- Dealing with anger
- Unhelpful thoughts
- I can't control my anger
- I'll explode if I don't let my anger out
- Feeling angry helps me feel powerful and less afraid
- If others make you frightened
- Self Help Resources
- Act Now!
- Helping agencies
- Page 1: Anger Information
Dealing with anger
When we're angry, we have several choices:
- Express the anger
- Suppress the anger
- Manage our anger response
Express the anger
An enraged response might be warranted - perhaps we're being physically attacked or we witness a crime. More often we'll regret an angry outburst. We might feel we've lost control, and said or done something we wish we hadn't. Giving vent to our fury can lead us to make the best speech we'll ever regret!
Suppress the anger
You might decide to grit your teeth and ignore a provocation, which we all do from time to time. Occasionally this strategy can go wrong and we get even angrier than before. This might happen if something has made you angry in the past and you didn't express your anger at the time - maybe you didn't want to or perhaps it wasn't safe to do so.
This can have negative consequences in the longer term. You may find that when something happens to annoy or upset you in the future, you feel extremely angry and respond with more emotion than is appropriate to the new situation.
Trying to suppress your anger may also lead to other types of behaviour, such as responding in a passive aggressive way - for example being sarcastic or unhelpful, or refusing to speak to someone. Maybe you find that you are getting angry too quickly or too often or perhaps over trivial things.
Sometimes people deliberately suppress their anger because they're afraid of losing control. Unfortunately, this can maintain our fear of anger and can make it hard to act assertively and develop the skills necessary to communicate our feelings effectively.
Manage the anger response
There are a few key skills we can learn to help manage our anger effectively:
- Pause and count to 20
- Slow your breathing, relax that muscle tension. Unclench your fists, relax your shoulders. Count in your mind and exhale deeply
- Listen carefully
- Pay close attention to what people are saying - it this really a personal attack?
- Don't respond in anger
- If in doubt, say nothing, slow down, walk away, maybe ask for time to think, avoid feeling pushed into something
- Look for the truth
- Look for the grain of truth in what people are saying. It's always there. Are they feeling angry, hurt or something else?
- Don't decide while angry
- Decisions made in the 'heat of the moment' are rarely good ones, don't be pushed to make a decision, discuss things later
- Act opposite
- If you feel like attacking, step back. If your muscles tense up, relax them. If you feel like shouting, speak quietly
When we're angry or in a bad mood our thoughts can prolong the mood or feed the anger. Sometimes they make us thing aggression is justified in some way. Challenge your thinking!
Things should be just exactly how I want them to be
Sometimes we feel entitled to have things our own way. When we were young maybe there was some truth in that. Our parents will have made life easier for us in some ways. Sometimes this idea hangs over into adulthood, along with the notion that life should always be 'fair' or 'just'. Of course there are no rules that say life should be fair, reasonable or just. There's plenty of evidence that it can be very hurtful and unfair at times. Remember when things don't go your way that sometimes you're ahead, sometime behind. Just like everyone else.
People don't take any notice unless you're angry - it's the only way of making your point
This thought seems based on the idea that other people are somehow self-centered and careless, neither noticing nor caring unless you make them sit up and take notice. Maybe that was true at some point during your life, but adult relationships aren't built on fear. People generally don't like to be around angry people. Don't confuse attention gained through fear for love, respect or admiration. Sometimes anger provokes anger in others, so others may feel threatened and even pick fights with you come across as unreasonably angry.
I can't control my anger
It's true that people are born with the tendency to be more or less emotional. Some people react more quickly than others, some people take longer to calm than others. But the way we behave in response to our emotions is largely learned. We might not be able to control how we feel, but we can certainly control how we behave when angry. Attending an anger management course can help us with the skills necessary to tolerate feeling angry or upset without adding to our problems by doing something we'll regret.
I'll explode if I don't let my anger out
Think about times when you have let your anger out. Has it been positive? Have things been better as a result? If not, how might things have been different had you not been so angry?
Sometimes we're afraid of our anger - it feels like there's a monster inside, who'll be out of control if unleashed. This leads us to further suppress our emotions, it leads us to avoid developing the skills to communicate our anger in a healthy and appropriate way. Suppressing our anger through fear of the consequences keeps us 'stuck', afraid of what will happen should we let our guard down. If this sounds like you, anger management classes can show you ways to gradually understand and express your anger without fear, and without adding to an already difficult situation.
Feeling angry helps me feel powerful and less afraid
Sometimes people who have been frightened when they were young decide to become scary themselves. This way they think they'll be safe, that no-one will take advantage of them and they won't have to feel afraid any more. Of course this really just leads to more problems. The only way to really overcome fear is by facing up to it, not by covering fear by a layer of anger or hostility. We might seem angry, but we'll still know we're frightened inside.
If others make you frightened
- Does someone you know frighten you?
- Do you feel you're 'walking on eggshells' in case they 'kick off'?
- Are you frightened to be yourself?
- Do you feel as though you're under constant criticism?
- Have you had to make 'allowances' for someone's temper?
- Have you been hit?
Both men and women can be frightened of their partners, their children, even their friends. If this is the case, call the CALL helpline (0800 132 737) straight away, or text 'help' to 81066. They will be able to put you in touch with organisations and people who can help. If you are under 18, you can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111.
If you are reading this because you are frightened of someone right now, or if you have been hit, act now. Call the Police. Nothing warrants or excuses physical violence, violence rarely happens just once or ends by itself.
There are many good books and websites that can help. Your GP, practice nurse or primary care mental health practitioner will be able to recommend from a range of helpful material.
The sooner you deal with this, the sooner you'll feel better! If you've been affected by anything you've read here, or if you've tried all the advice here but still have trouble with anger, contact your GP or a health professional for extra information or to get on the road to recovery today.
You can find a list of national agencies that can help with anger here: National Anger Agencies
This material is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. We have used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. We recommend you consult a doctor or other health care professional for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions, or if you are at all concerned about your health.