Harnessing The Rage: The Art of Anger Management

I think we would all agree that anger management is very important, especially if you are a naturally irascible person. Anger is a normal human emotion, something that we all experience from time to time. It’s normal, but as we all know it can be extremely destructive and frightening, so it is important to know how to handle it. It doesn’t always have to be a negative emotion or situation – used and channelled in the right way, it can give you the fuel you need to get something done, solve a problem, make a change. The main thing is that you learn to get in touch with your anger, understand where it comes from, and control it so that it doesn’t control you. Out-of-control anger is one of the most violent, destructive and pain-inducing forces on earth.

I speak from personal experience, as I grew up in a household filled with the violence of uncontrolled anger, so I know first-hand exactly what kind of havoc it can wreak. The aggressive, dominant alpha males in my family who exhibited this type of behaviour clearly thought: “Better out than in!” They thought that by expressing their anger very openly in the form of shouting and verbal aggression, and quite often physical violence, that they were getting it out of their systems in a cathartic way. What they didn’t realize (and what it also took me a long time to realize) was that actually the more you give in to your anger, by shouting, physical violence, etc, the more angry you get! It seems to feed off itself, in a continuous loop. The more you express it the more the stress hormones are activated, thus keeping you feeling angry and edgy. It’s not the case that if you don’t express it somehow you will explode, not at all! Quite the reverse – actually, if you don’t give in to anger, it eventually dies down and disappears of its own accord, and you calm down. It appears that the initial triggering effect for the ire only has a limited duration in time, and if you ignore it, eventually you stop feeling angry (unless something happens to trigger you again). It’s like a fire being started, with a limited amount of fuel – eventually the fire will die down and go out, unless more fuel is added to it.

It is vital to remember this, the precise mechanism of an angry temperamental episode. When you start to feel triggered by something, just remember that this phase doesn’t last long, and if you ignore it, or react to it very little, it will pass and you will feel calm again. That old trick of taking a few deep breaths and counting to ten really does work, as it helps to slow down the reaction, to the point where you start calming down, so it is a trick I often use, when I feel myself getting riled over something! I naturally have a very short fuse (an inherited family trait, although my temper is nothing compared to certain other people’s I could mention), which is why I have had to consciously find ways of lengthening it. In some cases you may need to express the anger, but take a few deep breaths first, and then just try saying calmly: ” I feel angry about this.” Alternatively,  if you don’t say it to someone else, it is sometimes enough to acknowledge it to yourself – verbalising it, even in thought, can prevent you acting it out.

In point of fact, although the above techniques do work, what works even better is the realization that being angry really doesn’t achieve anything at all, it usually just has negative consequences. Instead of dwelling on the anger, I try to find a solution to the problem, the situation I am upset about, or I practice trying to accept it, if it is something i can’t change. Meditation helps a lot with that.

I once read this gem of advice in a self-help book: “The less you react to it, the quicker it passes you by.” I have discovered for myself how absolutely true that is. When you react as little as possible to the triggers that make you angry and upset, instead just practice letting them go, you find you have a much calmer and more peaceable life.

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