Anger Control: Knowing Anger and How We Can Manage It

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September 30, 2021

 

Writers: Jerwin Regala, Kamille Huelgas, and Rafael Reyes
Researchers: Nel Fortes and Angelica Jane Evangelista
Editor: K Ballesteros
Graphics: Krystle Mae Labio and Jacklyn Moral
Tweet Chat Moderators: Eula Mae Labordo, Marga Miñon, Jomari Gimongala, and Angelica Jane Evangelista
Documentation: Ian Stephen Velez
Spaces Moderators: Alvin Joseph Mapoy, Richardson Mojica, K Ballesteros, and Kamille Huelgas

 

Has someone said mean things to you? Have you been mistreated or wronged in some way? Did you feel the heat rising in your face or your palm starting to sweat? It’s normal to feel angry. It is one of the natural responses to perceived threats.  Depending on how you deal with your emotions, these negative emotions can stay with you for a long time. Anger is also the reaction to the fear of getting hurt, it lets you know when someone has crossed your boundaries. Experiencing anger may motivate individuals to change their situation [5] and prevent experiences from happening again in the future. However: prolonged, uncontrolled, and/or suppressed anger can be dangerous both to your physical and mental health. It can also take a toll on your relationships. This is the reason it is important to understand, recognize, and accept anger.

Who is Anger?

Disney’s Inside Out personified Riley’s emotions.  Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger worked together in a headquarter where they drive decision making, personality, and memory. Among the emotions,  Anger made one of the twists in the plot of the movie. Anger’s character is portrayed as a red and hot-head man with a beard. According to the movie review made by Ryan Martin, a professor of Psychology, the character is pretty much all the anger metaphors rolled into one. Red is associated with people in anger [6].

The American Psychological Association defined anger as an emotion characterized by tension and hostility due to frustration, the actual or perceived trauma of another person, or perceived injustice [2]. It can manifest itself in behavior aimed at eliminating the object of anger (e.g., decisively acting) or behavior aimed at simply expressing emotions (e.g., swearing). Anger is different from aggression, but it is an important activator of aggression, behavior aimed at harming someone or something. Despite their mutual influence, anger is neither necessary nor sufficient to cause aggression. 

Good Anger versus Bad Anger

Anger is a key emotion that allows us to process perceived threats and physical or emotional stress. That, in spite of its negative nature, is not inherently bad. Since it’s an emotion that comes with our human nature, it’s natural to get angry. However, there must be a distinction between what makes an instance of anger good or bad.

On one hand, anger can be healthy because it indirectly communicates to us that there is something that gives us stress or discomfort [11]. We can then process the stress or discomfort and find ways to release those feelings,[10] or communicate it to find a resolution to what fuels one’s anger. Ideally, anger then fuels us toward productive activities. This is called “sublimation”, a defense mechanism that channels our frustration into good, such as doing chores or finishing one’s tasks [14].

On the other hand, anger only becomes unhealthy if one chooses to aim their frustration towards other people or themselves. This usually takes the form of an uncontrollable and explosive act involving verbal or physical harm towards other people or objects [13]. Misdirected anger occurs when we ignore the frustrations we experience for a prolonged period of time. These situations can happen when anger is repressed  [7]. However, the more we bottle up the anger, the more it can potentially do harm to ourselves and to others.

Anger Source: Anger and Its Root Causes

There are several causes that can lead to anger. Some examples include losing patience, feeling unappreciated, disrespected, misunderstood, embarrassed, anxious, and lack of control.  Situations like financial instability, losing a competition, being bullied, family issues, and being overwhelmed in obligations like school or work may also provoke anger [9].

The common point between all of these examples is that anger comes from distress. Fensterheim (2017) [4] provides an example: a young elementary student subject to bullying experiences isolation and may feel like no one could help them escape that situation. They may feel that they can’t control the situation if they ask the bullies to stop yet nothing happens. They can feel the frustration but cannot find someone or something to talk to about their anger, leading them to keep it bottled up inside them.

This student, growing up with anger issues, can eventually gravitate towards a negative and pessimistic outlook when it comes to all aspects of life. They may start seeing their life and their interpersonal relationships in a negative light. In turn, they may develop unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with their anger, like violent tendencies or verbal abuse, which may lead to problems in their social and occupational lives [4].

The 2013 study by Nasir and Ghani (2014) highlighted that about one in two adolescents express their anger violently or through verbal cursing [8]; they engage in unhealthy ways to channel their anger at such a critical age of their development. Moreover, an article from Psychology Today warns readers that unchecked aggression can significantly affect one’s relationships and may eventually become telltale signs of some personality disorders, depression, ADHD, or lack of impulse control [9].


