Anger is at the root of many personal andsocial problems, e. g. , child abuse, domestic violence, physical and verbalabuse, and community violence. Problematic interpersonal relations may alsodisrupt employment activities because of the interference of anger onworkplace performance.
Left unchecked, anger can destroy relationships,obstruct problem solving skills, and increase social withdrawal. Anger alsoaffects our physical health. For example, it can tax our immune system;contribute to headaches, migraines, severe gastrointestinal symptoms,hypertension, and coronary artery disease. Anger is a healthy and validemotion.
But many of us are taught not to express or show our anger. Thisoften leaves us feeling frustrated and unable to express how we feel inside. As a result, some of us store and suppress our anger, while others mayexpress it, but in negative and unhealthy ways. Individual counseling sessionswill assist you in learning how to express and communicate your anger inpositive and effective ways.
Anger is ‘an emotional state that varies in intensityfrom mild irritation to intense fury and rage,’ according to CharlesSpielberger, Ph. D. , a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Likeother emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes;when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as does thelevel of your energy hormones, adrenalin and/nor adrenalin.
Anger can becaused by both external and internal events. You could be angry with aspecific person (Such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, acanceled flight), or worrying or brooding about your personal problems couldcause your anger. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also triggerangry feelings. The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respondaggressively.
Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspirespowerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight andto defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger,therefore, is necessary to our survival. On the other hand, we can’t physicallylash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, socialnorms and common sense place limits on how far our anger can take us. People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to dealwith their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing,suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive –notaggressive — manner is the healthiest way to express anger.
To do this, youhave to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get themmet, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy ordemanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others. Anger can besuppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you holdin your anger, stop thinking about it and focus on something positive. The aimis to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructivebehavior.
The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outwardexpression, your anger can turn inward — on yourself. Anger turned inwardmay cause hypertension, high blood pressure or depression. Unexpressedanger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions ofanger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly,without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or apersonality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who areconstantly putting others down, criticizing everything and making cynicalcomments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger. Notsurprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.
Finally,you can calm yourself down inside. This means not just controlling youroutward behavior but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps tolower your heart rate, calm yourself down and let the feelings subside. According to Jerry Deffenbacher, Ph. D. , a psychologist who specializes inanger management, some people are really more ‘hotheaded’ than others;they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person.
Thereare also those who don’t show their anger in loud spectacular ways but arechronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don’t always curseand throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk or get physically ill. People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call alow tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they shouldnot have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance. Theycan’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situationseems somehow unjust: for example, being corrected for a minor mistake. What makes these people this way? A number of things. One cause may begenetic or physiological; there is evidence that some children are bornirritable, touchy and easily angered, and that these signs are present from avery early age.
Another may be sociocultural. Anger is often regarded asnegative; we’ve taught that it’s all right to express anxiety, depression or otheremotions but not to express anger. As a result, we don’t learn how to handleit or channel it constructively. Research has also found that family backgroundplays a role. Typically, people who are easily angered come from families thatare disruptive, chaotic and not skilled at emotional communications. Simplyput, this means changing the way you think.
Angry people tend to curse,swear or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. Whenyou’re angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Tryreplacing these thoughts with more rational ones. For instance, instead oftelling yourself, ‘oh, it’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,’ tell yourself,’it’s frustrating, and it’s understandable that I’m upset about it, but it’s not theend of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it anyhow. ‘ Be careful ofwords like ‘never’ or ‘always’ when talking about yourself or someone else.
‘This machine never works,’ or ‘you’re always forgetting things’ are not justinaccurate, they also serve to make you feel that your anger is justified andthat there’s no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliatepeople who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution. Forexample, you have a friend who is constantly late when you make plans tomeet. Don’t go on the attack; think instead about the goal you want toaccomplish (that is, getting you and your friend there at about the same time). So avoid saying things like, ‘You are always late! You’re the mostirresponsible, inconsiderate person I have ever met!’ The only goal thataccomplishes is hurting and angering your friend.
State what the problem is,and try to find a solution that works for both of you; or take matters into yourown hands by, for instance, setting your meeting time a half-hour earlier sothat your friend will, in fact, get there on time, even if you have to trick him orher into doing it! Either way, the problem is solved and the friendship isn’tdamaged. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, thatit won’t make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse). Logicdefeats anger, because anger, even when it’s justified, can quickly becomeirrational. So use cold hard logic on yourself.
Remind yourself that the worldis ‘not out to get you,’ You’re just experiencing some of the rough spots ofdaily life. Do this each time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it’ll helpyou get a more balanced perspective. Angry people tend to demand things:fairness, appreciation, agreement, and willingness to do things their way. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when wedon’t get them, but angry people demand them, and when their demandsaren’t met their disappointment becomes anger. As part of their cognitiverestructuring, angry people need to become aware of their demanding natureand translate their expectations into desires.
In other words, saying ‘I wouldlike’ something is healthier than saying ‘I demand’ or ‘I must have’ something. When you’re unable to get what you want, you will experience the normalreactions –frustration, disappointment, hurt — but not anger. Some angrypeople use this anger as a way to avoid feeling hurt, but that doesn’t mean thehurt goes away. Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very realand inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and oftenit’s a healthy, natural response to these difficulties.
There is also a culturalbelief that every problem has a solution, and it adds to our frustration to findout that this isn’t always the case. The best attitude to bring such a situation,then, is not to focus on finding the solution but rather on how you handle andface the problem. Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. (People who have trouble with planning might find a good guide to organizingor time management helpful. ) Resolve to give it your best, but also not topunish yourself if an answer doesn’t come right away. If you can approach itwith your best intentions and efforts, and make a serious attempt to face ithead-on, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothingthinking, even if the problem does not get solved right aw Word Count: 1577