Anger – one of the least manageable but most common of emotions out there. While some experience anger from time to time, others can feel that anger is all-consuming, attacking at every opportunity in their lives. What's more, anger is never felt in isolation – it is a social emotion that comes from personal assessments, assumptions, evaluations, or interpretations of situations that make people think that someone else is attempting (consciously or not) to hurt us.
Because anger usually follows pain, it is often called a secondary emotion. Everyone can learn to manage and process anger in a healthy way, and in turn, can have a positive domino effect on our emotional state.
It's important to remember that you are not 'doomed' to be forever stuck with feeling overwhelmed by anger. Sure, it will take time – a bit of effort, and yes, self-reflection – but it is possible and will make life much easier for yourself and the people around you.
Is anger bad for your health?
Being angry can have unhealthy side-effects. Like any other emotion, anger is accompanied by physiological changes. When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, and you start producing more of the types of hormones that can be damaging in excess – adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline. Not to mention, there would be social consequences too – usually, people surrounding you and the ones you are mad at don’t respond very well to aggressive actions. Fear and counter aggression are likely to hurt your communication and relationships further.
What happens if you keep your anger in?
Anger isn’t all bad. It’s a natural response to threats: instead of fleeing, you turn to fight. If you are being unjustly treated or attacked, it is important to assert yourself and set boundaries. Society doesn’t tolerate high levels of aggression, especially not in women, but suppressing justified anger isn’t healthy either, and we need to allow ourselves to go through a healthy processing of our emotions.
First of all, we need to self-reflect as it helps us find the root of the problem. As said earlier, anger is often a secondary emotion: it helps us redirect pain. Because feeling pain is, well, painful, we would rather be angry at someone than hurt or feel fear. Pain and fear are introspective, while anger attributes to others, directing the attention away. However, if we keep on redirecting our attention, we will never be able to solve the underlying, root issue.
How to change from being angry all the time
1. Challenge the direction of your anger
Is the driver in front of you really the worst, or is your fear of being late that makes you angry? Once you realize and admit that you might be scared, you can start doing something about it, like calling ahead that you might be late, figuring a way to make up for it, or taking responsibility.
2. Up your communication
Once you understand that you’re feeling pain, then you can start addressing it. Maybe your partner isn’t aware that you’re scared, or maybe they are scared themselves, and that’s why they’re retreating. Talk about it!
Once a fight or flight cycle is activated, it needs to come to a conclusion. By actively concentrating on breathing, you help calm down your physiological responses, allowing your mind to clear and logic to kick in. Physical exercise is known to help process stress hormones so try upping your workouts.
4. Change your environment
Sometimes we get mad at the same things repeatedly. If we can’t solve the problem, maybe we can solve getting confronted by it. Leaving the house earlier, not seeing the person who angers you as often, closing your messy teenager’s room door. You get the gist.
5. See a therapist
If you have tried all of these things and still can’t stop blowing up, you can find a therapist who specializes in anger management. You will not only find it helpful with your anger issues but for many other aspects of your life.
Strangely enough, scientists have found it to be harmful to a person to 'vent' when dealing with anger. It seems out of the ordinary as most people go straight to their confidants to let off some steam, but venting apparently can cause a perpetuation and obsessive rumination of thoughts supporting anger. So, if you feel like venting, try one of the above methods instead and eventually the anger will become more manageable (1).
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1. Society for Personality and Social Psychology: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167202289002