If you’ve ever felt overwhelming anger at anyone, then you know the need to find a solution. Anger is a negative purge of frustration over someone or something. Whenever it happens, you tend to lose control over yourself. Eventually, you could look back and question why you reacted in such a manner.
Often you’re at a loss for words over the result of giving leeway to that negative emotion. J. Blair defines anger as “a response to a perceived threat to oneself or to another. It is a response to frustration.” In reality, it’s usually hard to describe what one feels at the moment it happens.
For some, they feel a boiling sensation in their chest and head. They feel like their head is in flames. The pressure they feel could lead to shortness of breath. Also, there are people who feel a need to retaliate and be aggressive towards the source of anger.
The ultimate behavioural expression of anger is reactive aggression. This could be expressed by yelling or fighting. Whatever your reaction is, it all results in one thing eventually: hating and regretting your reaction and wanting to rid yourself of that emotion.
Don’t suppress your anger!
Anger can take a toll on your life. Although suppression is a way that people try to deal with theirs, it’s not wise. It can be hard to manage emotions, especially when bottled up for so long. In spite of the fact that it’s not healthy, you would end up eating up all your positive energy instead of the negative ones.
Certainly, it works at the moment in time. You can say, “I’m fine,” and walk away without losing your hair. However, you will walk away feeling even worse. That anger you feel will eat you up inside out, and you will become more stressed. It’s one of the reasons they say the silent ones are the deadliest ones (and we do not mean your fart). Anger also gets your amygdala, a part of the brain closely associated with emotions, working overtime.
Just as Oliver Burkeman in The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking puts it,
…when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss.
Two proven ways to manage anger
It’s been established that suppressing anger is not pleasant but how then can it be managed? With these two ways, you can get the control you need.
1. Don’t vent!
“Sure, you shouldn’t suppress your anger, but what’s so wrong with venting? Throwing objects or punching stuff isn’t so bad.”
That’s exactly what your mind tells you to do as an alternative, but it’s wrong! You shouldn’t get it out by throwing feats as this would only intensify that emotion. You would then feel even more rage.
Just as James J. Gross puts it in his book, Handbook of Emotion Regulation,
…focusing on a negative emotion will likely intensify the experience of that emotion further and thus make down-regulation more difficult, leading to lower adjustment and well-being.
The best way to manage your emotion at this point is to distract yourself. In reality, your brain has limited resources and less brainpower to think about more things. You should read a book, watch a film, listen to music, talk to someone else or do anything else besides venting. Distract yourself from that anger, and your brain will have less time to latch onto whatever the cause is.
Okay, we know it can be hard to distract yourself just when you see the perfect stick to hit that person with. However, neuroscience has disclosed the perfect anger management method.
Imagine this scenario: You’re in a board meeting and your colleague chooses that moment to embarrass you. She tells the boss about something you did wrong and doesn’t even defend you when the boss enquires for more information. You speak with her calmly about it after the meeting, and she flares up! She gets angry and calls you names. At that point, you want to react in anger too because you feel cheated.
However, what if that colleague just lost someone dear to her. Or, maybe she was told you were conniving and plotting to get her fired.
What neuroscience says:
In David Rock’s Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, he explains,
“In one of Ochsner’s reappraisal experiments, participants are shown a photo of people crying outside a church, which naturally makes participants feel sad. They are then asked to imagine the scene is a wedding, that people are crying tears of joy. At the moment that participants change their appraisal of the event, their emotional response changes, and Ochsner is there to capture what is going on in their brain using an fMRI. As Ochsner explains, ‘Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.’
This implies that there could be more to people’s behaviour than you realise. If you knew the truth, you probably would feel compassion instead of anger. For this reason, when things happen that could lead to anger, you should train yourself to reappraise the situation. Train yourself to think it’s not your fault but they could just be having a bad day.
So, what’s it going to be? Stay angry or control it? The latter is the case and is very much possible if you please.