Health

Coping with Anger

On holiday recently,  I went to the bar mid afternoon for a cocktail.  Waiting patiently to be served,  I noticed an irate man approaching with two full glasses of beer in his hand. He elbowed me (and several others)  out of his way, smashed both glasses on the bar spilling beer everywhere,  and shrieked “NO FROTH!!” at three very bewildered bar staff.

Clutching my Mojito, I went back to my sunbed and thought about this man and his incandescent outburst.  His rage seemed entirely disproportionate and, coupled with the fact that he was on holiday, which logically would encourage a degree of relaxation and de-stressing, his behaviour seemed irrational and unnecessary. Of course, I don’t know anything about him and what he has going on his life, but it made me wonder what his home life is like,  because if frothy beer sets him off so spectacularly, one can only imagine how he responds when something more serious happens.

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I get angry, like the next person, and in younger days did my fair share of shouting. In therapy as part of my counselling training, we looked at why I felt the need to shout and scream at that time in my life, and I realised it was because I didn’t think I was being heard. I was constantly frustrated and that translated into anger for me.  For others, anger may be caused by depression, an unresolved trauma or grief. 

If you are struggling to make decisions in life or deal with every day situations without getting annoyed, it may be time to think about how much time you spend actually being angry.  You may have noticed that you are especially angry (or even violent) after drinking, or are unable to express yourself in a calm manner when there are issues at home or at work.  

When a person is consistently angry it can be very hard for loved ones to reach them.  Any attempt to constructively criticise angry behaviour can make the person either even more angry, or left with a feeling that their anger is justified, as they may feel victimised. It is very difficult to accept help from those around you if you cannot see the problem yourself. Any attempt to do so is just another reason to get angry! 

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As a counsellor I worked with a number of clients who came with anger management issues, and the first few sessions were usually spent trying to discover the underlying reasons for their rage. For example, feeling powerless is a very strong emotion and the feeling that we have been treated unfairly and we can’t do anything about it,  can make us very angry. So is feeling threatened or cornered in some way,  or feeling aggrieved with those around us who don’t respect our feelings, words, thoughts or motives.

Let’s just clarify, it is OK to get angry. It’s a normal human emotion. If we never ever got cross, we would not be human. But it’s important to deal with it in a positive way, because anger can take a major toll on both health and relationships. Dealing with it, directing it and controlling  it positively, is the key.

Here are some tips I have picked up over the years for dealing with anger.

  • Delay Your Reponse.  Taking a few minutes to think before you blow up is really important. Take a deep breath and count to ten.  When you are back in control and feeling more calm,  try and articulate  what made you angry.  Use “I feel” rather than “You did” sentences where you can.  Delay the response as long as possible.  Each extra minute will give a little more clarity and clear headed thinking.

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  • Talk to someone about your feelings when you are NOT angry. Try and think about the reasons you got angry and why, but also think about the reason for your underlying anger.  For example, screaming at the car because it won’t start, your friend because she has cancelled a date with you and your boss because she has asked you to undertake some extra work, may be a symptom but not the cause of your anger.
  • Try meditation and relaxation exercises.  Practice deep-breathing, or come up with a simple mantra to calm yourself down. Yoga particularly,  is said to be very beneficial for anger.
  • Consider how important this event (that has made you so cross) will be in a years time. Is it important to waste so much energy on something that will be forgotten in a few days?
  • Choose your battles. There are some things worth having an argument about, and others that are definitely not. Don’t waste time arguing about trivialities.
  • Try not to fall into the trap of dragging up past events when arguing. Focus on the here and now.
  • Put yourself in the other persons shoes if you can. Consider their point of view. Is it reasonable, do they possibly have a point?
  • Be willing to back down and think about possible solutions rather than simply getting one over on the person with whom you are arguing.
  • Be genuine in trying to find a solution. Compromise is hard when you feel very aggrieved, but let go of that short term need to hurt/punish and think about the bigger picture.  Life is too short to hold grudges.

Anger can take over lives, especially when it starts causing issues in relationships or at work.  Remember that anger is simply an outlet for what is going on inside. Find out what that is ….and things can change dramatically.  Anger is very individual and it is very treatable, so please seek out a therapist or an anger management group if you need help. Confronting your anger and the reasons behind it, may be one of the most liberating things that you can do for yourself in your lifetime.

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