Anger is one of many powerful emotions. Like a double-edged sword, anger can be considered both a positive and negative emotion. Anger can be good when motivating yourself to find solutions or expressing negative feelings.
However, excessive and uncontrollable anger can cause problems and damage surroundings, disrupt interpersonal relationships, and adversely affect mental health.
Anger can be caused by internal reactions (feelings, thoughts, and psychological states) and external events (threats or situations). Some people get angry quickly when they are treated unfairly or threatened. However, some get angry when their memories are brought up or even disturbed when they are having a bad day. Every person has different triggers for anger, but the key is to find the proper way to respond, which is what anger management is about.
To understand anger management, first, you need to identify what kind of approaches are available. These can then be coupled with proper anger management practices.
Approaches to controlling anger
Anger can be expressed consciously and unconsciously. There are three main approaches to managing anger: expressing anger, suppressing and redirecting emotions, and using calming techniques.
This approach consists of expressing anger assertively, like shouting or talking loudly to others. Even though it works assertively, expressing can be trained without hurting other people so that it prioritizes respect for others and oneself.
This approach aims to suppress anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The weakness of this approach is in the form of inward expression compared to outward expression. Suppressed anger can also be manifested in passive-aggression — passing sarcastic comments, appearing perpetually hostile, or putting others down constantly. Besides, this approach can also lead to numbness, outburst, blood pressure, and even depression
Calming is an approach that controls outward behavior and internal response. Having a variety of calming techniques is helpful as you may find yourself trying to manage your anger in a variety of situations.
What is anger management therapy?
Even though anger tends to be a part of negative emotions, anger can be appropriately managed to help release negative feelings or thoughts. Anger management therapy is a strategy that can be used to leverage anger as a controlled platform for releasing emotions. It allows people to achieve constructive responses rather than destructive ones.
The goals of anger management are to help recognize triggers that lead to anger issues, manage emotion and physiological arousal, minimize stressful or anger-evoking situations, improve self-control, and healthily express your feelings.
The main techniques of anger management involve understanding triggers and responses to anger, learning strategies to cope with anger, and changing behavior and thought.
Benefits of anger management
Even if anger ia normal, anger management therapy may benefit your personal life significantly and broaden your connections with others.
Anger has been linked to health risks such as high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, headaches, and digestive problems. Addressing issues with anger through therapy or other techniques may contribute to better physical health because it helps to improve cardiovascular health and relax the body.
Effectively managing your anger can lead to mental health through exploring emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Anger management therapy can help enhance coping skills, understand ourselves, and develop self-awareness which can enlighten the self. Individuals can develop more positive self-talk and coping mechanisms, leading to a greater sense of self-worth.
Practicing anger management helps individuals learn to express their feelings and to listen more effectively. Anger management therapy can also help individuals develop greater empathy for others by learning to regulate their emotions. Individuals can become more attuned to the feelings of those around them, leading to greater emotional resilience and more fulfilling relationships.
Strategies to control your anger
Research consistently shows that cognitive behavioral interventions are effective and commonly used for managing anger. However, there are also other ways to help with anger management.
Cognitive restructuring helps to change views/perspectives in thinking about situations. This approach helps to understand and interpret situations to be one of the triggers for anger by training the mind to identify unhealthy thoughts so that it can think more rationally.
This approach is part of a cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) intervention that promotes self-awareness, where a person becomes more aware of triggers, experiences, expressions, and consequences of anger. Cognitive interventions target anger-generating thoughts and images, dysfunctional familial/cultural assumptions, biased appraisal and information processing, and the like.
Several techniques for relaxation can be done, such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness exercises. A qualitative study showed that yoga made the research respondents calmer and better able to manage their anger.
Pranayama is one type of yoga that can help you overcome frustration and cope with anger using deep breathing and breath control.
Anger can affect several parts of the body, such as muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. If your neck is stiff, gently roll your head toward one shoulder and the other. Coordinate your head roll with your breathing. Repeat this several times until you feel the tense muscles in your neck relax a little.
The 7/11 breathing technique involves breathing in for 7 seconds and out for 11 seconds. The method can help you relax, clear your mind, and activate your parasympathetic nervous system. Here are 7/11 techniques that you can easily do:
- Take a moment to concentrate on your breath
- Inhale slowly for a count of 7
- Exhale slowly for a count of 11
- Keep going for at least 1 minute
- Consider the outcomes of reacting from a more peaceful state of mind
A study in Spain proved that humor could be a relevant component for predicting how individuals handle angry feelings or episodes.
In addition, research also showed how humor reduces the degree of anger based on a neural explanation: humor improves social communication skills to alleviate interpersonal conflict.
Although it’s not easy to laugh when you’re angry, identifying the early signs of anger can help diffuse tense situations before spiraling out of control.
- Practice laughing by starting with smiling, saying “ha” to get the laugh going, and for instance saying “ha ha ha ha” after a few. Getting used to laughing can help release anger easier.
- Keeping funny things with you can develop a sense of humor. You can save a meme on your phone, keep something comical like a bobbling figure, or put a sticky note with a funny saying or joke.
- When you feel angry, do something enjoyable, such as going to an amusement park, watching your favorite sitcom or cartoon on TV, or doing some physical activity. It will be much easier to develop humor if you’re doing something that will relax, lighten the mood, and put a smile on your face.
Anger is stress that explodes outwards, often with negative consequences. Yet anger is a valid emotion and sometimes can motivate you in both positive and negative ways. Anger can help a person express and release negative feelings, but excessive, uncontrollable anger can trigger problems for yourself and those around you. This emotion cannot be avoided but can be controlled with the right anger management strategy.
The key to managing anger is recognizing your own emotional and physical reactions when you become angry, and then learning how to respond in a way that is healthy for yourself and will not harm others. Several anger management therapies can be done, such as cognitive restructuring, relaxation, and humor.
If you would like to see more resources on anger, visit the Personal Resilience Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Check out the Personal Resilience Science Labs today.
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