29th Aug 2022
We’ve all been there. Somebody says or does something and before we can stop ourselves, our blood is rising and a reaction worthy of a fishwife escaping our mouths.
We lash out and most likely it doesn’t stop there. For some of us, it might be followed by a good dollop of regret which could in turn lead to an apology. Or not. Yet this doesn’t deflect from the fact that anger is an emotion that’s in all of us, and has the real potential to show itself suddenly and unexpectedly if we aren’t always monitoring its presence.
While you can understand at a cerebral level just what anger is, whether you have experienced it as a short-lived burst of annoyance or as a very deep and intense fury; it’s also important to note that anger is a completely normal, and usually very healthy, human emotion. In fact, it points to your passionate side and your ability to care strongly enough about something or someone.
But when you find yourself unable to manage it as it moves beyond your control and becomes damaging; it can lead to some quite serious challenges – at work or in your personal life. If not kept in check it has the potential to wreak havoc and leave you feeling utterly helpless to its negative power.
What is anger?
According to the American Psychological Association, “anger is an emotion characterised by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong. Anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems. But excessive anger can cause problems”. While The Oxford English Dictionary describes it more succinctly as “the strong feeling that you have when something has happened that you think is bad and unfair”
Yet it is undeniable that how you express your anger is for most people the real issue. Left to your own natural devices, and relying entirely on your instinct, it can show itself as aggressive and destructive; even if you have convinced yourself that you are simply defending yourself. Your behaviour and your reactions may not always end up being the best representation of who you are and you will need to accept responsibility for that. However, the reality is that a certain amount of anger will always be necessary to your survival and can be your way of protecting your patch and those in it.
The three types of anger
These three types dictate how you react and behave in situations that make you angry.
Passive Aggression – this is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. There’s a disconnect between what a person who exhibits passive-aggressive behaviour says and what he or she does.
Open Aggression – this is a sharp contrast to passive-aggressive anger, as it’s usually expressed outwardly — mostly in a physically or verbally aggressive way. People who express outward anger often do so with the aim of hurting others or destroying things to retaliate for acts they perceived were wrongfully done to them
Assertive Anger – (which of the three is the better kind!) this involves thinking before you speak, being confident in how you say it, yet being open and flexible to the ‘other side.’ It also means being patient; not raising your voice; communicating how you are feeling emotionally, and really trying to understand what others are feeling.
So how can you tell what causes you to get angry so fast? The answer is not a straightforward one, as each person has their own separate triggers for what makes them angry, but the most common ones include scenarios where you feel threatened or attacked, frustrated or powerless like you’re being invalidated or treated unfairly. It’s that very ‘fight’ response that can cause the anger to rise inside you and get activated quickly. Also in some cases, an anger problem may be caused by early trauma or events in a person’s life that have shaped their personality and so understanding the source of your anger is a really significant step towards managing it.
If this sounds like you and you’re trying to find ways to manage your anger a little better then perhaps some of these suggestions will resonate with you.
7 simple steps to monitoring your anger
1. Think before you speak. Obvious, I know, but probably the most powerful action you can take when you find yourself in the midst of an anger outburst. It’s all too easy to say something you’ll later regret; so take just a few minutes to gather your thoughts before you say anything.
2. Once you regain your composure and feel calm again, you can then share your concerns but wait until you’re thinking clearly and do so in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. Don’t make this about scoring points but about feeling heard.
3. Timeouts aren’t just for little people. You would be well advised to take a short break at a time when you know your anger is coming to the fore. Physical exercise is an incredible de-stressor but so too is just moving your energy from one spot to another. Get up and move your body.
4. Identify solutions. Instead of focusing or obsessing on what or who is making you angry, redirect your focus to exploring some possible solutions. It’s a practical way to shift your attention while also being positively constructive!
5. Let go and don’t hold a grudge. Forgiveness is your most powerful tool when it comes to being angry with someone else. Do remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean you are condoning the behaviour of who has wronged you, but you are simply choosing not to dwell on it.
6. Breathe. It may be like the last thing you feel like doing but breathwork has been known to instantly lower your stress levels and its physical benefits in this regards are unquestionable. If however this doesn’t appeal to you then try listening to calming music, writing in your journal, repeating affirmations or getting out into nature – whatever you know has the power to bring you back into the present moment quickly.
7. Talk it out. Talking helps. Find a non-judgemental ear that will just listen to you. Sometimes all we need is to feel heard. It can also be incredibly helpful to have the opportunity to air your issues out loud, so that you can hear exactly what it is that causing you to be angry which will contribute towards you deciding what to do about it.
Remember nobody makes you angry. It is you who decides to use it as a response. Being aware of your anger, could, in fact, help you to make better choices, which will leave you feeling calmer and more in control. Anger never solves anything. In fact, it does the complete opposite and leads to further frustration, shame and disappointment. It creates nothing but destroys everything so before you cause further destruction pause, reflect and choose in that moment to create something better. You’ll thank yourself for it later!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Transformation Coach, Author and Coach for the IMAGE Business Club. She’s known for her practical solutions to life’s challenges and her ability to tell you not what you want to hear but always what you need. She best represents Strategy meets Spirituality and has just launched THE CHANGE ACCELERATOR her Self-Study Online Programme for those looking to make real Changes. Find her on Instagram @1niamhennis or niamhennis.com.
Illustration by upklyak.