Enduring frustrating or supposedly unfair experiences is a normal part of being human. People bump up against each other, don’t consider each other’s feelings, and misunderstand each other in countless ways every day. Anger is a normal emotion to feel in these times, and it can be positive if used in healthy ways. At the same time, anger can also get out of control, harming your own health and causing you to act in ways harmful to others. Anger is not something to repress or run away from, but should be understood and managed so it does not take over. Here are some ways to put anger in it’s proper place, neither repressed nor blowing up.
Take a Break:
In the heat of anger, it can be easy to act rashly, and say or do something you might regret later. Learn to recognize the physiological signs of anger for you, or what happens to your body. Anger causes your heartbeat to quicken, and you might find yourself feeling hot, sweaty, or trembling. You may feel anxious as your mind triggers a “fight or flight” mechanism, making you feel like you want to escape the situation.
In these cases, taking a moment to “cool down” is vitally important. Collect your thoughts, and say to yourself, “I am feeling angry right now.” Use relaxation exercises like deep breathing, meditating on a relaxing scene, or even simply counting to 10 to allow yourself to feel more relaxed and thinking more carefully about the situation. Reflecting on the situation, and think about possible solutions.
Express Feelings Productively:
Sometimes you can simply allow yourself to feel calm and go about your day, letting the anger be acknowledged and then let go. However, in situations where you know the people acting in ways to bring on angry feelings, the best response might be to express your feelings to the people involved. You should be honest about your feelings, expressing your concerns clearly and directly. The key is to be assertive but nonconfrontational, explaining your feelings without attacking or blaming the other person.
It can helpful to frame your statements as “I feel,” describing your reflections and feelings with respect and specificity. This way, the people involved are able to understand where you are coming from without feeling criticised. For example, “I felt upset when you came late to dinner without calling me,” is more likely to lead to a dialogue of mutual understanding then “You’re never responsible enough to be on time for anything.”
Dwell on Positive Feelings:
Anger is often fueled by catastrophic, universalizing, and exaggerating thinking. Feeling anger’s full-fledged heat can make you think that whatever is happening now, the helplessness you feel is something you’re always going to be feeling. In the heat of the moment, your inner dialogue may go something like “This @%#%ing thing never works,” or “Everything is ruined,” or “This is totally hopeless.” However, the truth is that your situation is much more complex and multifaceted than that.
The truth is that you are capable of finding a solution, that a frustrating situation will not last forever. Learn to avoid the words “always,” and “never” in your internal dialogue; you may be in a rough spot at this moment, but it’s not the full story. Focusing on positive things in your day, or positive things the other people do for you can be a good way to balance out the feelings of anger, and get a broader perspective that can in turn lead to real solution finding.
Anger can be used helpfully, and can create positive change in your relationships and your life. Either blowing up, turning it inward to self-hatred, or trying to repress it to just add stress to your life will end up just increasing tension and hardship. The best way to deal with anger is acknowledge and address it, and know you are in control of your own response.