Anger is an important and often ignored part of mental health. It is a central part of problems like depression and burnout - and of problems with work and relationships.
Anger is just one of the ways our emotions can boil over and take control of us.
Anger is a normal and adaptive response. Sometimes anger is appropriate - like if we are being abused or threatened.
In most situations getting angry leaves us worse off than before.
Why do we continue to get angry even when the consequences are bad?
Responding in anger feels good
It can make us feel powerful and lets us believe we are in control
We don't like feeling inadequate, helpless, vulnerable and anger can save us from revealing weaknesses and a need for intimacy
It can feel like we got “one up” on someone
It's hard to sound confident and calm when triggered by perceived disrespect. Responding in anger feels easier, stronger.
If you think back to the last time you got angry though, it probably did more harm than good. But sometimes it feels like the things we would have to give up if we relinquish anger (for example our pride) aren't worth it. We want to keep our pride.
Anger can be really hard to let go of - even though most of us want to be more reasonable and compassionate in our interactions.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Acting on anger is ultimately a choice. In fact sometimes we prepare ourselves to be angry.
Become aware of this - planning or getting ready to be angry. Is this what you really want?
Ask yourself: What outcome do you really want?
I want to show I'm angry/punish?
I want resolution?
I want a good relationship?
Then ask yourself: Will getting angry achieve this?
Also ask yourself: What is an unhelpful way to respond? What was a helpful way to respond?
We can push down anger at first (this is always a bad idea). Instead start to notice early warning feelings of anger. These are often physical. Observe instead of pushing away or responding.
Then take a “Time out”.
Walk away and take a breath. Nothing we say in anger is productive.
Come back to the situation when you are feeling calmer
If the other person angry sometimes letting them calm down too is better e.g. in a relationship
Finally here are some ideas to work on between times when you feel anger which can help to change the narrative and framing of these situations:
Idea of yourself (narrative):
“Am I (or do I want to be) the type of person who responds in anger”
Idea of the situation:
“I don't have time to respond to this in anger - other things are more important”
“Should this person have this much control over me - to be able to make me so angry?”
“What's going on for this person? - is something going on for them that might explain their behaviour or rudeness?”
This puts us in an interested, and maybe even caring position instead of an ‘angry victim’ position.
Observing the situation without emotion
After the situation where you got angry, did you still think you did the right thing?