Iritation, anger, furiousity…is it manageable? Imagine that a prime minister cannot control himself during a press conference.
At some point, when he doesn’t like something, he gets sarcastic or even worse he starts raising his voice, gesturing aggressively, even cursing, or kicking a chair or he walks away without saying a word. The incident happens in a flash, but the consequences? You can certainly think of the rest for yourself.
Anger is an emotion associated with great excitement and among other things, is a response to feeling misunderstood, crossing your personal boundaries, feeling threat to your needs or your failure. It is not a good or bad emotion, but an important ingredient for our emotional balance and wellbeing.
Inability of managing your emotions can have serious consequences. It is extremely important to detect the irritations or the outbursts of anger as soon as possible and to do something about it. An extremely difficult task!
Anger – to express or not to express?
When one harasses another, hurts him (literally or by words) then anger is a problem. However you should be able to throw out the negative emotions somewhere, right? You can’t creep up on them? After the anger outburst, you feel relieved, don’t you? – I hear you thinking. Uhhhh..eh …
This might be an asset, but only in the short-term. You mainly harm others and yourself.
Notice, how you feel when someone close to you swears (at another), criticizes, demeans, raises his voice, or gestures aggressively?
These emotions seem contagious. Before you know it, you feel alike, tense and maybe also aggressive, ready to attack or rather to run away?
On contrary… How do you feel in a relaxed company?
Using anger as an outlet? That does not work. More of the same is more of the same… In other words, anger generates anger.
Anger is therefore an expression of a deeper and another (yet unknown to you) cause.
When you are irritated, you are not conscious of yourself. You switch onto an autopilot. Moreover, you are not consciously involved with someone else. Your attention is not there. You are not interested in how the others might be feel, when you hurt them or when you spoil the mood.
Anger – what is it good for?
Being angry is quite helpful. Anger is a natural response to a sense of threat. It is anger after all that gives you strength in crisis and motivates you to take action (fight, flee, freeze, or seek help). An intense period of anger takes a lot of energy, because it activates primal mechanisms in the body that are supposed to save you, to help you survive. After that, you can feel a relief but you might also get tired. No matter how you look at it, it is a state of reduced self-control.
Getting to know the importance of your own anger.
Imagine. You are in control. Suddenly you get annoyed or explode. It’s a fact! From one to another moment. Before you know it is done. You feel like you were taken by surprise, thinking you are unable to control the anger.
You are irritated, but you can control yourself. Suddenly it becomes too much and you can’t take it anymore. Without saying anything, but boiling inside, you are gone.
It is important to recognize the anger in yourself.
However, imagine… what would it be like if you could vent the anger and constructively convey what you want? How would that feel?
The purpose of getting to know your own anger is to better understand yourself and how your physical sensations and emotions affect you and your environment. The degree of your anger, the triggers and the place (when and where you get angry) say a lot about your needs, expectations, values, self-acceptance, choices, etc. Practicing awareness makes a difference, the more often the better as it increases your ability to recognize the space before the irritated reaction / eruption, giving you more time to choose a better or other more efficient approach. In other words, you become a skilled anger manager.
When is the time to deal with anger?
The work needs to be done when you notice that:
- You often break up with a figh.
- People around you are worried about you (specifically your behaviour).
- In conversation with you, people avoid sensitive topics.
- People avoid you.
- You are advised to take it easy, calm down or relax.
- You are bothered by it yourself (you feel sad, guilty, down, exhausted, you regret it or you are angry with yourself).
How do you express your anger?
There are several ways to express anger:
- Aggressive – for example, a physical or verbal response. In doing so, you cross the boundaries of others.
- Passive – where the emotions are suppressed. You do feel uncomfortable but do nothing to change the situation.
- Assertive – the most effective response. In order to do this, you need certain skills to be able to express the anger and to identify your emotions and needs, without crossing the boundaries of others, respecting yourself and others. Don’t you know how to do that? It’s something you can learn.
The warning signals often come from the environment, so be aware of them. Sometimes all it takes can be the tone of your voice that can come across as aggressive. As a result people will leave you or keep away from you. Only people to whom you mean something to (family, friends), who want you to be happy, will tell you how they experience your behaviour.
