Maybe your flight just got delayed, or your favorite football team is getting humiliated on the field. Perhaps you saw a provocative text on your partner’s cell phone, or the car in front of you is moving too slow. All of these are valid reasons for getting angry.
Strangely enough, anger is seen as a very negative emotion that should not be expressed. Usually, when we get angry, people tell us to calm down. And, if you start ranting, they will look at you like you’ve lost your mind.
As an emotion, anger is neither good nor bad. It’s what you do with it that matters. The best way to define anger would be as a tool that helps us read and respond to upsetting social situations. And, believe it or not, anger has some surprising positive effects. For example, many research studies show that feeling angry increases optimism, creativity, effective performance. Moreover, expressing anger can lead to more successful negotiations, in life or on the job.
Feeling anger or expressing it is not wrong. On the other hand, repressing anger can be quite hurtful. Dr. Ernest Harburg and his team at the University of Michigan School of Public Health found that men and women who hid the anger they felt in response to an unjust attack subsequently found themselves more likely to get bronchitis and heart attacks, and were more likely to die earlier than peers who let their anger be known when other people were annoying.
So, yes, repressing anger can hurt you both physically and mentally. So, instead of doing that, feel free to express your rage. And, if you ever feel bad doing that, remember all these reasons why it’s okay to feel angry!
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1. If you don’t express anger, it will turn into depression.
Anger is a healthy emotion, and, just like every other, it should be expressed. If you keep repressing your anger, it is quite likely to turn into depression.
Many times you will feel anger and not acknowledge it or refuse to express it. And, sometimes, you may mistake feeling sad for feeling angry.
If you’re unsure whether you’re angry or not, you can do the following checks. First of all, check in with your body. Do you feel a lot of extra tension? Or, do you feel some sort of agitation in your body? If the answers to these questions are yes, then you’re probably dealing with some sort of repressed anger.
The second check you can use is to pay attention to the words you use to describe your every-day experiences. Are you saying that you’re feeling stressed or frustrated? We tend to use these words to describe our experiences, but, deep down, you’re just feeling angry.
2. Passion and anger are linked. Suppress one, you will be suppressing the other.
Passion is an excellent quality to have. And, if you don’t allow yourself to feel angry, then you’ll be taking away from how passionate you indeed could be. This can even result in feeling less excitement when you’re doing the things you love.
Think about a passionate moment you’ve had with a partner or an exciting one you’ve had with a friend recently. If you had to hold in those emotions, you wouldn’t feel good afterward as well. So, don’t bother trying to hold your anger, either.
3. Anger can be a sign from your body that something is wrong.
You must have had a gut feeling about something so many times in your life. Listening to your body and your gut is a wise thing to do because they turn out to be right quite often.
Anger is another way of your body to warn you that something feels off. It might be a result of someone mistreating you, or something else. We should always stand up for ourselves, no matter what happens. If we’re unable to do that, then anger might appear as a reaction and an attempt of your body to protect you from a person or a situation.
Anger can help you draw a line between what you’ll accept in your life and what you won’t. It can also help you ease into pain that you may not be ready to fully experience without a protective layer – anger. Holding onto anger is toxic. But, allowing yourself to be angry for some time can give you some space to set boundaries.
“My dictionary defines forgiveness as ‘letting go of resentment.’ But how do we let go if we believe our anger protects us from further injury or, in some strange way, holds a perpetrator accountable? Resentment and righteous indignation distance us from our own pain, and we need distance to survive. At least initially.”
4. Anger can help you make positive changes.
If you see something unfair happening, it’s quite likely that you will feel angry about that situation. And that’s a good thing! It is a natural reaction that might even make you stand up for the person who is being mistreated.
This is one way how anger can help a person make positive changes. For example, if you feel angry because your boss criticized you for your poor performance, you might experience anger that will, in turn, motivate you to work even harder. See? Anger is not that bad at all.
Anger gives you energy, and, you can either take that energy out on yourself and others, or you can channel it into a positive change. Instead of getting into a yelling match with a family member, you can use your angry energy as the courage to set a firm, clear boundary. Or, rather than just complaining about unfair things that are happening to you or someone else, you can use your anger as motivation to make a change.
“We begin to use our anger as a vehicle for change when we are able to share our reactions without holding the other person responsible for causing our feelings, and without blaming ourselves for the reactions that other people have in response to our choices and actions. We are responsible for our own behavior. But we are not responsible for other peoples’ reactions, nor are they responsible for ours.”
5. Embracing anger will prevent it from controlling you.
Anger is often associated with someone acting out, hurting another person, or destroying an item or property. Partly, anger is the cause of this. However, it’s not the emotion but the repression of the emotion that causes all of that.
