What is Anger?
We all know what it’s like to feel angry. It’s a natural human emotion, that is invoked when we experience hurt, injustice, fear, and frustration. We can easily tell when we are angry by the powerful physical response in the body, such as a rush of adrenaline, increased blood pressure, heart rate and fast breathing that often takes over us. When we experience anger our brains cause the body to release stress hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This physical response can lead to aggressive behavior that, in, appropriate times, will assist us to defend ourselves if we are being attacked. The feeling of anger is not a problem, in and of itself, it is our body’s natural way of defending itself. However, it is how we react to the anger, in non-life-threatening situations that can lead to real problems.
Signs & Symptoms of Out of Control Anger
If we have trouble managing anger and reactivity it can become destructive in many areas of our lives, at work, in our close relationships, and it can affect our overall sense of well-being. Some important signs that it’s time to consider anger management counseling or group anger management therapy sessions are:
- Feeling like you constantly have to “hold in” or repress your angry feelings.
- Frequent arguing with your family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances.
- Trouble with the law, or reckless disregard for rules.
- Physical violence, such as hitting, loud shouting, door slamming, etc.
- Threats of violence against people or property.
- Out-of-control behavior, such as breaking things or reckless driving.
Anger Management Counseling Sessions and Group Classes
If you have been struggling with managing your reactivity, and feelings of anger this can and probably already has led to many negative behaviors that will wreak havoc on your life. This is destructive to your important relationships, career, and your mental and physical health. Anger management classes can assist you in learning new and more productive responses to anger that allow you to regain control of your life and relationships. An anger management counselor will teach you how to recognize early signs of anger, and show you how to better respond when anger strikes, allowing you to deal with negative situations in a more positive way. Through self-awareness and changes from reactivity to better responding to the difficulties in life, a highly angry person can begin to see results, moving closer to mid-range anger, in 8 – 10 weeks.
Anger management courses aren’t about having you repress natural feelings of anger, but to show you how to express anger in a healthy, constructive way. Managing anger well is a learned behavior, requiring practice and persistence. Many circumstances and people that evoke anger within us, we can’t change, however, you can learn how to better manage your reactions to them. Anger management sessions (psychotherapy) can be done individually, with couples or family. Anger management group classes are popular and effective in allowing you to see how others cope with similar challenges. It’s helpful to hear others’ personal stories of failures and successes in better managing themselves in difficult situations. Generally, anger management classes focus on teaching you specific skills and ways of thinking to better cope with anger.
Self-Help Tips: Strategies for Successfully Managing Anger
Note: While practicing anger management techniques on your own can be helpful, for many the most effective approach to anger management is to seek help from a professional anger management counselor through individual counseling sessions or group therapy classes. In addition, if you have any other mental health conditions, such as depression or addiction, you may need to work with a therapist on these other issues for anger management techniques to be effective.
Below are some tips that may help you manage your anger:
Be Self-Aware. It is important that you learn to identify what situations trigger you to become angry. Take a moment. Listen to your body. Become attuned to your natural reactions. Are you noticing a pattern? Do you have specific triggers? Can you identify where the anger begins in your body? Is anger a way to deal with feelings such as embarrassment, hurt, or shame? Talk to someone you trust or an anger management specialist that can help you collect your thoughts to better deal with the difficulties in life. If you don’t know why you are angry, what is triggering you, or if you find yourself blaming everyone else for your emotions, it’s very difficult to learn how to better cope when anger kicks in.
Slow Down. Notice when you start to get angry: do you get a knot in your stomach, a headache, tense shoulders? Slowing down and implementing ways to relax like deep breathing and peaceful imagery can help slow down some of the physical symptoms of anger. It’s helpful to practice slowing down when you are not feeling upset. Meditating is one way to learn to slow down and relax your mind. It is helpful to learn to slow down and talk yourself down before and during the heat of the moment.
Change Your Way of Thinking. When you start getting upset about something, take a moment to check in with your way of thinking. Ask yourself, “Is getting upset going to fix anything?” Or, “Is this worth ruining my day over?” Bring in a more rational and objective way of looking at the situation. If someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of thinking things like, “They meant to cut me off, they saw me” replace that thinking with, “They probably are in a rush and didn’t see me.” Our way of thinking about a situation can intensify or reduce our anger.
Dig Deeper. Sometimes our anger and frustration are created by something in our past or a situation that is going wrong in our lives currently. If you notice yourself getting angry about the small stuff, dig a little deeper. Ask yourself “What is so wrong in my life that I feel so angry, and what do I need to do to change the situation?” “Is there something that happened in my past that is triggering how I currently feel?” By digging deeper into your angry feelings, you can use them as a sign that you need to work on something that is bothering you and it can be used as motivation for positive change. However, it is important to recognize situations you can’t control or change. In those situations, you may need to work on changing your perspective of the situation.
Make it Humorous. Have you ever gotten angry about something and a few months later you laughed about it? What made it funny just a few months later? Your more objective perspective of it! When it comes to managing our anger, the ability to find the humor in a situation is a priceless asset.
With the proper insight into the everyday frustrations of life, we can sometimes laugh about the craziness of it all. When used to address a frustrating situation, humor can help you achieve a more balanced perspective. However, humor should not be used to mask anger, or a way to act overly sarcastic, because then it becomes another unhealthy expression of anger.
Take a Moment. If your anger seems to be building, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes and do something else – take a walk, listen to some relaxing music, or meditate. Your chances of resolving the situation in a productive manner greatly increase when you can approach it with a clear and rational mind.
Make Changes. While you can’t control most of the things that happen in life, you can take steps to avoid unnecessary stress. Look at your daily schedule and identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that are a source of frustration and anger. Then make some changes. Find an alternate route to work; shut the door to your child’s messy room; set up a time when you’re not too tired and hungry to talk about important matters with your spouse; and most of all, make sure you have some time to yourself on a daily basis.
Acknowledge the Gains of Anger. Anger in the short-term produces at least one perceived benefit. Receiving attention, getting your way, perceived respect, feeling powerful, and releasing tension. Most of the time we don’t continue unhealthy behaviors unless they are benefitting us in some ways. It’s important to realize that even though we gain something from getting angry, expressing anger isn’t going to benefit us in the long run. Therefore, by letting go of those short-term benefits and keeping our eyes on the bigger picture, we have the ability to live a more balanced life with happier relationships.
Finding Help with Anger Management
If you or someone you know struggles with Anger issues, you are not alone. There is help available. The ability to manage anger is a learned behavior and requires practice. Help from an anger management counselor or group therapy sessions can go along way in helping anyone improve their quality of life. Search the TherapyTribe therapist directory and find an anger management therapist or counselor that is right for you.
- Duncan, A. (2009). Taming the beast: 9 keys for mastering your anger. Retrieved March 2019 from http://www.alduncan.net/TamingtheBeast.pdf
- LoveToKnow, Corp. (2006-2019).What Is the Name of the Brain Chemical Released When You Are Angry. Retrieved March 2019 from http://stress.lovetoknow.com/What_Is_the_Name_of_the_Brain_Chemical_Released_When_You_Are_Angry
- Brown, J. (2012). Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships. Exisle, New Zealand.
- American Psychiatric Association (2019). Controlling Anger Before it Controls You. Retrieved March 2019 from https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control