How to control your anger

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Anupama Nair


We all know what anger is, and we've all felt it — whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage. Is anger normal? “Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion, and the problem starts when it gets out of control and turns destructive, Then it can lead to problems — problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. It can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

What is anger? Anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage”, said Charles Spielberger, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, anger too is accompanied by physiological and biological changes i.e., when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a canceled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats and it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary for our survival, however, on the other hand, we can't physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us as laws, social norms, and common-sense place 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 people use are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive and not aggressive manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to fulfill them, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. When you suppress your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. You can suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in suppressing your anger is, if you are not able to express it outward, your anger can turn inward on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Unexpressed anger can create other problems as it can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven't learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren't likely to have many successful relationships.

Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside. The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. 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 reaction.


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