Understanding and managing anger
What do you do when you feel disrespected, hurt, threatened, embarrassed, afraid, frustrated or disappointed? Do you get irritable or tense? Raise your voice or silently seethe? Become aggressive or passive-aggressive? Plot your revenge or explode? Whatever your anger looks like, it can be valuable to look closer and understand where it’s coming from.
Anger is often an indication that there are other feelings which need some attention. Emotional intelligence requires listening to the messages our emotions are attempting to communicate. Like picking up the phone, we want to hear what’s behind our anger. Is it sadness? Is it that we deeply care? Are we trying to hide vulnerability? Do we need to set firmer boundaries? Is something stagnant and calling out for attention or energy? Can we learn to be curious and listen to what anger can teach us?
Anger is usually rooted in a deeper psychological or emotional issue. Common underlying issues which can contribute to the development of anger include:
- Early childhood developmental disturbances
- Alcohol and other drug dependencies
- Divorce, loss of intimacy or relationship breakdown
- Depression, anxiety and other mental health issues
- Restlessness and disturbed sleeping patterns
Anger in relationships
Anger can be used to push people away when being honest and vulnerable feels too hard. Many other emotions can seem scary or confusing, so they are expressed externally as anger. If we react from that old reptilian brain and the fight, flight or freeze mode, we lock horns and don’t resolve a thing in our relationships and simply create more distance. But if we actually want to authentically connect with another, then anger needs to be converted into a hearable message which promotes healthy boundaries. ‘Anger’ and ‘not listening’ go hand in hand.
We all want to be heard and understood. Listening well is an art which requires controlling the impulse to lash out. Impulse control and reduced reactivity leads to productive, fulfilling, meaningful and loving relationships that can take you to the next level of relational depth and intimacy.
Men and anger
Anger is a normal human emotion that everyone – young or old, man or woman – experiences from time to time. However, anger and its aggressive expressions tend to be associated with men and masculinity. It has been said that anger is the only socially acceptable male emotion, and therefore the only emotion some men feel comfortable expressing or admitting to. Men will sometimes convince themselves and others that they are angry, when in reality this “acceptable emotion” is masking hurt or fear. It is crucial to differentiate between anger and the many uncomfortable or confusing emotions it can be covering.
Dealing with anger
Sometimes anger is an appropriate, and even healthy, response. At these moments, it can be useful to acknowledge and validate the feeling before doing something about it. It’s important to blow off steam in a way that is not harmful to ourselves or others. Avoid being aggressive, violent or hostile. There are numerous techniques and strategies which can be used to calm down and address the real issues.
- Learn how to self-regulate emotions with mindfulness strategies. Give yourself time-out to reflect, relax and breathe.
- Expend some energy. Engage in a physical activity that is productive or fun.
- Use non-violent communication to deeply and authentically connect with others
- Identify and address unmet needs in early stages of development
- Pick up the phone and hear the message behind anger
- For those who withhold anger, learn to stay present in your body. Ground yourself. Keep your eyes open and allow yourself to feel. Find a way to consciously express or release that energy.
How Seed Psychology can help
Our team are trained and experienced in the psychological treatment of anger. We use client-focussed, evidence-based psychological treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) to manage anger and address its underlying causes. Our psychologists will work with you to improve your emotion regulation, relationships, wellbeing and quality of life.
Contact us now to book an appointment.