Ideas for Healthy Anger Management
When we get angry, it can be difficult to control it. Have you ever lashed out in anger? Have you yelled, broken something, or said something you regretted out of anger? These mistakes are part of being human. It can be difficult to manage our strong feelings, especially when we feel hurt, or when we feel like an injustice has been done.
I've talked to a lot of people about anger throughout my years on my radio show, Dawson McAllister Live. While we each get angry at different times, in different ways, or for different reasons, there is a common thread with all of us.
We all need a healthy way to talk about and manage our feelings of anger. Here are some suggestions I've gathered for healthy anger management. I hope they help you better understand your anger, and how to feel it without becoming overwhelmed by it, and without letting that lack of control harm you or your relationships.
Understand What Anger Is
Anger is an emotion that can be very powerful and all-consuming. It’s a deep feeling of displeasure, hostility, or antagonism towards someone or something we believe has hurt us. Sometimes, anger brings with it resentment, a desire to get even. Sometimes, anger can make us want to hurt people back and get revenge for the pain they caused us.
Anger is a legitimate feeling and being angry isn't wrong within itself. But it's important to notice that anger is a reaction. Think back to the last thing you were angry about. What were you reacting to?
- Did you feel hurt, weak, vulnerable, or belittled in some way by someone or something?
- Did you feel like you were treated unfairly, misunderstood, or treated with bad faith?
- Did you feel that you or someone you care about was taken advantage of?
In those moments, the strong, intense feelings of anger might help us feel stronger and more in control. It might help us mask our feelings of hurt and weakness for a while, until we are ready to face them or share them with someone we trust. Understanding the connection of anger to pain can help you find the root of the problem. Understanding the cause of any problem or difficult emotion in our lives can help us feel more able to heal the pain and move forward in our lives and relationships.
Identify What Makes You Angry
A lot of people struggle with anger and a temper. You don't need to feel ashamed or guilty about being angry. Expressing pain is part of being human. But it's important to know what makes you angry so you can deal with the reasons for your anger. If you don’t deal with it, the reactions to your anger will just get worse and worse. It gets easier and easier to overreact if you stuff down your feelings without addressing them. And that ongoing, intense overreaction can spill over into relationships that have nothing to do with the source of your anger, which can end up affecting every area of your life.
- What makes you angry?
- Where do you feel anger in your body?
- What other emotions dominate your feelings and thoughts?
- How do you respond when you're angry?
- How would you like to change your response to things that make you angry?
You can't avoid every situation, or every person, that makes you angry. But when you know what makes you angry, you can feel better prepared to manage your expectations. For example, if you get frustrated with one particular friend because they gossip about other people you hang out with, you don't have to respond with the same anger every time you’re with them. If you know their gossip makes you angry, and you know they tend to gossip during lunch break, you can be prepared to sit with another friend, or ask them to talk about something else. Setting boundaries like these will prevent you from getting angry every time. And if you know how and when your anger shows up, you're more likely not to be taken off guard or overwhelmed by it.
Forgive Who You Need to Forgive
Sometimes anger happens because of an isolated event or situation, like someone being rude to you in the grocery store or cutting you off in traffic. It is important not to overreact in those moments of course. But often, the deep anger we feel, the anger that builds in us and takes control of our minds and bodies more readily, weighs us down because we have been unable to forgive someone for hurting us.
Every time we see them, they make us more and more upset. Sometimes, it becomes impossible to feel happy even when they're not around, because the feelings of anger are so strong and dominant.
Forgiveness can go a long way toward helping us let go of resentment, which makes anger a lot more manageable. Forgiving someone doesn't mean you have to be okay with what they did, nor that you have to act like nothing ever happened between you and the person who upset you. To forgive is to let go of the notion of payback, to believe that payback will not solve anything, and to trust that you will both be better off if you don't get stuck in a cycle of harm and revenge.
Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to get close to someone. You can decide to forgive by shifting your mindset, and by stopping yourself from thinking of payback and revenge when you think of that person. Practicing forgiveness one day at a time will release the hold of intense anger and will allow space in your mind and heart to think of other people and give your energy to other relationships.
Shift Your Focus
Gratitude can be a good antidote to frustration. Of course, you don't have to be thankful for the harm that makes you angry. But there are likely people and situations in your life that bring you joy. In moments of anger and frustration, what if you shifted your thoughts to things, you are grateful for? What if you were able to remind yourself that not every situation in your life, and not every relationship, is upsetting. There are people you can talk to who will lift your spirits. Reach out to them when you're having a hard time, and don't forget to express your care and gratitude to them for helping you through the ups and downs of life.
Anger often makes us feel a sense of urgency, like we have to respond right away to the event or the person who upsets us. But often, when we do that, we say and do things we regret. How would your feelings change, and how much would your stress decrease, if you took a moment to slow down when you were upset? In times like this, my faith can be very encouraging. I think of how slow God is to show His anger, and how that's what He calls me too as well. Think about that.
Even if you're not sure how to feel about God and faith, being slow to anger gives you time to think through the consequences of expressing your anger in an unkind way. It gives you time to breathe deeply and center yourself. And it gives you time to remember that most of the frustrating things we deal with are only temporary. With time, things will change, and we will likely be less frustrated with certain people and situations than we used to.
I know it's not easy to deal with anger on your own. Part of processing your anger in a healthy way is having someone you can talk to about it that you trust. If you want help managing your anger, TheHopeLine has HopeCoaches who are trained to guide people through healthy anger management.
Talk to a HopeCoach today about what's frustrating you, how to release bitterness and resentment, and how to move forward with greater peace of mind. We are here for you, and we believe things will continue to change and get better.
Forgiving someone who has hurt you could be the greatest challenge of your life, but also the most freeing and healing. Here are 6 steps on how to forgive.