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Diahanne Rhiney's picture
Diahanne Rhiney
Does your anger control you?

ANGER IS one of our most basic human emotions originally associated to our survival, allowing us to fight and defend ourselves.

It is a perfectly natural response to certain life experiences, and usually occurs at times when we feel threatened, under attack, feel deceived, insulted or frustrated.

This strong emotional state varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage, and is often accompanied by physiological and biological changes such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure, as well as increased levels of energy hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline.

A leading cause of anger is a person’s environment. Stress, financial issues, abuse and poor social situations, as well as overwhelming demands on our time can all contribute to the formation of anger. This means anger can be expressed due to us being in a traffic jam or angry with a specific person. Likewise, our anger could be caused by worry or stress over personal problems. Similarly, memories of a traumatic event can also trigger angry feelings. On a positive note, anger can make us feel strong and powerful, which can motivate us to stand up for what we believe is right. This can be seen throughout history with revolutions such as the civil rights and feminist movements that benefited from anger, which caused people to act and stand up for what they believed in.

The instinctive way to express anger is to respond aggressively. However, the problem with this is that we can't simply physically lash out at every person or event that irritates or annoys us. Laws, social norms and common sense place limits on how we should respond. Often, anger problems are due to poor management of our emotions. When we express anger, we use a variety of unconscious and conscious processes to deal with our feelings. How we control these processes is what determines whether or not our anger is unhealthy or healthy. When we express our anger assertively - in a non-aggressive, but constructive manner, our responses are more positive and are unlikely to hurt others.

If our anger is not expressed in this way, it is more than likely being expressed in unhealthy forms that will almost always have negative repercussions. Often we suppress, convert and redirect our anger but this can negatively affect our health and well being, leading to high blood pressure or even depression. In the longer term, unexpressed anger can have devastating consequences where the extent of our anger could lead to other types of behaviour such as responding in a passive aggressive way or even with physical violence. People experiencing passive anger get back at others indirectly without confronting them head on. They may not even recognise when they are angry as emotions may be displayed as sarcasm, apathy or meanness. In these cases, it is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger. Instead of communicating honestly when angry, feelings are bottled up, there is less communication, angry looks given and behaviour can become obstructive. A passive aggressive might not always show that they are angry or resentful. They may appear in agreement, polite, friendly, down-to-earth, kind and well meaning. However, underneath there may be manipulation, hence the term "Passive-Aggressive".

Fundamentally, anger becomes a problem when it becomes harmful to us and those around us. If you are bottling it up, or expelling it at inappropriate times and in unsafe ways, you are risking damage not only to your health and well-being, but also to your relationships and other aspects of your daily life. Therefore, the goal, arguably, is not to eliminate anger but to control it; not to suppress it but to create value with it.

How, then can anger be properly managed?

Learn to think before you speak

We all say things in the heat of the moment, so take a moment to collect your thoughts before saying anything. This also allows the other person time to do the same.

Once you’re calm, express your anger

As soon as you're thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.


We all know exercise reduces stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel anger escalating, go for a walk or run or some other activity you enjoy doing.

Find solutions

Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand.

Don’t hold grudges

Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you’ll end up bitter.

Use humour

Lightening up can help diffuse tension and will help you face what's making you angry. However, avoid sarcasm as it can hurt feelings and make things worse.


Learn relaxation skills and put them to work when tempers flare. Write in a journal or listen to music to encourage relaxation.

Seek help

If your anger leads to destructive or violent behaviour, then anger management therapy could help. It is designed to reduce the feelings and arousal anger creates by allowing individuals to explore the underlying issues and triggers of angry responses. By recognising and accepting anger issues, you can begin to understand how to use anger in a healthy and safe manner to cope with challenges or grievances. You will then be able to identify frustrations and triggers, so they can be resolved in a way that allows you to express your needs while remaining calm and in control.

Generally speaking we are angrier than we used to be. We are experiencing so many types of rage on a daily basis. We are more demanding and our lives run at such a frantic pace.

All of this means our expectations and stress levels are high whilst our tolerance levels are dramatically reduced, so it is easier for us to get angry, often over trivial matters. That’s why it’s important to learn how to deal more calmly with things when they go wrong. Lowering our general stress levels will also mean that we are able to tolerate everyday disappointments better rather than fly off the handle at relatively minor frustrations.

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