Anger is an emotion that is likely to pop up for all of us in moments during our lives. So what really is anger? It seems that many are overcome by anger, but is this a justification, or does anger really take over our behaviour and control us? Anger cannot simply be viewed as one thing, it can be considered to comprise of many aspects, including the combination of thoughts, feeling and urges to act. It is often triggered by a multitude of factors ranging from situational cues to a build-up of unexpressed emotion. It has often been said that anger is a secondary emotion, often arising due to the person experiencing other emotions that they may not be aware of, such as sadness, grief, anxiety or regret. It is from the experience of these other emotions that anger occurs, often masking the person’s true feelings and state.
Regardless of the true cause of anger, one thing that is certain is that anger causes suffering. Suffering almost always occurs to the person experiencing the anger and more often than not those close to that person also suffer. For a long period of time people have tried to manage their anger. Some have succeeded in their quest, others have not. Since the early days of anger management the field of psychology has advanced considerably. Leading approaches to working with anger now emphasise that anger can be controlled and that a person has a choice in how they respond to their angry feeling. Simple strategies can be used to control a person’s response when angered, but to ultimately overcome anger a person needs to understand the reason for their anger. Basic strategies to respond in a calmer and more effective manner when angered include: removing one’s self from the situation, deep breathing, writing down the frustration or emotional issues, exercise, moving and stretching of the body, and hot/cold water showers.
While strategies help to reduce the intensity of emotion, these alone are not enough. The solution to anger is to not try to keep the anger down when it arises or to try to get rid of it, but rather change one’s relationship with their anger and their response to angry thoughts and feelings. The person needs to reclaim their life, instead of anger claiming them. This can be achieved through bringing acceptance and compassion towards your anger, yourself and others. Overcoming anger is about shifting from a victim mode to a position of ownership. By living a life guided by values and acceptance, the path to approaching and overcoming the struggle with anger will reside and you will be able to take back control of your life.
Harris, R. (2007). The happiness trap: Stop struggling, start living. Exisle Publishing: New Zealand.
Eifert, G. H., Mckay, M., & Forsyth, J.P (2006). ACT on life not on anger: The new acceptance and commitment therapy guide to problem anger. New Harbinger Publications: California.