Anger is a normal feeling that everyone feels at some point. It is a basic part of our evolution that helps us survive difficult and threatening situations.
The feeling of anger is actually more than just a collection of thoughts. Physical changes occur in your body when you get angry, such as increased heart rate, muscle tightening and changes to blood flow.
Although anger can occur as part of a complex set of feelings and situations, it usually happens when we are faced with a situation that is ‘not right’. This could be something minor, like frustration from a vending machine that took your money, or it could be more serious, like deeper feelings coming to the surface due to trauma.
While the intensity and duration of anger can vary, in most cases it tends to be temporary. We tend to ‘get over’ the cause of frustration (or whatever was perceived as threatening) once it has passed.
In some cases, though, anger can be a regular or recurring feature in your life. If you find that anger is affecting your job, relationships, wellbeing or physical health — or in extreme cases, even leads to rages, violence or abuse — then it may be time to think about how you can keep things under control.
Do I get angry often?
As mentioned, anger is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. Anger can be a problem, however, if it starts to interfere in daily life. Consider whether you can relate to any of the following.
- You’ve been told that you’re an angry or passive-aggressive person.
- The same issues, things or people regularly make you upset or angry.
- ‘Letting go’ of frustrations or things that make you angry is difficult.
- You often lose it at people or small and trivial things set you off.
- You tend to verbally abuse or shout at people.
- You get so worked up that it takes a long time to cool off.
- Forgiveness is something you find hard to do.
- Day dreaming or fantasizing about getting back at people is a regular thing.
- Your family or people close to you are wary of your temper and are known to ‘walk on egg shells’ around you.
- You often feel remorse or guilt because of things you did or said after you got angry.
- Your anger causes you to punch walls, break things or self-harm.
- You’ve had to restrain yourself from ‘getting physical’ (pushing or man-handling) with people.
- Your anger or frustration has led you to physically threaten people.
- Your anger or frustration has led you to violence.
If anger is becoming a regular feature in your life, or if you find that the consequences of your anger are causing problems for you and the people closest to you, then it’s a good idea to talk it out with someone.
Talking about anger
The physical act of talking to someone about your stresses, worries and concerns is an effective way of understanding and ultimately dealing with negative feelings — including anger.
One way to do that is to discuss it with a professionally qualified person who is trained to help you understand what makes you angry, while also helping you figure out effective ways to deal with those thoughts and feelings in a way that can reduce the resulting problems.
The key to getting better at dealing with your anger lies in developing anger management techniques.
Do you know why you get angry?
One of the most important steps with managing anger begins with understanding why you get angry.
Very often, this can be due to feelings of frustration, annoyance or other negative feelings (even depression and anxiety) building up to such an extent that you feel unable to cope. They can start to feel overwhelming and consequently those negative (and often unresolved) feelings can ‘explode’ or ‘leak out’ as anger. If this occurs in a situation where those feelings are directed at someone close to you, it can affect your relationships
Anger doesn’t always have to be a direct result of frustration. It can also stem from strong feelings like fear, grief and loss, vulnerability, embarrassment, sadness or stress. If these negative feelings are allowed to build up, they could lead to feelings of anger. This can be true if someone has difficulty putting into words what they’re thinking, or is not accustomed to talking about their feelings.
Why talk to a counsellor?
A professional counsellor is trained to help you recognise and understand what’s on your mind. In doing so, a counsellor lets you find an effective way to deal with negative emotions that might otherwise affect your relationships, career and even your health.
There are many ways in which a counsellor can help.
One advantage of talking to a counsellor is that they are outside of your circle of family and friends. This means you can discuss things that you might not normally talk about.
Another advantage of talking to a counsellor is that they are trained to help you see things from a different perspective. This could take the form of simple tricks for improving communication. One common technique is to assert yourself in a conversation without resorting to aggression (countless arguments start because of simple miscommunication). Another technique is learning to ‘detect’ or preempt things or situations that make you angry (stress, alcohol, perceived disrespect, tiredness, etc.) and taking active steps to disengage before you get angry. Practicing ‘self-talk’ when you notice the signs of anger is another method.
The end game of talking it out is to become more self-aware and conscious of your angry feelings. The more you understand yourself, the more self-control you’ll have over your temper and mood. This, in turn, means you’ll better be able to control your anger and cope with frustration.
A CAREinMIND counsellor is a trained professional who will listen and work with you to develop anger management techniques that work for you. This allows you to deal with your frustration in a healthy way and, ultimately, help you feel better.
Concerned? Talk to a professional counsellor on 1300 096 269. It’s free to people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Want to know where else you can get help? Find out how to access additional community support.
The CAREinMIND blog is delivered by On the Line. The views in each post do not necessarily reflect those of North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network.