When you deny anger, it will build up until you explode. This results in you lashing out either verbally or physically. If a person deals with anger at the right time, there would be way fewer situations of people misplacing their anger by hurting another.
You can’t will your emotions away. Even if you try to do that, they will find a way to catch up with you. The only way to get rid of emotion for good is to feel it and allow it to move through you.
“Passive anger [passive aggression] is inappropriate and not an adult way of behaving. Strongly expressed anger is called rage. Strongly held anger is called hate. Unexpressed anger is resentment. Anger can be unconsciously repressed and internalized. It then becomes depression, i.e., anger turned inward.”
6. Anger is information.
Ignoring anger would be just like ignoring your smoke alarm. Even though approaching that noisy alarm may feel uncomfortable, you have to do it because it is a sign that something is wrong. If you ignore the alarm, then there is a possibility that your home might burn down.
The same goes for anger. It is a piece of information that sends you some signals. If you ignore it, you invite the underlying problem to turn into a full-blown fire.
“…feelings like… anger… instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back…They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck.”
So, now that you know so much about anger, it’s time for you to learn how to control it and how to express it in a healthy manner.
1. Take a pause.
When you start feeling that anger is overwhelming you, the wisest thing to do is slow down, stop whatever you’re doing. Then, take a deep breath to center yourself before you try to say or do anything else.
Taking a pause will give you some time to acknowledge and accept your feelings and also give yourself the benefit of the doubt. There is a good reason why your feelings exist, and it’s up to you to find out what caused that feeling (in this case, anger) to arise.
Keep in mind that, when you start feeling angry, you should have compassion both for yourself and for the other person. Give them the benefit of the doubt as well, since there is probably a good reason why they did something or why they reacted in a certain manner.
Last but not least, make sure to respond rather than react. Reacting is reflexive; it’s a reaction that occurs when someone hits one of your sore spots. It’s natural to react to something in a not-so-nice manner, but what matters is what you do after you react. Notice your own reaction and then respond to it. Responding includes pausing and then communicating without blame, as well as listening from a place of compassion rather than defensiveness.
2. Think before you speak.
The reactions that we mentioned usually involve saying or doing something you might regret later. That is why it is essential to take a few moments to collect your thoughts before you say anything. This will prevent things from escalating.
As we mentioned, it’s not advised to keep your anger to yourself. So, once you calm down, express your anger in an assertive but nonconfrontational way. Explain your concerns and needs to the other person, but without hurting them or trying to control them.
3. Take a timeout.
Timeouts aren’t necessarily just for kids. It can be a great way to give yourself a break when your day starts getting stressful. A few minutes of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.
4. Working out can help.
Physical activity is a great way to get rid of stress or any other negative feelings that are the cause of your anger. If you feel that, at any point, your anger is escalating, run or go for a walk, or spend some time doing any other physical activity that you like.
5. Think about possible solutions.
Focusing on what made you mad won’t do you any good. What you can do instead is think about how you could resolve that issue.
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Just close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Then work out an agreement – you can eat on your own a few times a week or schedule the dinner later in the evening. Always keep in mind that anger and violent reactions won’t fix anything.
6. Avoid “you” statements.
To avoid “you” statements means to avoid criticizing another person or placing the blame on them. This can only increase tension.
Instead, use “I” statements to describe what’s bothering you. Remember to always be respectful and specific. Saying something such as “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework,” can make such a change.
7. Don’t hold a grudge.
Forgiveness is a potent tool that can be very helpful. If you let anger to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiving someone who made you angry will help you feel better, learn something from the situation, and perhaps even strengthen your relationship with that person.
8. Humor is always a great choice.
Lightening up the mood can diffuse tension. Using humor can help you deal with something that’s making you angry, as well as with all the unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go.
But beware! Don’t use sarcasm as it can hurt another person and/or just make things worse.
9. Practice relaxation skills.
Knowing how to relax and calm down requires some skills. What you can do to help yourself out in tense situations is practice deep-breathing exercises, repeat a calming word or sentence, or even imagining a relaxing scene. Also, you can try listening to music or even doing a few yoga poses. Whatever helps you relax! 🙂
10. Don’t be ashamed to seek help.
Learning how to control anger can be quite challenging, and there’s no shame in seeking help. If you notice that your anger gets out of control frequently and causes you to do things that you regret or that hurt people around you, it is recommended to seek professional help.
Just like happiness, anger is an emotion that should be felt and expressed. However, we don’t do that all the time and, sometimes, even when we express anger, we don’t do it the right way. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn more about this emotion as well as how to express and control anger.