In my early thirties, I realized I had a serious problem. I needed to manage my anger; indeed, I needed to get a grip on my angry outbursts. My marriage and children’s well-being were at risk. I discovered the feeling of anger is complicated. Just look at these contradictory quotations.
Contradictory Quotations on Feeling Angry
- “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” Ambrose Bierce
- “He who angers you conquers you.” Elizabeth Kenny
- “The world needs anger. The world often continues to allow evil because it isn’t angry enough.” Bede Jarrett
But I eventually made sense of this complicated emotion. Some basic concepts, along with some additional resources at the end of the page, will help you begin to take charge of your angry reactions.
7 Concepts to Get a Grip on Your Anger
- Anger is the most energy-charged and hot feeling. It is often experienced in the body by increased heart rate, rapid breathing, adrenaline rush, and hyper-alertness. When in a high feeling state cool thinking is distorted by a heated brain. It is smart to familiarize ourselves with this emotion and monitor it so we do not end up steaming off. You do not want to be known as a Hot Head! Right? We can learn to number our anger’s intensity from 1 to 10. We can learn to say, “I feel angry” when we are at a 2 or 3 and not wait for the explosion at 9 or 10.
- Anger is a secondary emotion. First, we feel hurt, sad, afraid or frustrated before anger is triggered. Observe a baby. For example, when a baby feels sad because she is hungry, she gently cries. But if her caregiver does not deliver her bottle we will be treated to a full blown screaming message to “GET MY DINNER HERE! NOW!!!” Some grown persons are still screaming!
- Sad is the body’s message of, “I don’t have what I want.” Hurt is the message that “What I want was taken away” and fear is the message that “What I want is at risk of being taken away.” Anger is the body’s message that “I have the energy to get what I want.” That energy needs to be contained and managed wisely.
- Anger’s energy can be so intense that it can shut off our ability to clearly think. As mentioned above it can fry our brain. When we build up a lot of angry energy we are wise to dissipate some of it before we take action. We can clean the garage or house, run around the block, breath deeply or do an old favorite, count to ten.
- Distorted thinking can fuel useless anger. Blaming others or ourselves, exaggerating problems, assuming the worse and thinking in terms of always and never can escalate our anger.
- Sleep deprivation, illness, fatigue, stress, poor self esteem, and conflict can exaggerate our poor thought patterns and add to our out-of-control anger.
- When we better manage our stress, we better manage and relieve our feelings of anger.
How is Anger Useful?
If we did not have the capacity to feel angry, we would not have the extra energy to take on the world’s injustices and to stay steady for what is right. Think of poverty, violence, racism and sexism. They are worthy of our healthy anger.
Fighting for Injustice Often Requires Indignant Anger
Suffragette means a woman who fights for the right to vote. In the 1910s women in England, America, Canada and elsewhere began to acknowledge they felt angry that they could not vote. Previously they had expressed sadness and disappointment for not being included in the political system. Feeling anger fueled their activism.
Feminists in the 1970s felt angry because they were not paid equally for equal work nor welcomed into many professions nor had a voice on many issues that affected them. Women for centuries were considered not lady like if they expressed feeling anger. This barrier disarmed them from taking action. But, as we know, much of that has changed.
MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving took action to prevent drinking and driving. They could have stayed in a puddle of despair–stayed feeling sad at their loss, hurt that others chose to drink, drive and then kill their loved ones or afraid that others would perish. They chose to feel angry and ignite a difference called designated driver.
Letters to the editor are often fuelled by feelings of indignation, frustration and anger. People who felt angry about the harm done to children created protection services. Properly channeled anger can right wrongs.
People misuse feeling angry when they wield power over others such as in domestic violence. Anger becomes an excuse for hurting others rather than protecting others. Let’s use our anger to right injustice and rally for peace.
If you have difficulty managing your anger, access the resources below and use a powerful anger management tool. Instructions and an Anger Log await you!
Check out these related posts:
From Blowing a Fuse to Emotional Regulation
How to Be Aware of Emotions and Use Feeling Words
Five Steps to an Authentic and Research-Based Apology
Fed Up with The Kids: How to Manage Parental Anger
Also, consider purchasing my little stress management program, the Canadian Best Seller, Frantic Free, 167 Ways to Calm Down and Lighten Up. Only $2.95 in e-book format.