Anger Impact: How does Anger affect relationships and mental health?

Anger can have a serious impact on relationships. It may be a symptom of something deeper, more complex issue and can also be contagious in partnerships.  Individuals may end up seeing themselves as angry and hostile individuals, identifying their relationship as one where both partners are in conflict [4]

Anger management difficulties can also be related to numerous mental health issues. Depression, addictions, and anxiety are all linked to anger-related problems; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are likewise linked to anger-related problems [3]. Anger can simmer below the surface ready to bubble up at a moment’s notice for those who have mental health conditions. And with impulsivity, a lack of control, a person may just blurt out their feelings and not think about the ramifications [12].

Proper Anger Management 

There are techniques to manage anger before it becomes violent or abusive.  Practicing with a friend will help build the habit.  Besides, learning to be aware of anger and expressing it in a safe and healthy way are important parts of good mental health [5].  Let us take some of these techniques from Mayo Foundation which we can use in managing and controlling our anger: 

  1. Think before speaking 

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

  1. Once you’re calm, express your anger

As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

  1. Get some exercise

Physical activity can help reduce the stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk, run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

  1. Take a timeout

Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.

  1. Identify possible solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.

  1. Stick with ‘I’ statements

To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. 

  1. Don’t hold a grudge

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.

  1. Use humor to release tension

Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

  1. Practice relaxation skills

When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

  1. Know when to seek help

Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret, or hurts those around you.

Pre-Session Activity:

Anger Mapping, cross out all the statements that trigger your anger

Questions:

  1. How do you channel your feelings when you are angry?
  2. What helps you when you are angry? / What reminders can you use to help yourself next time?
  3. How can we support or deal with people who are having a hard time controlling their anger?

Post Session: Activity

Share a message of reassurance for someone that may be feeling frustrated or angry right now.

 

References: 

 

[1] American Addiction Centers Resource Anger symptoms, causes, and effects. (n.d.). Anger Symptoms, Causes, and Effects. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.psychguides.com/anger-management/

[2] Bokth, N. (2018.). Anger Management: An Islamic Perspective. Retrieved on 2021, September 23 from https://medium.com/@noshinbokth#:~:text=The%20American%20Psychological%20Association%20defines%20anger%20as%20%E2%80%9CAn,and%20other%20physical%E2%80%A6%20Read%20more%C2%B7%206%20min%20read

[3] British Association of Anger Management (2020). Anger and Mental Health Issues. Retrieved on 2021, September 22 from https://www.angermanage.co.uk/anger-and-mental-health-issues/

[4] Fensterheim, S.(2017). The Anger Cycle: Coping with Anger—and Its Impact—in Relationships. Retrieved on 2021, September 25 from https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/the-anger-cycle-coping-with-anger-and-its-impact-in-relationships-0809174

[5] Headspace Clinical Reference Group (2021). What is Anger and Effects on Mental Health?. Retrieved on 2021, September 23 from  https://headspace.org.au/young-people/what-is-anger-and-its-effects-on-mental-health/

[6] Martin, R., (2015). How Pixar’s Inside Out Gets Anger Right. Retrieved on 2021, September 23 fromhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-the-rage/201506/how-pixars-inside-out-gets-anger-right

[7] Mayo Clinic Staff (2020). Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper.Retrieved on 2021, September 23 from   https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/anger-management/art-20045434

[8] Nasir, R., & Ghani, N. A. (2014). Behavioral and emotional effects of anger expression and anger management among adolescents. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 140, 565–569. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.04.471

[9] Psychology Today Staff (n.d.). Anger. Retrieved September 26, 2021, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/anger.

[10] Scott, E. (2021). The Effects of Poorly Managed Anger. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-anger-problems-can-affect-your-health-3145075

[11] Smith, M., & Segal, J. (2020). Anger Management. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/anger-management.htm

[12] Staff, H. (2012, June 22). Mental Illness and Anger, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, September 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/other-info/mental-health-newsletter/mental-illness-and-anger.

[13] Victoria Department of Health (2019). Anger—How it affects people—Better Health Channel. Retrieved September 24, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/anger-how-it-affects-people

[14] Cohen, D., & Kim, E. (2020). Sublimation (Defense Mechanism). In V. Zeigler-Hill & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences (pp. 5275–5278). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-24612-3_1430

 

 

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