Coping With Anger Overview:
Coping with anger appropriately is something we all have to learn to do. It may be manifested in various ways, resulting in anything from minor annoyance to a psychotic rage. In most cases anger is a healthy, completely normal emotion that can even be helpful at times, indicating that an emotional or physical violation has occurred which may be necessary for us to pay attention to and respond to. Nature has a way of providing us with an awareness of potentially harmful threats to both our physical and emotional well-being as well as a system of appraisal which functions primarily on an unconscious level, assessing potentially damaging threats or stimuli, activating arousal of our autonomic nervous system and resulting in a response that may preserve our physical or emotional well-being.
Our ability to cope with anger effectively may determine our ability to function in society, maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, maintain a job and ultimately may have a tremendous effect on your entire life.
Anger, like most emotions is accompanied by both physiological as well as biological changes in your body. It may result in an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, increases in hormonal energy levels; adrenaline and noradrenaline. It may also prepare you for the primitive responses of “fight or flight”.
When dealing with anger, it is important to be aware of both the external and internal events that are responsible for its occurrence. You may be upset at a coworker or neighbor for something they said or possibly did, or it may have an internal origin such as brooding over something or worrying about your own personal problems. Memories of traumatic or hurtful events can also trigger anger.
How about expressing anger?
People often times believe that expressing their anger to be the healthiest way of coping with thier anger. You should make it clear what your needs are and how to get them met without hurting other people. Being assertive does not mean being demanding, lacking respect and showing inconsideration for another individual’s feelings or needs. Many times it is wrong to express anger through aggressive behaviors. While it may be true that aggression may be a natural, adaptive response to threats and sometimes may be necessary to preserve your physical or emotional well-being, it frequently results in an overreaction to the circumstances rather than an accurate reflection of what has taken place.
Coping With Anger: Conscious and Unconscious Processes
People frequently use a variety of both unconscious and conscious processes in coping with their anger. Studies have found that there are primarily three main approaches to coping with anger including; expressing, suppressing, and calming.
Expressing Your Anger:
Expressing your anger in an assertive way is probably the healthiest way to cope with your anger. You should make it clear what your needs are and how to get them met without hurting other people. Being assertive does not mean being demanding and not respecting others feelings or showing consideration for their feelings or needs.
Suppressing your Anger:
Many people suppress their anger and then convert it and ultimately redirect it. Oftentimes, this happens when people deny or attempt to stop thinking about it and try to re-focus their attention on to something else. The objective in these circumstances is to suppress the anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The problem however is that denial of these feelings in an outward expression may lead to anger being turned inward and possibly expressed at a later point in time, and/or in a very inappropriate way. Suppressing anger has been found to have a high correlation with hypertension, high blood pressure and sometimes even depression. It can also lead to pathological expressions such as passive-aggressive behavior (oftentimes getting back at people indirectly) or it may affect the personality by causing the person to become hostile and cynical.
Calming Your Anger:
Coping with anger appropriately may involve calming yourself down inside. This doesn’t involve just controlling your outward behavior, but also focusing on controlling your internal responses and consciously forcing yourself to relax. You then need to take steps to lower your heart rate, and let the angry feelings subside.
Coping with Anger: Conclusion
Finally, sometimes it may be necessary to get some counseling or additional assistance and learning specific techniques for coping with anger. Sometimes that may involve considering past hurtful experiences and resolving problems with others.
By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist