Anger is a difficult but important emotion. Feeling anger lets us know that our needs or desires are
being frustrated in some way, and can provide the "fuel" to make us do something about it.
Feeling angry is not "wrong". It is important information that we need to take notice of. However,
anger can also be very destructive if it is not harnessed correctly. Anger that is not expressed at all can fester
away inside you and cause emotional and physical problems. But anger that is expressed without control
can damage your relationships and create havoc in your life.
The first step in managing anger is recognising and accepting your right to be angry. All anger is okay in itself.
But this does not mean that all anger is justified. Justified anger is anger that is fair and reasonable
in the circumstances. You would be justified in feeling angry, for example, is someone pushed in front of you
in a queue.
However, not all anger is justified. For example, let's say you forget your boyfriend/girlfriend's
birthday and they get upset and tell you off. You then start to feel angry. Is your boyfriend/girlfriend's anger justified?
Is yours? Most people would probably agree that you would be justified to
feel angry if your partner forgot your birthday. They would probably also agree that the person who forgot should apologise rather
than getting angry back. Sometimes we feel unjustified anger. It is not wrong to feel this anger, but we need to be
careful about what we do with it. In the above situation, for example, you might recognise that you are feeling
angry at being criticised, but choose to apologise anyway and just accept the angry feeling without expressing it
to your partner.
Even when anger is justified, however, this does not mean that the way you express that anger is necessarily
justified. If your partner decided to punish you for the forgotten birthday by destroying something that
belongs to you, for example, this would not be justified.
The key points are:
A rush of anger can be accompanied by a feeling of sudden recklessness and power as adrenalin floods
your body, preparing it for "flight or fight". Anger creates an unpleasant build up of
pressure. The rush of adrenalin promises to relieve the pressure in an angry outburst. However, while losing control
may relieve the pressure, it is also likely to cause damage to your relationships, yourself, or other
people or things. Here are a few simple anger management techniques that can help you to keep your cool under pressure:
What are the signs that alert you that you are close to losing your temper. Typical signs might be:
When you recognise these warning signs, it is important to take immediate steps to reduce the "anger pressure".
Anger is much easier to control when you haven't built up too much of a head of steam.
A simple and easy technique is to take a break from the situation that is causing the anger, if possible.
For example if you are having an argument with your boyfriend/girlfriend and you notice you are getting
close to losing your temper, you can say to them "Look, I think I need to take a break for a moment.
Can we come back to this later?" It's a good idea to say how long the break will be, e.g., five,
ten minutes. Then, when you have calmed down a bit, return to continue the discussion.
Slow, deep breathing can help calm your body down. Try taking five or
ten long, calming breaths when you are feeling close to "losing it".
What you think when under pressure can either throw water or petrol on the fire of your anger.
Try calming thoughts such as:
Avoid thoughts which fire you up, such as negative thoughts about the other person.
It's simple, but it can help! Counting distracts you for a moment from the cause of your
anger and gives you time to calm down enough to stop an outburst.
It was once believed that taking out one's anger in some harmless way such as hitting a pillow
or a punching bag was an effective way to let off steam, but it is now thought that
redirecting physical aggression in this way can actually make anger problems worse. Violent
sports and activities which promote violence such as violent video games, can also
contribute to anger problems.