5 Steps to Understanding Your Anger and Handling It Effectively
Anger can be a normal and healthy emotion. So why is it often so problematic? Here are a few signs that your anger may be harmful rather than helpful:
- I’m often told I have a “bad temper”
- Others distance themselves from me when I’m angry
- Expressing anger leads to fighting
- I don’t feel understood when I’m angry
Let’s take some time to understand anger in a different way.
As normal and as common as anger is, the emotion is frequently misunderstood and mishandled. In today’s day and age, we are taught that we are supposed to let others know exactly how we feel, which can be helpful at times; however, expressing anger is complicated for two main reasons.
First, because it is often a secondary emotion, meaning that people often use anger to mask more vulnerable feelings such as hurt disappointment or fear. These feelings may be frightening because they can leave us feeling weak and helpless. This may cause us to resort to showing anger instead so that we can maintain a sense of control.
Second, anger can be problematic because expressing anger, in the wrong way, can trigger fear, defensiveness and anger in the recipient. This may cause the other person to begin to protect him or herself instead of trying to understand you.
So What Is Anger?
In its purest form, anger can be a natural response to feeling purposely violated or wronged in some way. When we believe that someone has intentionally violated us, anger can give us the energy to stand up for ourselves. However, the way in which we understand and express our anger can either cause constructive or destructive results.
If expressing anger leaves you feeling misunderstood, or others feeling hurt, angry or shut down, these tips may help:
TAKE A MOMENT TO BREATHE
When you notice that you are feeling angry, slowing down your breath can give you a sense of self-control and peace. This will give you time and space to think about your process so that you don’t go on autopilot. If you feel tension in a particular part of your body, breathe relaxation into it.
NOTICE WHAT YOU ARE FEELING
Notice the thoughts that are passing through your mind and the emotions in your body. Is there a tinge of sadness or fear? Are you longing for something? Do you need reassurance? Because many people fear that the other person won’t be there for them in the way they need, these softer feelings often get ignored.
DISCUSS YOUR CONCERNS
Let the other person know that you have some apprehension about sharing your feelings because you fear that he or she won’t be receptive. For example, you may say something like “It’s hard for me to tell you what I need because I think you will judge me.” Once this is in the open, discuss this with the other person until you feel safe enough to share your more vulnerable feelings.
BE WILLING TO ADDRESS THE SOFTER FEELINGS
Acknowledging feelings such as loneliness and the desire for acceptance and appreciation can trigger feelings of vulnerability. However, expressing these feelings can connect you to others. When you let someone know your needs, if the dynamic is healthy, the other person will likely try to understand them and help search for a viable solution.
BE SOLUTION ORIENTED
Think about your intentions. What are you trying to accomplish by addressing your anger with others? Are you trying to hurt them in the same way you believe they hurt you? If so, this can feed into a destructive pattern of fractured relationships. On the other hand, if your goal is to resolve the issue so that you can build trust and harmony with the other person, then addressing your anger can be helpful. See my blog on Conflict Resolution for detailed steps on how to address conflict.
Understanding and addressing your anger in a way that restores harmony in your relationships can be easy when we focus on the right thing. Call me today for a free consultation so that I can help you change your relationship with anger from one that is harmful to one that creates peace.
Crystal Clements, PhD
Psychological Assistant in Downtown Los Angeles
Anxiety, Depression, Couples Issues