Everyone knows what it feels like to get angry – how it takes over our empathetic, logical state and solely acts on reactions. It destroys not only our relationships but also our physical and mental health.
“How to control anger” would be our immediate response to the concept of anger. There are several established psychological and clinical ways to control it. However, the causes and effects of anger are not well understood. So, let’s begin by understanding its origin, effects, and quality.
What is Anger?
Anger, in general, is a feeling or an emotion that arises when you are in conflict with others’ behavior or your own thoughts. It comes about when you are irritated, stressed, or frustrated.
Being angry causes muscle tension, increased heart rate, and sometimes even headaches. Along with that, it also generates reactions through verbal or physical expressions that can cause displeasure to others.
Yelling, cursing, and arguing are common verbal expressions, whereas physical expressions involve punching the wall, breaking or throwing something on the floor, making a fist, etc. Some may even don’t express it but would instead hold it inside as a deep thought.
Anger becomes an enormous problem when it affects your daily functioning and how you relate to people around you. Its intensity differs from person to person and the situations that trigger your mental outbursts. (1)
Causes of Anger
Anger is not an intellectual concept but rather an emotional one. It usually arises when someone or something conflicts with your own ideas or concepts. A person or a situation could make you angry. For example, you get mad when someone insults you or when you are emotionally hurt, threatened, or in pain. (2)
Sometimes, we cover up other emotions by getting angry over something or someone. Those emotions could be fear, loneliness, or emotional pain, which can be challenging for some people to go through. So, here anger becomes a secondary emotion.
Anger, as we know it, is often caused by triggers. They can be logical or illogical. Some of the common triggers include:
1) Losing a job
2) A physically challenging condition
3) Not being able to perform a particular task
4) Loss of a loved one
5) Questioning one’s beliefs and ideas
6) Not being valued or appreciated
7) Relationship issues
Apart from all these, there could also be personal triggers based on what you have experienced with people and the world around you. Some find alternate healthy ways to let it out. Without this necessary skill, anger can become intense inside a person until it blows up, causing inward and outward conflicts.
Handling one’s anger depends on their medical conditions and brain chemistry. Did you know that more than 32 mental disorders list anger as a common symptom?
Potential Health Complications
Many people think of anger as a mere psychological problem, but it is way beyond that. The subtle changes that take place inside the body affect our emotions, behavior, and internal organs. When anger takes over the mind, it stimulates and evokes the autonomous nervous system.
For instance, when you find your wife or husband with somebody in a secret affair, your sympathetic nervous system gets aroused, which changes your hormonal and neurochemical chemistry. This, in turn, changes your breathing pattern, thereby increasing your cardiovascular response and the blood flow to muscles.
However, as the anger persists, it will negatively impact your heart, immune system, and digestive function. Overall, increasing the risks of heart disease, gastric ulcers, bowel diseases, hypertension, and slower wound recovery.
Constant long-term anger can cause conditions such as:
- Hypertension or High blood pressure
- Gastric ulcers
- Bowel diseases
- Depression and anxiety
How to Control Your Anger?
Controlling or managing your anger is essential to avoid causing any displeasure or harm to others that you might regret later. It can indeed be challenging, but it is best to determine what triggers you and then develop strategies not to let those triggers control you.
It is not about suppressing your anger but making you understand the message behind your emotion and letting it out in healthy ways.
When you master the art of learning from your emotions, you will feel better and be able to manage any conflictual situations and strengthen personal and professional relationships.
Here are some ways to keep your anger at bay:
1) Change your thinking pattern:
Angry or aggressive people tend to curse, swear, or physically abuse, reflecting most of their inner thoughts. The moment you become angry, your thoughts will not be rational but exaggerated and dramatic.
Be conscious of your anger and try replacing those thoughts with reasonable ones. For example, instead of thinking, “oh, this is horrible. I hate him, this guy is good for nothing,” tell yourself, “Yes, it’s annoying, but being mad or angry at him won’t fix anything, and obviously it’s not the end of the world.”
2) Work through better communication
Anger is generally acted upon conclusions, and those conclusions are never accurate. When you are engaged in a conflict with somebody, the first thing to do is slow down and observe your responses.
At the same time, listen to what the other person has to say. Don’t just try to react to words, but notice the underlying message that triggers your anger. While it is natural to get defensive when criticized, you don’t have to fight back. Asking questions through mutual patience and understanding adds tremendous value to relationships.
3) Let go of grudges
By holding grudges, you are inviting a world of bitterness to yourself. Eventually, that will take you further away from the quality of compassion and love. This, in turn, will create anger, hatred, jealousy, and all sorts of emotions that crowd out your positive feelings.
Forgiving yourself and others is a quality that says more about your personality and character. It is a powerful tool to learn from our mistakes and never repeat them.
4) Face your problems
Most times, our anger, frustration, or misery are caused by inescapable situations in our lives, which apparently feels very real. These emotions are natural and healthy when you face these difficulties in life. There is also a belief that every problem has a solution. When you are not able to, it adds to our frustration and anger even more.
Rather than looking for a solution, the best way to approach this situation is to handle and face the problem. Give your best every day. You can even make a plan and check your progress along the way (not recommended).
If you work on your problems head-on by paying attention every day, you wouldn’t have time to waste your energy being angry and frustrated. You will be more likely to build patience and consistency, which are necessary to live a happy and successful life.
5) Practice relaxation techniques
When you’re furious at someone or something, practice some deep breathing techniques to calm your mind and body. The idea is to breathe deeply, inhaling through your stomach and gently exhaling through your mouth.
You may also listen to soothing music or do yoga positions — whatever it takes to help you relax.
6) Use humor to encourage peace
Making humorous jokes can help defuse anger in multiple ways. Those jokes can be amusing but shouldn’t insult or involve the other person. For instance, if someone calls you by name as a dog or a donkey, stop and picture yourself what it would literally look like.
This will lighten up the mood and boost your imagination simultaneously. It also helps to keep a balanced perspective that encourages laughter and happiness. Always remember to laugh “with” others and not “at” them.
7) Learn the cause of your triggers:
People often think that external factors like other people’s actions cause them to go into rage mode. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It only has to do with your own internal image and thinking pattern. Negative patterns trigger anger and irritability, such as:
a) Blaming: When you cannot find the cause or don’t want to face the problem yourself, you will be more likely to blame others for your own actions.
b) Getting personal: You overgeneralize everything that others do. For example: “You never listen to me. You don’t do anything that I want. You disregard my needs.”
c) Making conclusions: You always think that you “know” what others are thinking or feeling or that they intentionally hurt or upset you.
When you observe and see the absurdity of your reactions and thinking patterns, you will end up questioning, “Is my reaction necessary”? Or “Is this true, or can I approach it differently”? Or “What can I do if others behave the same as me”?
Remember, anger is an emotion that makes you do irrational things – inwardly and outwardly. Don’t misunderstand that if you don’t feel anger, you will let people walk all over you. Reasoning and doubting are natural human traits, and we shouldn’t accept anything unless we have experienced it ourselves.
People or situations will tend to irritate or annoy you despite all your efforts. The world is filled with frustration, pain, and loss. You can’t possibly change that all alone. What you can change is to what extent you will let those things affect you.