While anger is generally perceived quite negatively in our society, it is in fact one of the six basic emotions recognised among human beings, and is seen in various forms in the rest of the animal world. Humans, like animals, use anger or aggression for a variety of underlying reasons —to assert power, mark territory, show domination, intimidate competition, as a scare tactic or even indirectly to impress potential mates. In the contemporary context, these underlying reasons manifest in different unhealthy ways in different situations – shouting, threatening, abusive, violent or aggressive behaviour. It is usually expressed as a sign of one’s dissatisfaction with a particular person or situation or as an outlet to vent one’s feelings.
Anger has a lot to do with control. In one sense, anger generally involves a display of control over others – intentional or unintentional, overt or subliminal – but its inappropriate expression also shows a lack of control over oneself. In addition, the experience of it generally indicates a sense of disharmony within oneself. But the truth of the matter is that anger is a natural emotion that is in fact not necessary to eradicate or even curb – the important thing is not to refrain from being angry, but to be able to express it appropriately and manage it effectively.
There are innumerable anger management techniques from various sources that can be employed, but here are a few things to keep in mind in order to first understand and subsequently better manage your anger:
Understand your pattern. Everybody has their own patterns in joy, in sorrow and in anger that we keep repeating – even if they are sometimes dysfunctional – because they are familiar and sometimes all we know how to do. Counting slowly from 1 to 5 when you are angry may be an often recommended anger management technique, but it does little to actually deal with the anger itself. Understanding what happens every time you become angry and how you react to it, is the first step to assess whether it needs to be modified.
Find your triggers. There will be some things that don’t affect you at all, but others that affect you immensely. Identify what makes you angry. Start with concrete examples of situations where you can feel yourself becoming angry and then question yourself – what is it about the situation that is so maddening that you can’t stand it? Is your anger triggered when you find someone ignoring you? Paying you too much attention? Interfering in your work? Speaking too much? Speaking too little? Or is it a particular tone of voice?
Learn how to communicate better. Angry outbursts and violent behavior can sometimes, in some way or another, be connected to ineffective communication. If you are generally submissive and tend to bottle up your feelings until they accumulate, you may, after a period of time experience an outburst of anger. This could mean you need to learn how to be more assertive and expressive about your feelings in general.
Show respect. When you are experiencing anger, your feelings take primacy over everything and everybody else. In your moment of wrath, it may seem easy or justifiable to disregard others and end up in a situation where you disrespect them through inconsiderate words or actions. It is important to remember that no matter how angry you are, and no matter how much you think another party deserves it, there is a place, a time and a manner to do it. There is a healthy way to show anger, and disrespect is not part of it.
Anger management becomes an extremely important skill to develop especially when you take a moment to think about the nature of anger itself: it has a way of affecting you much more than the person it is directed towards. You may think that you are hurting someone with your anger, or teaching them a lesson, but the nature of destructive anger is that it corrodes and consumes you. What you disturb in anger is your own peace of mind, and the one person you truly end up hurting is yourself.
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