Do you experience irritations or anger attacks often? Does self-control take effort? Do you recognize that something needs to be done about it? This is the first step in the right direction.
It’s worth it to slow down. When you are calm, examine your anger, reflecting on previous experiences of anger. The goal is not to analyse the injustices, but to gain insight into the mechanisms that fuel your own anger. In order to deal with the anger, it is important to know what thoughts, feelings and needs are involved.
Self-inquiry – question and answer.
- Do/(does) you(he/she/it) makes me angry or am I angry?
- Which events are the trigger? What are the triggers?
- Where in my body do I start to feel angry?
- What reaction in my body can become a warning sign of impending anger?
- What do I think in case of emerging anger?
- How do I behave?
- If I just feel angry, how intense is that feeling (on a scale of 1 to 10)?
- How easily do I get angry (on a scale of 1 to 10)?
- If I feel angry, do I hide it or, regardless of the consequences, do I react outwardly?
- Why am I so angry? What are the needs behind my anger?
- How does anger affect my relationship (s)?
- Which people do I show my irritation to?
- In which situations do I feel calmer?
- What makes me feel calmer?
When are you irritated or angry?
A reason to get angry can be, for example:
- When you feel that someone or something is threatening you. It is a feeling that sharpens you to be able to defend yourself. The problem arises during the estimation of what and whether or not something actually threatens you.
- When things are not going well. If you have made accurate plans or have a regular habit (to always go shopping on Friday morning for example), or if you are in a hurry (you have to get to work on time) and something or someone thwart your plans making it impossible to realise. Sometimes it feels like an attack on yourself. Then you seem to look for the one to pay it.
- When you are tired, hungry or sleepy, you get upset more quickly. For understandable reasons, because you react from your primitive autopilot, you then have less self-control.
- In relatively safe situations in the presence of your loved ones (family or friends). The environment plays a significant role in the response to an event. We often react differently at home than between strangers. One can often control oneself better than at home.
But to make it more complicated, there are often several causes at the same time, causing the increase of stress level.
How to deal with anger?
You are not supposed to hide or ignore your anger within. Anger is an emotion. An ability of showing it and talking about it is a valuable skill. However, you often learn to suppress emotions (including anger) and thus think that this is the way to deal with it. Influencing your emotions however, is only possible if you recognize emotions. Only then can you express them in an appropriate way. It’s the same with anger.
Good news is that regardless of where the anger trigger is coming from, it is your own emotion and so you are the one who decides what to do with it.
Here are a few suggestions for you to relax or to calm your anger in a constructive way:
- Try different types of physical activity that will help reduce irritation (a sport or hobby) and find the activity that works best for you.
- Find a place where you can vent your frustration/anger freely, write it off, scream it or cry out loud. This is how you can remove the negative load.
- Consciously allow yourself examine where your anger occurs in your body. You can do this by taking a moment for yourself while lying or sitting, looking inwards and observing the state of your body, how is it doing? You can try mindfulness or meditation.
- Work on communication. Being able to talk about your emotions, needs and expectations helps you to feel consciously angry, so that you can avoid an (anger) outburst.
- Agree with yourself in advance what to do if the situation threatens to get out of hand. Take time out i.e. literally withdraw or leave. But before you do, let someone else know, for example, “Sorry, I’m angry and I need to relax. I’m leaving now and coming back to it tomorrow, ”. This way you prevent a very tense situation from getting completely out of hand.
- Learn to view the conflict situation as if you were a spectator, from a distance. Where emotion begins, rational thinking ends. When you react out of your emotion, it often seems, in retrospect, an exaggerated reaction. As soon as you look at the same situation from a distance, you can put things into perspective so that you are more objective.
Would you like the prime minister to be out of control and unpredictable? Would you like to have angry people around, at work or at home? Or do you prefer happy and peaceful people?
That is why working on non-aggressive forms of communication is so important.
Do you know enough and are you going to get started? Excelent! I wish you lots of luck!
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“The real hero is the one who overcomes his own anger and hatred.” – Dalai Lama