Saturday, May 2, 2009

Managing Anger

Anger is an emotional state that may range from minor irritation to intense rage. The external expression of anger can be found in facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times in public acts of aggression. Modern psychologists view anger as a primary, natural, and mature emotion experienced by all humans at times, and as something that has functional value for survival. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action. It is a normal part of life. However, if it gets out of control, it can really damage your family, your work, the people around you, and your lifestyle. When reflecting on anger and its impact on us emotionally and spiritually, it is would be advisable if we could identify the source of that anger that upset us so much.

Set out below are five origins of anger. Think back to the last time you became angry and take a look at the concepts below. See if your anger can be traced to one of the five origins, or a combination of them.

1. You believe you are right about something and the other person is wrong:
We all believe we are right and others are wrong! What are you right about?
• how to raise children properly
• how materialistic the world is
• the best way to educate children

We are often unaware of how often we judge ourselves to be right about something, while judging others to be wrong. But it follows that if I am labouring under the assumption that I am right, so is everybody else.

If I believe strongly that I am right about something, I run the risk of coming into conflict with someone else who believes him- or herself to be right about that same thing. If we hold opposing views on that subject and insist on defending our 'truth', anger is the result.

2. You believe your image is under attack

Anger results from our belief that our image is under attack. Here are some examples:
• someone says something that suggests to us that they perceive us as weak
• our status - as parents, managers or leaders - is challenged
• we are humiliated

If we have a low opinion of ourselves or a fragile ego based upon superficial values, we leave ourselves open to image attacks. We are constantly en garde, waiting for the next person to call our bluff and challenge our image. Anger is the mechanism we use to claw back what is left of our ego, when such challenges occur. It re-establishes us as the dominant one, the one with control and in control. The after effects of angry outbursts arising out of image attacks matter less to us at the time than the need to reclaim our status.

3. A sense of loss or grief

The loss could be the break up of your parents' relationship, the death of a loved one, or the loss of childhood innocence. It can be hard to express these feelings: we don't want to be seen as weak or fearful. Anger can be a cover for fear, sadness or disappointment arising out of those feelings of loss. You feel you will eventually lose the people and things that are important to you. When it feels like history is about to repeat itself you protect yourself from the pain of loss by covering up with a show of aggression and bravado. It can be a case of 'let's do it to them before they do it to us', rejecting another before they reject you.

4. Feeling inadequate/inferior to others

• anger as a way of remaining a victim
• anger as a way of avoiding the truth

Anger can hide the fact that we feel inferior to others, inadequate or stupid. Angry outbursts are a smoke screen. They distract others from our sense of inadequacy. We put on a show of toughness and capability and let others know we are not to be messed with.

5. Anger as the only response we know
It's a rare parent that makes the decision to teach their children to manage their anger. It's ironic that we ensure our children learn to read and write, but very little conscious guidance is given to them on dealing with their anger. In the absence of such learning, they pick up what they can from the significant adults in their lives. If those adults react to everyday situations with anger, irritation or annoyance, it should come as no surprise when their children do the same. It is therefore crucial that adults model positive behaviour when it comes to expressing anger and also that they support their children in managing their own anger.


1. Take a deep breath. Use some deep breathing exercises to bring your anger down a few levels. There are a variety of wonderful deep breathing exercises on CD that can help.

2. If meditation works for you - go there. Some of us call it prayer! Spirituality with your higher power is what will get you through the next seven steps!

3. Try to smile. Bringing the positive energy back to your body will allow you to focus and become more rational as you try to solve the problem or begin to forgive the person that is angering you.

4. Use rational thoughts! Using rational thoughts like "this anger will not take control of me" or "losing my cool will not solve this problem, it will only make it worse", really do help! Sometimes we need to repeat these statements over and over in our minds, in order for them to be effective and routine.

5. Try to focus on something that makes you happy.
Some of us call it: "go to your happy place"! Imagine yourself there!

6. Exercise. Research says that exercise can clear your mind by releasing the endorphins in your brain. It also reduces depression and anxiety. It is also known to keep us healthy and help us sleep better - so it's an all around additive to your total body, mind, and spiritual health.

7. Listen to your favorite music. Listening to your favorite music can also clear your mind and lift your mood. This is imperative before trying to refocus on the problem.

8. Write your feelings down in a journal. Keeping a journal or diary is a good way to release your frustrations. Get it down on paper, immediately. This is helpful because you can look back and see how many times per month you've been angry and it paints a clearer picture for you since it's in written form.

9. Enjoy another activity. Writing a bike, hiking through nature, going the beach, gardening, painting, engaging in photography...are just to name a few! Be creative with this one!

10. Talk to a counselor or life coach.
If your anger is at a level where items one through nine are not working for you, please consult a mental health professional.

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