What Is Anger?
Anger is a basic and natural human emotion and response to perceived threat. It’s often linked with feelings of frustration, hostility, or annoyance and can manifest in different ways, from mild annoyance to fiery outbursts. The emotion of anger also creates a physiological response in the body. We can experience a surge of adrenaline, elevated blood pressure, faster heart rate, and tension in the muscles and body. This is the fight or flight response, which can help us escape or defend against the perceived threat. But of course, this response can be detrimental if the response is disproportionate to the threat. So, when anger is expressed in ways that are constructive, it is a normal and healthy emotion. But when one reacts to it in a destructive or inappropriate way, it can have dire consequences for relationships, and life. So it’s important to learn how to express and manage anger effectively.
How Anger Can Be Positive
So anger is not a bad or negative emotion and should be managed rather than suppressed. Indeed, all of our emotions serve a purpose and can help us in some way. Anger is useful because it can be a motivating force when we experience injustice and are wronged. In these situations people are motivated to demand fairer treatment, and even rally together in protest for better outcomes. This has changed lives for many marginalised and minority groups who experience improved outcomes on micro and macro levels.
Why Anger Gets A Bad Name
But my clients will often view anger as negative so many of them will see it as a problem and try to suppress it. This is not because it’s a negative emotion, it’s because it’s how we may have learned to perceive it, due to witnessing uncontrolled anger and not being taught how to regulate it. There is also the issue that when we feel angry, it often doesn’t feel good. It can make us feel out of control, because it can consume us, which means that we react to it, rather than take control of it. This is where anger management comes in. We can learn how to deal with anger so that we are in control. This means we experience emotional regulation, as well as a healthier reaction to situations and in our relationships.
How Our Reaction To Anger Can Impact Us Negatively Or Positively
In relationships when we are justifiably angry due to ill-treatment, we can choose to suppress our reaction or act according to it. For example, let’s say you are feeling unprioritised by your partner because they are putting other things and people above you. This means your needs repeatedly go unmet. In this situation or others, people often suppress how they feel to protect the relationship or to avoid conflict. But if they are able to access their anger and recognise it as a healthy response to being ignored or sidelined, they can act on how they feel in a way that better serves them. For example, you could speak to your partner about your upset and explain what you feel is and isn’t acceptable. Of course, if people can’t compromise, this could spell the end of the relationship, but the alternative is being ill-treated and suppressing anger, which creates bad feeling in the relationship due to not acting on one’s needs – which means the anger builds up. This often leads to the problem of uncontrolled anger, or passive aggression. Both of which are unhealthy ways of expressing upset in situations, and which rarely bring about the desired outcome.
Treatments To Help Regain Control Of Anger
If you or someone you know is unable to express anger or control it, you can learn how to recognise your process from trigger to reaction, and also learn how to better express your needs. Of course there are practical ways to regulate such as counting, breathing, and visualisation exercises, but these are just complements. For longer-term success, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) offers some great interventions to help manage. And alongside this, you might like to understand why anger manifests as it does in you, and the part it has played in your life. Depth work can help you understand your relationship with this important and sometimes volatile emotion, and this understanding and awareness can provide insights into yourself, but also, into a new way of relating to your anger.
The Bigger Picture
So rather than fear anger, rather than trying to suppress it, rather than letting it build up and reacting to it – all of which impacts you as a person, your mood, your behaviours, your health, your relationships, and your life, you can learn to understand anger. This can help you to regulate how it is experienced, and change how you respond to it. All of which will offer more control, and overall mood regulation, wellbeing, and improved life outcomes.
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