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PsychCentral 3 Ways to Manage Anger


Aaron Karmin

This article has been shared from PsychCentral. Copyright remains with the author at all times.

How do you define anger?
Anger is an instinctual emotional response from a real or imagined threat.

Anger is painful and we need to get relief. We almost always feel something else first before we get angry: afraid, hopeless, hurt, disrespected, disappointed, or guilty. We use anger to protect/cover up these other vulnerable feelings. We learn to deny and suppress our feelings, so we will not be in emotional pain anymore. However, when something happens in the present, it reminds us of unfinished business in the past and compounds it.

– What are the most common myths about anger?
Myth: Anger is not normal
Reality: Anger, like all emotions is a natural biological response.

Myth: Anger should be suppressed
Reality: If emotions are suppressed they grow in intensity, building up to a level that is dangerous and difficult to control.

Myth: Anger needs to be logical
Reality: Feelings are a subjective experience and cannot be placed in right or wrong categories.

Myth: Anger and love don’t mix
Reality: It can be a sign of trust and security to express anger at someone. We feel safe enough to share our emotions.

How do people deal with their anger, which isn’t helpful?
1) Physical changes – Our biological fight/flight response:
· Upset stomach
· Fast heartbeat
· Rapid breathing
· Clenched fists/jaw
· Flushed
· Headaches
· Sweaty palms
· Muscle tense
· Insomnia
· Racing thoughts

2) Distorted thinking – Our thoughts generate defensive self-expression:
· You did that on purpose…
· You wanted to hurt me…
· You deserve this…
· You never even asked me…
· You’re being unreasonable…
· You think you’re so good…
· I’ll show you…
· You started it

3) Impulsive choices – We take action to defend and protect ourselves:
· Kick/Throw something
· Get in someone’s face
· Shoving, grabbing, hitting
· Break something
· Call someone names
· Give someone a dirty look
· Silent treatment
· Get others to “gang up”
· Spread rumors

How can you cope with anger?

1) the STARR approach:
Stop: Listen to body
Think: Consider consequences
Ask: What do I want?
Reduce: Slow down (breathe)
Reward: Validate efforts with self care/positive self talk

2) the AIR approach:
Adrenaline: What am I feeling? (Physical) – listen to body
Identify: What is the threat? (Thinking)- understand context
Reaction: What can I do? (Choices) – explore options

3) Put thoughts in a realistic perspective
Do not blow it out of proportion. Focus on the reality of the situation. When life makes us angry, we regard it as a problem to be solved. Most people feel frustrated when someone or something obstructs them from getting what they want. And most people respond to the feeling of frustration by immediately forcing the “obstacle” to get out of their way—or, if it won’t move, to curse at it and insult it. Looking at things from the “other side” is called empathy. This involves putting our agenda aside and seek to understand (not agree with) someone else’s point of view. Acknowledging their feelings (“I can tell your upset”), can go a long way towards keeping the peace, reducing the sense of urgency to act and fostering tolerance for differences.

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