Learning to Control Anger
Anger is one of our most basic survival instincts. We use anger to protect ourselves from threat and defend ourselves against attack. But losing control of our anger can be physically and psychologically destructive. There are three basic ways people deal with anger:
- Expressing angry feelings assertively but without aggression is the healthiest way to deal with anger. Passion is fine, but not force. Expressing our needs is crucial to our well-being at any time, but particularly when we’re angry. We become angry when we perceive that our needs are not being met in some way. The ability to clearly tell others what we need and how we are feeling is the first step toward getting our needs met. The process helps dissipate and resolve anger as we compromise with others and develop a plan to meet our needs. However, it’s important to be respectful of the needs and boundaries of others.
- Suppressing anger can take two forms. The most direct form of suppression is when we deny ourselves a way to express and thereby release our anger. When anger is internalized, it can fester and grow, becoming destructive. Redirection is another way of suppressing anger. Rather than confront the source of our anger directly, we channel angry energy into a more constructive activity, such as brisk walking, jogging, sports, house cleaning, gardening, etc. While not addressing the source of our anger or resolving it, redirection provides a non-confrontational release for angry feelings. However, without expression and resolution, anger will return and can become pathological. Suppressed anger can lead to chronic high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, passive-aggressive behavior or a hostile attitude.
- Calming techniques help us calm down and allow our anger to subside. Self-help techniques like meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery and muscle relaxation can be used to help us regain control of our physical and emotional responses to anger, allowing us to let go of anger.
People who are unable to express their anger or unable to develop effective methods of resolving anger or whose inability to control their anger is affecting their personal relationships may need help learning to control and manage their anger from a board-certified psychiatrist trained in cognitive-behavioral therapy.