I was listening to a lecture for school the other day, and this man (a doctor) was speaking about how anger is the one emotion that isn't “acceptable”. When people act out of anger, we judge them. But, I believe, anger is an emotion we feel in response to other emotions. Sadness, shame, guilt, fear, hurt, worry, frustration, anxiety, and jealousy often lead to us acting in anger. I know that when I act out of anger, I am really acting out anger because I feel something else, but don’t know how to express it. When people act angry towards me, I try to remember this, knowing that they are probably feeling something else, but don’t know how to express it either. Or maybe they are afraid to express it. We often use anger as a defense mechanism. Maybe it’s instinctual because we feel fearful or other emotions, we use our anger to defend ourselves, to protect our egos.
"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured." - Mark Twain
Anger is defined as “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility”. It actually comes from an old Nordic word “Angr” which means “trouble” or “affliction”. Anger is a normal emotion, as long as you are aware of it. As long as you don’t allow it to turn its volume up, in a sense. Sometimes, we can use our anger to move forward, to make lasting change to things we feel are wrong, or to alleviate suffering. Anger can also teach us patience, and how to not let our anger get the best of us.
It is SO important for use to find healthy outlets for our anger. Suppressing our anger can allow it to leak out in ways we might later regret. I have definitely experienced this before. I suppressed my anger towards someone, leading to a HUGE buildup of anger and resentment over time, and then (you guessed it), I cracked. My anger turned to rage and aggression. I suffered the consequences, in more ways than one.
Anger is a “fight or flight” response related to the central nervous system, and it prepares us, instinctually, to fight. Not necessary with our fists though. Like I mentioned before, it can often motivate us to make necessary changes to “norms” or injustices by making changes to the law.
Now, according to Dr. Ephrem Fernandez, who is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, there are 6 dimensions of anger (how we express anger):
Direction of Anger (internal vs external)
The Locus of Anger (internalizing vs externalizing, or how much control we believe we have over our anger)
The Anger Reaction (resistance vs retaliation)
The Mode of Anger (verbal vs physical)
Anger impulsivity (controlled or uncontrolled)
The Objective of Anger (restorative or punitive (aka inflicting punishment))
I want to make it very clear that anger is an emotion, but aggression and violence are CHOICES. When you act aggressively or violently, you have chosen to respond to anger in that way.
"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." -Buddha
There are 10 different types of anger. The reason I want to discuss them is so that you can be aware of how anger shows itself, because sometimes it is not as obvious.
Here are the 10 different types of anger:
Passive Aggressive Anger: this is avoidant; avoiding confrontation; suppression or avoidance or denial of any kind of feelings, really; usually expressed in the form of sarcasm, intentional silence, mockery, or even procrastination.
How to manage: be more upfront with your actual feelings. If you don't know your feelings, take time to understand them. Communication is KEY.
Volatile/sudden Anger: it just comes out of nowhere. You are very easily upset about “perceived” problems. It usually involved very impulsive behavior, but this can be extremely destructive. People feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you, which can really affect your long term relationships and whether you are able to actually connect with others.
How to manage: Understand your triggers, and figure out ways to relax.
Assertive/deliberate Anger: A very constructive type of anger. You are able to use your feelings of anger to make positive change. This is a positive way of communicating your anger without disrespecting others or crossing boundaries.
Behavioral Anger:This is usually physical and aggressive or even violent. It is usually backed with the intention of intimidating someone.
How to manage: Take time to reflect on your anger and understand it more so that you can communicate your feelings. If you need to, remove yourself from the situation so that you don’t act in ways you will regret later or that might make things worse. Ground yourself with positive self talk. You have complete control over how you decide to react or respond.
Chronic Anger: This is an ongoing feeling and is usually connected to resentment towards others, problems with present situations, and/or a hatred towards yourself. This can have long term effects on your health and mental wellbeing.
How to manage: Understand your anger, see a therapist who specializes in anger, identify your resentments and why you feel that way, and maybe work on forgiving them or yourself. Learn how to communicate your anger in positive ways.
Overwhelmed Anger: This is uncontrolled anger when things feel out of your control. This usually happens when you haven't set clear boundaries with others, and you feel taken advantage of or unexpected events happen that just overwhelm our usual levels of stress. Your tank is empty
How to manage: learn to set healthy boundaries so you aren't taking too much on. Learn to fill your own cup so you don't feel so overwhelmed. Find a support system so that you have someone to talk to when things are hard. Find ways to remove things in your life that create unnecessary stress in your life.
Self-Abusive Anger: This is shame based anger. Feeling hopeless, guilt, shame, negative self talk, internalizing feelings, substance abuse, and self harm. Lashing out at others can consequently create more unintended isolation.
How to manage: Work on how you talk to yourself, and try to reframe situations or thought patterns and really question how valid they are. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) is extremely helpful when it comes to changing our thought patterns. Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga can really help.
Verbal Anger: Sure, this type of anger is less dangerous, but is considered psychologically and emotionally abusive with long term side effects. Lashing out in any way: yelling, shouting, criticisms, threats, sarcasm, or blaming. You will usually feel really regretful after.
How to manage: Really, really think about what you are doing to say before you say it. You can’t take words back, and an apology only means something if you change your actions. Just delay the impulse, even if that means leaving the situation to spend some time for reflection.
Judgmental Anger: This comes from believing you have been treated unfairly, and really stems from an entitled feeling of oneself. Sure, you are angry in your own little bubble, but what you end up doing is alienating people who might be on your side just because you think your opinion or perspective is “better”.
How to manage: Start to look at situations from all sides, to understand how someone might have a difference of opinion. Challenge your own beliefs. It is ok to not agree with everyone, but you still need to respect others enough to give them room to express their feelings and perspectives. You don't need to make others feel small so that you can feel big.
Retaliatory Anger: This is usually an instinctual response to anger because you are being confronted or attacked (whether perceived or are realistically being so). Usually a form of revenge for wrongdoing. You are asserting control over others, and trying to intimidate them.
How to manage: Again, just be mindful about your responses to anger. Take a step back and really self reflect to make sure your actions match your thoughts and feelings. They usually don't match when it comes to anger. Learn to communicate your anger in a positive way. This can usually continue in a cyclical way if you dont put an end to it.
Understanding your anger, really diving deep into where it is coming from can really help you to be more mindful about how you respond to your anger, instead of reacting. Responding is mindful, an approach from being aware of yourself, and allows for your anger to be received in a way others can understand. Reacting is impulsive and usually has a LOT of negative consequences.
How can we express our anger in positive ways?:
Address an issue immediately, rather than letting time pass.
Take a walk
Check your perspective and self talk
Express your frustration on constructive ways
Be compassionate towards yourself and others
Invite others to share their thoughts, feelings, and perspectives
Don’t point fingers (that never goes well)
Be very aware of your words
Do something creative with your anger (paint, draw, sing, dance)
Do something physical with your body (exercise, walk, run, dance)
Remain calm (breathe work helps)
Leave the situation until you are ready to talk calmly
Realize what is in your control and what is out of your control
Be aware of physical and emotional symptoms of your anger
Try to understand your anger
Identify your triggers
Use “I” statements when expressing your feelings
Remember you are not perfect
Please know, anger is normal. Please don't suppress your anger! There are lots of healthy ways of managing your anger without hurting others, and hurting yourself.
I hope that you found this helpful!
Thank you and be very, very well.