Anger has a negative image. It would be hard to find anyone who likes to feel angry or experience anger in others, but despite this anger can be very important. It helps us stand up for ourselves, perceive and address injustice, and gives us the rush of adrenaline needed to face danger when we feel threatened. The problems arise when we experience anger too often and over inconsequential things, and let it become a dominating force in our lives.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know where to start addressing the problem when you are feeling angry all the time. Research has found that “venting”, like going off on rants, slamming doors and generally stomping around – far from calming you down – actually perpetuates your anger. Being visibly angry lots of the time is also socially uncomfortable, and if you try to hold it back it can still be obvious in snapping and tense body language.
Apart from the fact it’s does nothing to relieve your anger over the long-term, if you find yourself reacting with more aggression than was called for on regular occasions it can damage your relationships, social standing and work life. Aggression, or even just being continuingly and loudly irritated, can colour the way people think about you, having a huge impact on your life.
It can make people reluctant to spend time with you, embarrassed by your behaviour, contemptuous of your feelings (regular over-reaction could appear ridiculous or silly to others, making them trivialise the cause) or, in the worst case scenario, intimidated by you. In this case aggressive behaviour becomes damaging and extreme circumstances even abusive.
While this expression of rage only makes you angrier and negatively affects the people around you, not expressing yourself can be just as damaging, especially when your anger is justified. If you find yourself supressing your feelings, the injustice or irritation of the situation could provoke angry feelings even when they are no longer useful. Ruminating on the things that have made us angry long after they were relevant or important can lead to bitterness and cynicism, showing that not getting your own say when you feel that you have been badly treated can lead to the feeling of injustice burning for months or even years.
Even if, on reflection, your anger wasn’t justified, pushing down anger that rises up repeatedly will do nothing to dissipate your negative feelings, and it could mean that your frustration builds throughout the day until you are truly furious and miserable. Being angry, however you express it, has been linked to various health problems, meaning that it’s something that should be dealt with. But if both raging and holding your anger back are unhelpful reactions, how should you deal with this emotion?
One thing you can do is recognise the warning signs before you are prone to an outburst, which either leads to you flying off the handle or having to supress overwhelming feelings. It may be that your heart is beating faster, your muscles are tense, or your clenching your jaw or fists. Once you’ve recognised your rising feelings, you can take a moment out to count to ten, focus on your breathing, or distract yourself. With a bit of space, you can see what it is that’s annoying you and whether you have a genuine grievance, and then you can tackle it in a constructive way.
This could be by explaining your annoyance, in a non-judgemental and un-accusatory way, and attempting to resolve the situation in a manner that doesn’t involve aggression. It could be that you are becoming regularly angry because you are habitually treated unfairly, and giving yourself a moment to think and pinpoint the source of your anger will let you recognise the issue and make the necessary changes in your life.
When your anger has no logical basis, or you know that you are being unfair to others by becoming irritated over tiny things, exercising or writing your feelings down will let you express yourself in a healthy way. It’s important to learn not to rage at loved ones or colleagues when the reaction is entirely disproportionate to what they or another has done, because they may end up walking on eggshells around you.
There are lifestyle choices that can help us to lead a calmer life in general and avoid getting angry in the first place, from regular meditation to decreasing the stress in your life by being careful of the responsibilities you take on. If you feel like anger is taking over your life, feel free to give use a call or drop us an email and we’ll be happy to chat further.