Anger is a powerful emotion, and we often categorize it as “bad.” But is it? Sometimes. Odds are, if you’re looking up articles about anger, you’re struggling with it. While it’s “bad” that your anger is hurting you, it’s not necessarily bad that you feel it in the first place. If you find yourself wondering, “Why do I have anger issues,” or “Why can’t I control my anger,” it may be that this emotion has started to control you, rather than you being in control of your feelings. Anger on its own is a healthy emotion. Uncontrolled anger is probably not.
Do you know where your anger is coming from? Many consider anger to be an extension of other root emotions like fear or sadness, putting up a wall around the pain we feel so that we can hide behind the red-hot urgency of fury rather than admit that our hearts are broken or afraid. That may be true for you too. Wherever your anger stems from, the most important thing is to learn how to deal with it healthily so that you can move through it instead of continuing to feel consumed by the feeling.
Dealing with Anger
What Are You Angry About?
The only true answer to “why” you’ve been in a state of anger for a long time is to identify the “what.” If you know what you’re angry about, it’s time to confront it. If you don’t know, it’s time to dig deep and figure it out. Anger can come from a lot of places: feeling disrespected, unsafe, hurt, anxious, powerless, or even just being flooded by a memory of a time you felt those things. Even witnessing someone else experiencing those feelings can be a trigger for anger. No matter where it comes from, anger has a tendency to hold on until we let it go, but we’ve all seen Frozen. Sometimes letting go is a process that takes more time than changing your clothes and braiding your hair. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, grab a pen and notebook, and settle in for a journaling session, because it’s time to figure out what you’re so angry about and why.
It may help you to ask yourself these questions. Answer as honestly and in as much detail as you can.
- Are there any specific people who come to mind when you feel angry? Who are they? What do they have to do with your anger? Do you feel like you can safely confront them about your feelings? What would you say to them if you did?
- Are there any specific events that come to mind when you feel angry? What exactly happened at these times? What went wrong with these experiences that led you to feeling anger?
- Are there any specific settings that come to mind when you feel angry? Where are you when you get angry? Are you at home, work, school, or somewhere else? What is it about these places that cause you to end up feeling angry?
- What happens when you get angry? How does your body feel? What do you usually do? Has that been working for you? Why or why not?
- Why have you been wondering whether your anger is an issue? What about the past few months has led you to consider whether your anger is unhealthy? How is your anger hurting you? How is your anger hurting others?
- Why do you want to be free of your anger? What about your life would improve if you learned how to better manage anger?
Go through these questions with a counselor or therapist if you’d like. Hopefully, taking the time to examine your anger will help you identify its source. Keep in mind that there may be more than one source! It’s more than possible to be angry about more than one thing at a time. What’s important is getting to know yourself so that you can figure out where and how you’d like to improve.
How Can You Deal With Anger in a Healthy Way?
What’s the big deal? Everyone gets angry, right? Yes… but when you are consumed by an anger issue for a long period of time, it can become dangerous for your health. When you get angry, do you notice how you might feel warmer, your heart beats faster and harder, and sometimes you even sweat or need to move your body? That’s because anger feels just like stress to your body, sending you into fight-or-flight mode, and a chemical called cortisol increases in your brain. If you spend enough time with elevated cortisol, your body suffers because it’s working overtime to remain constantly ready for a fight–your heart, your lungs, your stomach, your brain… they all stand to decline in health if you don’t learn how to calm down and drop out of that state of stress.
If you’re interested in learning how to control anger so that it doesn’t become destructive to yourself or those around you, check out these tips:
- Create distance between yourself and your triggers. Amy Morin, LCSW of VeryWellMind calls this “changing the channel in your brain.” If you notice yourself beginning to feel angry about something, walk away. Excuse yourself from what you’re doing before you explode. Later on, if you find yourself ruminating over what made you mad, busy yourself with another activity. Clean your room, go on a run, head to the movies… anything to distract your mind while you calm down.
- Be careful about venting. While talking to a trusted friend or family member about how you’re feeling can help you calm down, it can also fan the flames. If you really need to get your angry thoughts out, consider an “anger diary” instead. A piece of paper won’t say things like, “that was ridiculous,” “screw them,” or “I hope so-and-so falls off a cliff,” when you write about what’s upsetting you. You get to document your honest feelings in the moment without saying anything you’ll regret or getting even angrier as you tell a friend who’s just trying to be supportive.
- Practice some relaxation techniques to get your heart rate back down. Breathwork, meditation, yoga, a walk, some fresh air, and listening to calming music are all great ways to get your mind and body to calm down. Sometimes, once you’ve had a few minutes away from the anger trigger and eased your mind out of fight-or-flight, you’ll find you aren’t even angry anymore. If you are still angry after you’re calm, you’ll be able to come up with a much more rational plan of action than when you were fuming.
- Consult with a counselor about whether your anger could be linked to other health concerns. Are you abusing alcohol or another substance? Are you in chronic pain or discomfort from a medical condition? Are you struggling with proper sleep habits? Do you have mental health concerns like depression or anxiety that could be contributing to feeling angry all the time? Anger, like all feelings, is complicated. There’s no reason you should try to plow through this complex obstacle on your own. Talking to someone who has made it their career to understand human emotions is one of the best things you can do as you learn to process your anger.
Remember, it’s a process, and the point of this is not to teach yourself not to get angry. Rather you’re just learning how to make sure anger doesn’t control you. Be patient and allow yourself time to practice.
When Is Anger Good?
God’s wrath is pretty famous… Many point to it as a reason they don’t love religion. If God loves us, why does he smite so many people in the Bible? While the God of the Old Testament does some pretty frightening things, His ambassador of love and kindness, Jesus Christ, also gets angry a few times–righteous anger, expressed healthily, can be a beautiful and powerful tool for positive change. If you feel that something truly unjust is occurring, that should make you angry, and you have every right to express that, preferably in a controlled, healthy way. On (very) rare occasions, an angry outburst might be justified and even called for. The problem arises when outbursts of anger become dangerous to others or are your go-to for every little thing that frustrates you… If you feel like you might have an anger problem and want to dive deeper into this blog’s topic, please reach out to a Hope Coach today. We understand the strong hold our emotions can have over us, and we’re here to listen to how you’re feeling without judgment. You’re not alone in this!
Many people get angry when they see other people treated wrongly. Using your anger for good, by expressing it with focus and passion can be very inspirational to other people.