Anger Management

by Meghana Subramanya 
October 25, 2020
Anger Management

Understanding Anger

Anger is one of the most commonly expressed human emotions. The American Psychological Association defines anger as an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something that one feels has deliberately done them wrong. The way in which individuals respond to anger may vary based on past traumatic experiences, parental styles of upbringing, self-esteem, fear of failure, jealousy, or more. Anger is typically manifested in the form of:

  1. Aggressive behaviour

✓ throwing things around

✓ physical/verbal abuse

✓ shouting

  1. Passive-aggressive behaviour

✓ ignoring; being indirectly hostile

✓ taunting, subtly insulting

✓ refusing to do what is asked; being stubborn

  1. Assertive (healthy form of expression)

✓ respectful towards others

✓ having self-respect

✓ using hand gestures or lower/softer tone

✓ maintaining eye contact

The most harmful anger, however, could be unresolved anger wherein it could adversely affect interpersonal relationships, psychological well-being, and even keep an individual’s body in a constant state of emotional arousal. Thus, expression of Anger is essential; Assertive expression being on of the most healthy forms of Anger expressions for resolving interpersonal conflicts. Although being assertive requires patience and practice, it has plenty of long-term advantages.

Causes of Anger

Anger may be an overwhelming emotion to feel. One may feel anger due to multiple causes like:

  • Unmet demands, poverty, not getting what was desired
  • Unsatisfied expectations, not getting what one thinks they deserved
  • Occurrences of scenarios where one’s personal beliefs are violated
  • Perception of threat against own self-esteem, lack of respect
  • Feeling left behind, excluded, being rejected
  • Prejudice, experience of injustice, or lack of fairness
  • Failure to reach the desired goal or obstacles to goals
  • Removal of positive reinforcement(s)
  • Application of punishment or negative reinforcement
  • Experience of discomfort, frustration, or pain
  • Fear, hostility, feelings of shame and Depression

Anger could also be the consequence of various internal and external factors as classified below.

  • Internal factors: personality type, depression, unpleasant memories, hostility, tension, hormones, failure to solve problems, etc.
  • External factors: negative impact from parenting styles, childhood trauma, situational and environmental factors (eg. loud noise, traffic jam), constant comparison, societal pressure, effect of media, etc.

Types of Anger

  1. Chronic Anger: feelings, thoughts, and conduct are dominated by anger; does not subside with time.
  2. Volatile Anger: anger towards something which makes others uncomfortable and fear that something they do could trigger the angry.
  3. Judgmental Anger: anger towards those who are doing something that one thinks is negatively affecting others, (e.g., anger towards injustice).
  4. Passive-Aggressive Anger: use of passive ways to express anger to maintain superficial peace (eg., avoiding, sarcasm).
  5. Overwhelming Anger: anger felt when demands of life are tough to cope with.
  6. Retaliatory Anger: anger towards people who have wronged the individual (e.g., revenge seeking).
  7. Self-inflicted Anger: anger is directed towards self due to guilt.
  8. Constructive Anger: used by an individual to make a positive difference.
  9. Repressed Anger: anger that has been bottled up because an individual doesn’t want to/or cannot express it.

Consequences of Anger

Anger becomes problematic when it starts disturbing an individual’s daily functioning. Anger has many consequences:

  1. Alcohol and drug abuse
  2. Getting into fights
  3. Lower work outputs
  4. Disturbed mental and psychological balance
  5. Inability to focus
  6. Lower interpersonal relationships
  7. Increased risk of physical illness
  8. No peace of mind
  9. Poor self-control
  10. Emotional outbursts and temper tantrums
  11. Inability to think rationally
  12. Inadequate human relational skills

Self-help tips for anger management

Anger management is important for the mental, psychological, and physical health of the self as well as the close ones. Here are some tips to manage anger:

  1. Modify expectations
  2. Look at the situation from a third person perspective
  3. Adapt own response by
  4. Using humour
  5. Directly communicating the disappointment/hurt
  6. Letting go of the anger, and making an effort to forgive
  7. Taking time to calm down
  8. Diverting attention from anger to physical activities
  9. Be mindful of the anger
  10. Aim to maintain a peaceful atmosphere

Make an effort to incorporate some anger management techniques into lifestyle:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge Anger
  2. Work towards developing tolerance for frustration and patience (all problems can’t be resolved immediately)
  3. Improve time management skills, set realistic deadlines, monitor procrastination tendencies
  4. Engage in creative or artistic activities like painting, dancing, playing an instrument, listenening to music
  5. Read, listen, watch or tell jokes
  6. Practice relaxation techniques - meditation (Mantra chanting brings tranquility to the mind or repeating calming words like, “calm down”, “don’t get upset”) or count from 1-100 before responding
  7. Seek social support, share feelings with a friend, take help from friends to achieve goals like, “I won’t get angry for a day.”
  8. Natural scenery helps relieves anger (green = calm mind)
  9. Avoid substance/drug use
  10. Aim towards a healthy lifestyle - go for a walk, eat healthy food, drink adequate amounts of water, socialise
  11. Seek and offer forgiveness
  12. Avoid engaging with a person who is angry
  13. Initiate conflict resolution

Counselling helps!

Counselling helps individuals emotional, mental, and physical health by improving one’s sense of well-being and resolving conflicts. Furthermore, it help seek solutions to problems like career concerns or changes, family difficulties, substance/drug abuse problems or behavioral difficulties, that are precursors of Anger. A mental health professional may assist in identifying environmental/social factors that influence well-being as well as mutually work towards shaping experiences, behaviours, beliefs, and principles to develop coping skills and problem solving strategies. Therapy may help manage stress and emotions of anger and aid in developing self-identity and assertiveness.

Meghana Subramanya,
Clinical and Research Intern,