‘Anger’ Is Just One Letter Short of ‘Danger’ Hot emotion.
Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.” Thus said Aristotle, while Horace, the Roman lyric poet termed anger as a brief madness. Anger is an emotion characterised by antagonism toward someone or something you feel, has deliberately done you wrong. Anger is a powerful emotion which, if not handled appropriately, may have destructive results for you and those closest to you. Uncontrolled anger can lead to arguments, physical fights, physical abuse, assault and self-harm. On the other hand, well-managed anger can be a useful emotion that motivates you to make positive changes.
In an angry state, the adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, the body temperature rises and the skin perspires. The constant flood of stress chemicals and associated metabolic changes that go with recurrent, unmanaged anger can eventually cause harm to many different systems of the body. Anger makes it difficult to think straight and harms your physical and mental health. Some of the short-and long-term health problems that have been linked to unmanaged anger include : headache, digestion problems such as abdominal pain, insomnia, increased anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, skin problems such as eczema, heart attack, stroke etc. Holding anger is a poison. GoutamBudhha aptly said “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” In the same tune, Mark Twain echoed “It is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored, than to anything on which it is poured.” In fact, anger eats you from inside.
Everybody feels anger at different times, to varying degrees. It’s simply part of the human experience. Other emotions that trigger this response include fear, excitement, and anxiety. Feelings of anger can arise in many different contexts – experiencing unjust treatment; hearing criticism or simply not getting what you want are but a few of the potential triggers. The experience of anger can range from mild irritation to frustration, all the way up to seething rage. While feeling anger is a natural part of being human, it’s helpful to think about skillful ways to work with it that result in healthy living, rather than feelings of regret about what you said or did.
Anger can be expressed in many ways; different types of anger affect people differently and can manifest to produce different actions and signs of anger. The most common signs of anger are both verbal and non-verbal. However, people who get angry often cannot manage their anger effectively and can become ill, just as stress that is left unresolved may make you ill. Our bodies are not designed to withstand high levels of adrenaline and cortisol over long periods or on a very regular basis. Individuals who have trouble controlling anger or who experience anger outside of a normal emotional scope, can present with different types of anger disorders including chronic anger, which is prolonged, can impact the immune system and be the cause of other mental disorders; passive anger, which doesn’t always come across as anger and can be difficult to identify; overwhelmed anger, which is caused by life demands that are too much for an individual to cope with; self-inflicted anger, which is directed toward the self and may be caused by feelings of guilt; judgmental anger, which is directed toward others and may come with feelings of resentment and volatile anger, which involves sometimes-spontaneous bouts of excessive or violent anger.
What causes anger? A leading cause of anger is a person’s environment. Stress, financial issues, abuse, poor social or familial situations, and overwhelming requirements on your time and energy, can all contribute to the formation of anger. As with disorders such as alcoholism, anger issues may be more prevalent in individuals who were raised by parents with the same disorder. Genetics and your body’s ability to deal with certain chemicals and hormones also play a role in how you deal with anger; if your brain doesn’t react normally to serotonin, you might find it more difficult to manage your emotions. What many people don’t realise is that anger is a secondary emotion. Typically, one of the primary emotions, like fear or sadness, can be found underneath the anger. Fear includes things like anxiety and worry, and sadness comes from the experience of loss, disappointment or discouragement.
Feeling fear and sadness is quite uncomfortable for most people; it makes you feel vulnerable and often times not in control. Because of this, people tend to avoid these feelings in any way they can. One way to do this is by subconsciously shifting into anger mode. Keep in mind that the shift from a primary emotion like fear or sadness into anger mode is typically quite fast and unconscious. In contrast to fear and sadness, anger can provide a surge of energy and make you feel more in charge, rather than feeling vulnerable or helpless. Essentially, anger can be a means of creating a sense of control and power in the face of vulnerability and uncertainty.
Some people consider anger as inappropriate or ‘bad’ emotion and choose to suppress it. However, bottled anger often turns into depression and anxiety. Some people vent their bottled anger at innocent parties, such as children or pets. As aptly remarked by Shakespeare, “Men in rage strike those that wish them best.” It’s better to recognize and accept the emotion as normal and part of life.
Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems – problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion. Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a co-worker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a canceled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your own personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings. A certain amount of anger is necessary to our survival, but we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us – laws, social norms, and common sense place certain limits on how far our anger can take us.
People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive, non-aggressive manner is the healthiest way to express anger. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others. Anger sometimes is suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior.
The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward – on yourself! Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behaviour, but also controlling your internal responses – take steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.
