What To Do When You Feel Angry
Nobody enjoys feeling angry. There’s a feeling of hurt, of being disrespected and misunderstood in a way we can’t understand. Anger can cause stress, agitation and discontent, and even physical pain and exhaustion, if you let it get the best of you. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you need help managing and moving on from anger.
Accept Your Anger
So many of us are conditioned to feel that anger is an entirely unhealthy emotion, and then try to suppress or hide the anger we feel out of guilt. In truth, anger is nothing to feel ashamed of, nor is it a sign of a weak character. Anger is a natural response to protect and defend ourselves against emotional pain due to perceived injustice, thoughtlessness, or malicious behavior. Bottling up or hiding your feelings can lead to explosive, damaging emotional responses, while allowing yourself to feel and acknowledge your anger will help you to understand and deal with it in a healthy and productive way.
Understand the Source
The first step to dealing with anger is to understand what you’re angry about. Now, this may sound silly: shouldn’t it be obvious as to what made you angry? Not necessarily. Think about it: have you ever felt enraged by slow traffic on your drive home when you were really upset about something your boss said just before you left work? Or have you lashed out at something fairly innocuous that your partner said over dinner because of resentment you still felt from an unresolved argument the day before?
Take a moment to look inside yourself, reflect upon your feelings, and give yourself an honest answer as to what truly upset you. When your energy is misguided towards the wrong source, you can’t begin to resolve the situation that has caused you pain.
Find a Healthy Outlet
Nature has given us a mechanism to protect ourselves in situations that we aren’t able to immediately handle in a rational, thoughtful way: it boils our choices down to “fight” or “flight”. In the case of anger, it’s our “fight” response kicking in, giving us a rush of adrenaline and increased aggression. Of course, one option is to direct these feelings towards those who we feel are responsible; however, this will often lead to overblown knee-jerk reactions, damaged relationships, and the unnecessary and unproductive infliction of even more pain on ourselves and those we love.
Instead, find a different focus to channel your anger and aggression towards. For some, it writing feelings in a journal will serve as a wonderful emotional release. Some find that meditation frees them from anger. Others may find that going for a run or hitting the gym will help them let their aggression go. Whatever works for you, find a way to take out your feelings without causing emotional destruction to yourself or others.
Shift Your Perspective
“How could they do that to me?” When you feel angry, it’s common to need to come to grips with why you were treated the way you were. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, and consider all the factors that might have affected and influenced them. Are they struggling with something in their personal lives that is leaving them stressed and on-edge? Are they working with a framework of morals and values that is at odds with yours? Or perhaps they had the best intentions, and didn’t even realize that what they said was hurtful to you.
When you begin to understand why someone acted the way they did, you can understand their intentions. Decide whether discussing the situation with the person who hurt you would be productive or harmful; a reoccurring fight with a spouse or partner, for instance, may benefit from discussion. If you decide to take this path, do so only after you’ve had time to reflect, cool down, and considered their perspective.
Forgive Those Responsible
Once you’ve had time to reflect, cool off, and view the situation from other perspectives, it’s time to let the wound heal. Learn to forgive the person who angered you. Though forgiveness can at times be difficult, holding on to anger and resentment is unproductive and ultimately toxic to our happiness and emotional well-being.
Anger can be a tool of understanding and emotional growth. It can help us understand ourselves and learn how to become in control of our own emotions – but only if it’s dealt with in a healthy, productive way.
How do you deal with anger? Tell us in the comments.