Everyone gets angry, but not everyone knows how to manage it. The ability to process our emotional states, to know where they are coming from, what they mean and then take the appropriate action is the key to managing anger. It is not that we get angry it is how we get angry that is important.
Anger is considered to be an emotional response to a threat or attack on our sense of well being. It is a negative constellation of emotional states. Anger is considered to be a secondary emotion that is stimulated by primary emotional states. These emotional states may be: hurt feelings, emotional pain, shame, guilt, or sadness. Anger is our own activity; it is our subjective response to reality. To learn new methods of being angry we have to learn how to calm down and then learn how to express our anger from the perspective of what is hurting us or what we need that is not being met.
Our anger style is determined by our attitudes toward life. When our expectations toward life are not met we may become angry. For example if we believe that life should be fair and then we are in a situation which is not, we will respond with anger. Attitudes are a carry over from childhood where we learn or don’t learn how to interact appropriately with the way life is. Attitudes towards life and others must be consistent with reality to relieve anger. Anger is the result of our expectations from life that have not been met. The ability to develop realistic expectations for oneself and others will help to eliminate anger problems.
Anger is always consistent with a person’s self image. Self contempt, inadequacy, worthless, powerless and helpless self images cause anger when these emotional wounds are stimulated. Self respect and a positive self image are critically important in managing anger. People without self respect or a positive self image cannot tolerate conflict or absorb criticism from others.
Self respect is the ability to see oneself as a worthwhile human being who has inconsistencies, inadequacies, foibles and faults just like everyone else. Self respect allows us to operate from a position of strength. The ability to resolve conflict, negotiate or collaborate is based on self respect.
The Inability to be responsible for Anger
Most anger is directed toward others and involves blame. People who experience anger problems do not take responsibility for their anger and refuse to see where they are wrong. This person refuses to be wrong or be at fault for being angry. The inability to be wrong or take responsibility for our anger may be a defense against humiliation, shame from feeling inadequate, stupid, worthless, or weak. The inability to be wrong is consistent with wrong attitudes about life and must be made consistent if anger is to be resolved. Every time we make being right more important than the relationship the relationship suffers. The inability to accept responsibility for being wrong or our own anger, it blocks our ability to resolve anger and conflict. If our attitude about conflict is that we are right and justified then we will never be able to have an intimate relationship that lasts. Our ability to take responsibility for our own anger and where it comes from and our willingness to apologize if necessary is the cornerstone of all healthy relationships.
Being the Victim
Anger is often based on feelings like we are the victim and the other one is bad dynamic. We feel that we are entitled to be angry because we are the victim. Someone has done us wrong and they must be punished. First and foremost we must understand and accept that our anger belongs exclusively to us. It is our subjective response to another person and someone else in the same situation could or would respond differently. Learning to calm down, think about what is bothering us and to communicate that pain or frustration in a calm manner will most often lead to an effective resolution.
Self talk – Diffusing anger through talking oneself through an angry situation by utilizing tolerance, compassion, understanding, and empathy, enables us to stop the anger. Stopping, taking a time out to listen to the inner process allows us to calm down. Once we can stop before expressing anger and think about what is causing it then we can better understand where it is that we are being stimulated to become angry.
The ability to understand that we all have imperfections, faults, inconsistencies and foibles helps to diffuse anger. We cannot work out of a model of an ideal relationship or an ideal mate or self and not become angry. The ability to see into the roots of our own anger in relation to our feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness, worthlessness or pain, sadness and guilt is the key to diffusing anger. Working with others to resolve anger involves, self talk, taking a time out to calm down, considering the deeper issues that are being stimulated, and learning to talk about our reactions while working out solutions.
Empathy is the ability to see into the other person from their point of view. It is a leap of compassion or vicarious introspection into the mind and feelings of the other. Empathy can be either emotional or intellectual and works best when it is both. The point where resolution begins is from our ability to grasp the experience of the other. Knowing how and where our own feelings are being stimulated is the secondary process of empathy.
Angry states can occur when we are unable to distinguish between aggression and other states of being because we interpret a behavior as aggressive when it is may not be. The difficulty in seeing the actions of others as non aggressive is an important quality in anger management. Be sure to always check out our assumptions before we react.
Alternatives to Anger
It is supremely important to develop alternatives to anger when faced with it. Most people who have trouble with anger have been unable to develop choices as to how they want to express their angry feelings. For example if someone cannot express hurt feelings and instead becomes angry whenever they are hurt has not found alternate means for expressing anger.
Four Basic Emotion Needs
The fundamental understanding of where anger comes from must include an acceptance that we have basic needs and if they are not met we become angry. If we come to terms with our basic emotional needs and work out a need satisfying relationship then we are in the process of rooting out the source of our anger before it becomes a problem.
- The need for safety and security. Whenever our sense of security is threatened, it frightens us and we respond with anger. Good anger management requires that we create safety and security through conversation, working out roles and values to engender trust.
- The need for a certain amount of power over our environment. Anger is a kind of power. So, when we do not feel we have enough power in our environment we may act out with anger as a means of compensating for the lack of it. The antidote to this difficulty is cooperation and team work.
- The experience of a sense of identity. Our identity is a center around which we organize our life. Anger emerges when we feel that our sense of identity is threatened or nonexistent. We need is to find appropriate methods to protect and promote our individuality.
- Fundamental need to belong. The lack of a sense of connectedness to others, isolation and feelings of abandonment can create anger. Anger is often an attempt to bond, to fuse through conflict. We need to find alternatives to anger. Learning to solve problems by communicating without criticism, developing intimacy through active listening allows for other methods of belonging to emerge.
Personal empowerment, self knowledge, self talk, learning to calm oneself down in the face of anger are the important challenges of anger management. Anger is always self destructive, counter productive and self defeating. The more one can relieve anger and self criticism through developing realistic attitudes about life and learn about good relationship skills that aim at satisfying basic needs for security the better we will be able to manage our anger.
Practice taking time outs to consider where your anger is coming from, then think about what is happening with the other person and what can be done to alleviate the pain, then you are ready to talk.
Please feel free contact Dr Bill Cloke today with any questions