Strategies to keep anger at bay
You can’t get rid of or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your reactions. Try to pinpoint the exact reasons why you feel angry. It’s best to find out what it is that triggers your anger, and then to develop strategies to keep those triggers from tipping you over the edge. Once you have identified the problem, consider coming up with different strategies on how to remedy the situation. If you feel out of control, walk away from the situation temporarily, until you cool down. Do something physical, such as going for a run or playing sport. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise can improve mood and reduce stress levels. This may be because physical exertion burns up stress chemicals, and it also boosts production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters in the brain.
The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance. What makes these people this way? One cause may be genetic or physiological another may be sociocultural. Anger is often regarded as negative; we’re taught that it’s all right to express anxiety, depression, or other emotions but not to express anger. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle it or channel it constructively. Remember, you can’t eliminate anger – and it wouldn’t be a good proposition, if you could. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you anger and sometimes it will be justifiable anger. Your life may be filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. You simply can’t change that but you can change the way you let such events affect you.
Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery can help calm down angry feelings. Use imagery; visualise a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination. Non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer. Try replacing irrational thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, “Oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,” tell yourself, “It’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow.” Remind yourself that getting angry won’t make you feel better and may actually make you feel worse. Angry people tend to jump to and act on conclusions, and some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate.
The first thing to do if you’re in a heated discussion, is to slow down and think through your responses. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering. Keeping your cool can keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one. Sometimes it’s our immediate surroundings that cause irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh on you and make you feel angry at the “trap” you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap. Give yourself a break – make sure you have some personal time in the day.
Need of the hour
If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counselling to learn how to handle it better. A psychologist or other mental health professional can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behaviour. With counselling, psychologists say, a highly angry person can move closer to a middle range of anger in about eight to 10 weeks, depending on the circumstances and the techniques used.
Depression and anger go hand in hand and can cause a revolving cycle that’s hard to break. Lashing out in anger can lead to alienation and feelings of guilt, which can lead to depression. Long-term depression can make it difficult to handle emotions, increasing the likelihood of anger outbursts. Often, the only way to break this cycle is to seek professional help. Drug and alcohol addictions can decrease your ability to deal with anger. It’s important to seek treatment options that deal with emotional and physical issues related to your disorder. A treatment programme that addresses anger without dealing with addiction leaves you vulnerable to emotional issues in the future. Likewise, attending a group to discuss your addiction without mentioning your struggle with anger, makes it likely you’ll use drugs or alcohol to deal with emotional pain in the future.
So, next time you’re feeling angry – whether mild or strong – pause for a moment to check in with yourself and see if you can identify the primary emotion driving the anger. For example, you can figure out whether another’s actions are truly unjust or simply a blow to your ego. Standing up for injustice, like protecting yourself or another from being taken advantage of or harmed, is rational. But, choosing to argue with somebody over something trivial is more about ego. Putting attention on the latter is a waste of energy that could be spent more wisely. Working with the underlying primary emotions is a way of decreasing habitual anger, cultivating more inner peace, and facilitating thoughtful action.
Unresolved anger issues lead to anxiety, which can have long-term effects on your life. Immediate effects of anxiety might include dizziness, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle pain, muscle tension, headaches, and problems with concentration and memory. Such symptoms can make it difficult to perform routine tasks and can add to generalized anger about life. Long-term anxiety can pose dangerous risks to your physical and emotional states. Individuals who suffer from long bouts of anxiety can be at a greater risk for strokes. Serious memory loss, chronic sleep disorders, and relationship issues can also develop.
Count to 10 when you are angry. Counting to 10 gives you time to cool down, so you can think more clearly and overcome the impulse to lash out. Breathe slowly – breathe out for longer than you breathe in, and relax as you breathe out. You automatically breathe in more than out, when you’re feeling angry and the trick is to breathe out more than in. Bring down your general stress levels with exercise and relaxation. Running, walking, swimming, yoga, and meditation are just a few activities that can reduce stress. Exercise, as part of your daily life, is a good way to get rid of irritation and anger.
Looking after yourself may keep you calm. Make time to relax regularly and ensure that you get enough sleep. Get creative – writing, dancing, painting, gardening or listening to music, can release tension and reduce feelings of anger. Talk about how you feel – discussing your feelings with a friend can be useful and help you get a different perspective on the situation. The greatest remedy for anger is a delay. Postpone today’s anger until tomorrow. To be angry with a weak man is proof that you are not very strong yourself. Remember “He is a fool who cannot be angry, but he is a wise man who will not,” said Benjamin Franklin.