Understanding and Managing Anger

Anger is a natural emotion that everyone experiences from time to time. While it can be helpful in motivating us to take action, anger can also cause problems in our relationships and lead to destructive behaviors.

When anger isn't managed well, it can lead to outbursts of violence, make us say things we regret, or damage the relationships we have with the people we care about. That's why it's important to learn how to manage anger in a healthy way. Understanding anger is the first step towards managing and eventually controlling it.

The anger cycle

Anger typically follows a pattern or cycle that can be divided into four phases:

1. The build-up phase: This is when we start to feel angry but may not yet be aware of it. Our heart rate begins to increase and we may start to feel tense or irritated.

2. The eruption phase: This is when the anger finally explodes and we lash out at others verbally or physically. We may feel out of control and like we can't stop ourselves.

3. The aftermath phase: This is when we calm down and may feel regret, sadness, or shame about our behaviour. We may also struggle with feelings of guilt or insecurity.

4. The recovery phase: This is when we work to forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes and move on.

The fight-or-flight theory

Anger is often based on the fight-or-flight theory, which is the idea that our body's natural response to danger is to either fight or flee. When we feel threatened, our body releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that give us energy and make us more alert. This helps us either confront the danger head-on or run away from it.

Anger myths

There are many myths about anger that can lead to us managing it poorly. Some of these myths include:

1. Anger is always bad: This is not true. Anger can be helpful in motivating us to take action and protect ourselves or our loved ones.

2. Anger is a sign of weakness: This is not true. Anger is a natural, emotional response to feeling threatened or frustrated.

3. Anger is always caused by someone else: This is not always true. We can often anger ourselves through our own thoughts and behaviours.

4. You should never show your anger: This is not true. It's important to express our anger in a healthy way.

5. Anger can't be controlled: This is not true. We can learn skills and techniques to help us better manage our anger.

Helping vs. unhelpful ways of dealing with anger

There are many helpful and unhelpful ways of dealing with anger. The following are some examples:
1. Helpful: express anger in a healthy way, use coping thoughts, exercise relaxation techniques, blow off steam
2. Unhelpful: lash out at others verbally or physically, hold in anger, ignore anger, bottle up emotions

Controlling anger

There are many techniques we can use to control our anger, including:

1. Reading anger warning signs: We can learn to recognise the physical and emotional signs that precede anger. This can help us to take action before we reach the eruption phase.

2. Using coping thoughts: We can use positive thoughts or mantras to help us manage our anger. For example, "I can handle this," "I'm not going to let this bother me" or "I'm in control."

3. Exercising relaxation techniques: We can practise breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation to help us calm down when we're angry.

4. Blowing off steam: We can do something that we enjoy or that helps us relax after we've been angry. This can help dissipate the energy from the anger and prevent it from building up again.

5. I-messages: We can express our feelings or position using "I" statements. For example, "I feel angry when you _____," or "I think it's unfair that _____." This can help to communicate effectively and avoid any accusations or finger-pointing.

6. Making a disagreement constructive: We can learn skills and techniques to make disagreements more constructive. This includes effective negotiation, which can help to resolve conflicts in a positive way.

When we manage our anger well, it can be a powerful tool for positive change. However, when it's not managed well, it can cause problems in our relationships and lead to destructive behaviours. By understanding the anger cycle and the fight-or-flight theory, we can learn to better control our anger and manage it in a healthy way.
To learn in depth about anger management, we recommend attending the Anger Management Course.