How To Manage Your Anger (Part 1)
Anger is a powerful reactive emotion. It is an emotional and physical response to distress, a perceived threat, or an act of hostility, injustice or verbal abuse. These perceived threats or injustice could be directed to you or to someone who is important to you.
When angry, you can respond in four different ways. You can express it, repress it, suppress it or confess it. In today’s article we will look at these first two ways (which are actually both unhealthy):
1.) Express it (Aggressively)
The first way you can respond when angry is to express it in an uncontrolled or aggressive way. Examples of this would be yelling, screaming, stomping your feet, pounding your fist on a table, storming out of a room, slamming a door, etc. Less “intense” examples would be speaking in a load, harsh, or accusing tone.
Everyone, at one time or another, while angry has said something hurtful to someone. This has compounded the problem because now (in addition to dealing with the situation that made you angry) you have to try to repair the damage caused by your angry outburst. Even if you successfully repair the relationship, the damage to your self-esteem can hurt your confidence.
A great deal of research has found that freely venting your anger damages relationships and breeds more anger, not less. In one study, only one out of three hundred happily married couples reported that they yell at each other.
2.) Repress it (Denying or Ignoring Your Anger)
The second way we can respond when angry is to repress it. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, repression is “a mental process by which distressing thoughts or impulses that may give rise to anxiety are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious.” Have you ever known someone who seemingly never gets angry? While you may be tempted to admire them, they may be lacking in psychological health as much as those who explode when they feel angry.
Perhaps you’ve said to yourself, “My anger has caused me so many interpersonal problems that I will simply deny or ignore my anger.” If you believe that you cannot or dare not express your anger, you will try to keep it hidden. However, this is not a healthy response. Sometimes you may not even be aware that you are repressing your anger, because you have buried it so deeply. You may say to yourself or others, “I’m not angry; I’m just tired or feeling moody.”
The problem with this strategy is that it is psychologically unhealthy. As author David Augsburger, explains in his book, The Freedom of Forgiveness:
“Repressed anger has a way of fermenting into other problems like depression or anxiety. Buried anger may also come out indirectly in critical attitudes, scapegoating or irritableness.”
Repressed anger often leaks out. For example, if you are angry with your manager, you may not feel safe to express it. Not only would you begin to dislike your job, but you may end up taking out your anger on your family. Not only does this damage your relationship with your family, but the problems with your manager are never solved or even addressed. Sometimes repressed anger explodes rather than leaks out. Have you ever “reached your boiling point” and suddenly “flown off the handle” with an angry outburst? If you have, you know the damage that can result. You know that bottling up your anger and resentment is not a healthy solution.
Another downside to repressing anger is that it can literally shorten your life. This was demonstrated by a ten year longitudinal study reported in Psychosomatic Medicine. The study found that women who “self-silenced” during arguments with their husband had four times the risk of dying during the decade-long study.
In this article, I have shared two unhealthy ways to respond when angry. In tomorrow’s article I will explain the two healthy ways to deal with anger.