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Is Anger Controlling You?

Anger is a normal human emotion that when managed properly does not pose a problem. Everyone gets angry and mild anger can be useful at times in order to express strong feelings and when dealing with certain situations. Anger that is used in harmful ways or as an excuse to be abusive towards others can affect the overall quality of your life and lead to problems in relationships at home and at work. This violent and abusive type of behaviour gives someone power and control over another person usually through creating fear. Anger is often associated with frustration over things that don’t happen the way we want them to or because of people not behaving in a manner we think they should. Usually anger is linked with another underlying negative emotion such as feeling hurt, fearful, disappointed, worried, embarrassed or frustrated. Anger is usually not a good solution to solve problems even if it seems helpful short term. Poor anger management creates issues for yourself and those around you and is likely to impact your life in a negative manner. Anger is often the result of an underlying issue and people with un-managed anger can also experience anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and problems with addictions. Anger affects our brain and our body and not in a positive manner. When angry, the stress hormones, cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released into your system. Elevated cortisol in your brain causes neurons to accept too much calcium and a calcium overload can make cells fire too frequently and die in the pre-frontal cortex which is your 'thinking' part of your brain. It prevents you from using your best judgements, thinking rationally and making good decisions. The elevated cortisol in the hippocampus also causes neurons to die here and the results of this can weaken short term memory and prevent you from being able to verbalise what you want to say when in an argument. Too much cortisol decreases serotonin and that is the all important happy hormone which can result in causing you to feel more angry, increase aggressive behaviour and lead to depression. When the symptoms of anger are chronic and you are experiencing high blood pressure, racing heart rate, headaches, lowered immune system, these can lead to blood vessels becoming clogged and damaged which can lead to more serious conditions like heart attacks and strokes.

The sooner you can get anger under control, the better the impact will be on your life and those lives you touch on a daily basis. Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Recognise what your early warning signs are when you are starting to become angry. Often you will feel the onset in physical sensations and this should be your first warning.

  2. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, take a time out and come back to the situation later when you are in a calmer state.

  3. Work out what is the actual source of your anger? Is it that 'final straw which broke the camels back' or was it actually the fact that you are exhausted from a lack of sleep the night before which is the cause.

  4. When you have identified the actual cause ask yourself if your expectations of the situation are realistic? Is your reaction unfair from the other persons perspective? Is there another way of looking at the situation? Are you being triggered by something or someone from your past?

  5. What are you hoping to achieve by being angry? What are the costs and benefits to your anger in this situation? Is there a better way of dealing with the situation?

  6. If your feelings are justified then give yourself permission to feel angry and assert your feelings in a controlled way.

  7. Take responsibility for your anger and for finding a way to reduce it.

There is nothing wrong with feeling angry but being able to communicate that anger in a constructive and effective manner is essential.

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