In our relationships, romantic, family, friendships and work, we will naturally at times feel anger. How we deal with this emotion and show it, largely dictates whether we get our needs met and indeed if we get to maintain healthy relationships.
People who express anger poorly, will likely struggle to maintain healthy relationships throughout life. They may also have physical health issues as the mental state of anger can have a physiological impact on the body.
In addition, some people who have issues with anger, will also turn to various crutches to help them feel better. Things like drugs, alcohol, gambling and sex are some of the things that might be used.
Anger is valid. We are raised to believe that we shouldn’t express anger. The problem with this is that we are hardwired to feel this emotion and so we need to learn as children, how to understand this emotion and how to use it for our benefit and ensure we don’t hurt those around us.
As parents, we need to teach our kids that it is alright to feel anger. Then we need to teach them how to understand what it is about, why they feel angry. From there we show them the skills in expressing this emotion in a healthy way.
For many of us, parents either didn’t see anger as valid and so children learnt to suppress it. Or, perhaps they demonstrated a poor expression of anger. They let anger overwhelm them, take charge and become destructive. This model is then what many children rely on in life to express their feelings of anger.
I have met people who were raised with the idea that anger is a positive expression of emotion and to use it in a destructive way, is powerful. To learn to show anger in a calm manner, is perceived as weak. We go into our adult life with the tools we have been given, including how we view anger.
We aren’t in control of what we have learnt as children in how to process and express our emotions. But as adults, we have complete control and choices. If you recognise that your anger may be having a negative impact on your life and relationships, or a partner or friend perhaps has identified this, then it’s time to take control.
What are some signs of unhealthy anger?
These are a few things that you may notice:
- Constantly criticising people and things
- Flying off the handle over small things
- Feeling out of control with your emotions
- Jumping to negative conclusions that are incorrect
- Having a low tolerance to minor frustrations
- Unable to take criticism
- Being angry at friends or family for perceived criticisms
- Road rage
- Physical violence
- Yelling or screaming to communicate
- Name calling or swearing in conflict communication
- Refusing to take responsibility for any negatives
I often work with couples who identify issues of anger in their relationships. It can destroy an otherwise good relationship. As individuals, we need to learn to tune into our emotions, identify what we are feeling and why, and then find a positive way to either express or manage it.
Some simple strategies to start with are:
- Walk away if you can and calm yourself.
- Accept that it is ok to feel that way.
- Try and identify what you are feeling that caused the anger. Do you feel hurt, frustrated?
- Release the anger if you need to through physical exercise. Running, punching a punching bag (a pillow will do if you are stuck), get stuck into cleaning or yard work, call a friend. Anything that will help get rid of those feelings and get the brain rational again.
- Find a way to express what you are feeling in a positive way if you need to express your feelings. Sometimes when we take the time to think about it, we may not need to talk about what made us angry to start with.
These techniques may help you to start taking control of your emotions. Being aware and understanding yourself is the first step to taking control and making change.
If you get stuck then reach out for help. You can learn to take control. It is something we often need help with to learn to understand why we react like this and how to make the changes to express anger in a positive way.