By Anna Honeysett
I started thinking about anger in more depth after writing and facilitating 5 weeks of anger management sessions. The people that attended the course were not stereotypically ‘angry’ people, in fact, quite the opposite. The group (all women) were all very pleasant, lovely, kind-hearted ladies- so what were they doing on my course?
It got me thinking about perceptions and how people experience their anger. Often as children we are taught that anger is bad or naughty so we didn’t learn how to feel it and express it properly.
What is the point of anger?
Anger is a warning sign or a boundary that tells us when things are not ‘OK’ or when people have overstepped our boundaries. Feeling angry is a perfectly normal emotion and response to have. The problem then lies not in the emotion, but in the way it is expressed.
What do you do with your anger?
Do you avoid and ignore it? Do you hold onto it until you explode? Do you shout, scream, throw things or hurt people? Perhaps you drink and eat so that you don’t have to feel it at all. All these methods leave people feeling bad and often guilty about the way they have behaved.
I have learnt over the years that the biggest key is communication. Often, we become angry about what someone has said or done and we don’t actually address the issues with that person or situation.
Often, we are angry about things in the past and maybe we can’t address it directly so we hold onto resentment. But whatever we are angry about holding onto it only promotes bitterness and depression.
Here are my top tips on how to manage your anger better:
1. Learn to recognize when you are angry. Look for physical signs such as moaning, clenched jaw, swearing unnecessarily, feeling hot or tense. we each feel anger differently so become aware of your own warning signs.
2. Spend time understanding what you are angry about. This may be through self-reflection or by talking your feelings through with someone.
3. Do something physical to release some of the tension. Anger is a very physically charged emotion so it may be that you need to do something active to burn off the energy before you go back and address the people in a calm and adult way.
4. Address the person when you are calm and feeling like an adult. Be assertive and ask for what you need rather than telling them. Remember that people are not mind readers and do not know how you feel unless you explain it to them.
5. If your anger reaches a dangerous level, seek professional help and take responsibility for your own feelings so you don’t keep repeating the harmful pattern.
6. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself you are doing the best you can.
You may also be interested in reading our article: “Knock out your inner critic for good.”
Anna Honeysett is a person-centered therapist working in Ashford Kent and via Skype world wide. She has written a book for other therapists hoping to set up a private practice called ‘How to set up a successful counseling practice.’ For more information about Anna’s services please see her website.