to let go of the desire to control situations, but practicing self- awareness and acceptance we can begin to let go of the anger that comes from these experiences.
- Practice forgiveness
Sometimes, we get angry because it reminds us of past experiences. When we are triggered by the past, we may relive that same pain. Becoming aware of what situations remind of us the past, we can start to practice forgiveness toward people that hurt us.
2. Nurture self- respect
We often place too much importance on others opinions of ourselves. Practicing self- love and respect means loving yourself no matter what other people think. For example, keeping a gratitude journal listing affirmations about yourself facilitates self- love.
3. Express your feelings
If you are angry, it is important to understand that internalizing your feelings will make the anger worse. We cannot control the actions and behaviors of others, but we can control how we respond. Thus, expressing your feelings constructively can help manage your anger. Through journaling, you can become more aware of what thoughts and feelings are underlying the anger. Once you recognize the causes of your anger, you can be better able to communicate your feelings appropriately.
Therapy can be helpful to explore your underlying thoughts about anger and explore ways to manage self- talk that might be unconstructive. A therapist can also help you let go of anger, which can be really difficult. When we are so used to thinking and reacting a certain way, changing our approach can be a long and frustrating process. A therapist will provide support and validation as they work with you to overcome anger. Anger management classes or support groups may be another helpful supplement to help manage situations before they get worse.