Everybody gets angry. But do you control your anger or does your anger control you? Dealing with anger the right way can make all the difference. It is the emotion that affects us physically more than any other. And different levels of anger produce different effects on our physical and mental health. From high blood pressure to migraine headaches to strokes, heart disease, depression and more, unhealthy anger can rob you of your health and well-being.
The good news is you can learn to harness this powerful emotion! iSpecialist Dr. Gary Oliver offers a fascinating look at how anger impacts our bodies and what we can do to minimize its adverse effects.
Step 1: Be aware of it.
If you had met Greg, you would not have considered him to be an angry person. He rarely appears to be angry. One of the many myths regarding anger is that if a person doesn’t look or appear on the outside to be angry, then they don’t have a problem with anger. They are clearly not an angry person. While Greg does not appear to be an angry person on the outside, he can be like a battlefield on the inside. When he feels misunderstood by Karen, or when she contradicts him in public, his anger is right there. How often are you aware of being angry? What situations do you encounter that might make you more vulnerable to anger? How does your body respond to anger? What are your physical manifestations of anger?
Step 2: Accept responsibility for it.
Someone has said that one of the major effects of sin is seen in our tendency to blame someone else for our problems. When God confronted Eve in the garden and asked her what happened, she blamed the serpent. When God confronted Adam he first blamed Eve and then he blamed God. When we are angry it is easy for us to blame someone else, to say “It’s your fault, you made me angry.” This is ESPECIALLY true in marriage. While it’s true that other people can say or do things that cause hurt or frustration, we are responsible for how we choose to respond. If we are angry, it is our anger.
Step 3: Determine at the outset who or what is going to have control.
This is a critical step. When we become aware that we are angry, we are faced with a choice. We can either allow the emotion of anger to dominate and control us or we can choose to control the anger and invest the anger-energy in a healthy way. While we can’t always control when we experience anger, we can choose how we express the anger.
Step 4: Define it! Identify the source and cause of it.
While there are almost limitless situations that can lead to anger, most causes of anger can come under three major categories: hurt, frustration, and fear.
Hurt is usually caused by something that has already happened… something in the past. When we are hurt, we feel vulnerable and open to more hurt. This is especially true of people who are very sensitive. For many people, anger is an automatic defense mechanism to protect against hurt. The unhealthy expression of anger produces distance between individuals, and many feel safer with that distance.
Frustration is an emotion that takes place in the present. We can become frustrated by blocked goals or desires, or by unmet expectations. Frequently, the things that lead to the greatest frustrations have one main characteristic… they really aren’t that important.
Fear is an emotion that tends to focus on things in the future. Many people associate fear with vulnerability and weakness. Some people, especially men, find it more comfortable to express anger than fear and so many respond to situations in which they are anxious or afraid by getting angry.
Step 5: Choose your response.
There are many ways to deal with anger. Some of the destructive ways to deal with anger are to stuff, deny, suppress or repress. One of the most destructive ways of dealing with anger is to ventilate it or dump it on someone else. The problem is that for most of us, the more we talk about it, the more worked up we get. Ventilating the anger tends to increase rather than decrease it. When you are angry, one of the first steps is to start by asking yourself the question, “Is this really that important?” If it isn’t, then simply let it pass. If it is important, then ask yourself, “How can I express my anger in a way that will enhance the probability of resolution?”
Tell us! How do you think the way you handle anger is influencing your kids?