by Nick Wignall: This is a practical guide to dealing with anger issues in a way that’s both effective and healthy…
I’m going to walk you through 10 practical strategies for addressing your anger issues that will get you to the root of the problem rather than just masking them. These are the same techniques I use in my professional work as a therapist and psychologist.
If you can learn to incorporate even a few of these concepts and techniques into your life, you’ll feel less controlled by your anger and more confident that you can handle any situation where anger arises.
As a psychologist, I work with clients all the time to create healthier habits and tools to deal with their anger issues. Here are 10 of my favorite techniques and ideas that will help you build a better relationship with your anger.
1. Anticipate your anger triggers.
Surprise usually intensifies anger.
Suppose someone—a coworker, let’s say—sends you a not-so-nice email criticizing a recent presentation you did. Most people would probably feel at least a bit defensive and angry as a result.
But now, suppose another coworker, who also happens to be your best friend at work, criticizes your presentation… Chances are you’ll feel even more hurt and angry because it was such a shock and surprise.
Of course, we can’t always anticipate the things that are going to trigger an anger response in us. But a surprising amount of the time we can. Which is another way of saying, our patterns of anger are actually pretty predictable.
If you’re often angry, it’s likely the same handful of people or situations that trigger most of your anger. And while this probably makes sense on a general level, I’d also bet you haven’t taken the time to map out in detail your anger triggers.
Here’s how to get started mapping out the landscape of your anger triggers:
- Spend a few days or a week tracking your anger. Make a notes file in your phone called anger or something memorable.
- Any time you find yourself getting angry, briefly jot down a few pieces of information (The 4 Ws):
- Who was involved?
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
- Where did it happen?
- After a week or so of taking notes, review your findings. Are there any themes or patterns that emerge? Do you tend to get most angry at work, for example? Maybe specifically, it’s anytime you have a meeting at work? Or maybe most of your anger happens in interactions with your spouse.
Once you’ve mapped out the lay of the land for your anger triggers, you’ll be able to anticipate anger coming. And if you can anticipate your anger, and not be caught off guard by it, chances are it will feel less intense and you’ll be more prepared to handle it effectively.
2. Distinguish anger from aggression.
When you feel angry, it’s essential that you remind yourself that anger is different than aggression.
Anger is a normal emotion we all feel when we believe we or someone we care about has been wronged in some way. In other words, it’s the emotion attached to injustice and unfairness.
And like any other emotion, it’s not something we can control directly—you can’t “turn down” your anger any more than you can simply “turn up” your happiness.
But anger almost always comes along with the desire for aggression. Aggression is when you act on your anger. While anger is a feeling and emotion, aggression is a decision and a behavior. For example:
- You feel angry that your spouse made a sarcastic comment about your wardrobe choice for the evening (anger), so you snap back with a sarcastic comment of your own (aggression).
- You feel angry that the guy in front of you is going 35 miles per hour in a 55 zone (anger), so you punch the gas, pass him, and give him a mean stare as you go by (aggression).
It’s important to learn to distinguish anger from aggression because aggression is the only thing under your control. You can’t actually do anything about your anger, but you can control your aggression. And one of the best ways to deal with anger issues is actually to get better at managing your aggression issues.
Turns out, the old folk idea that you need to express your anger and “let it out” in order to alleviate it is completely false. In fact, decades of good research has shown that venting and “releasing” your anger in the form of aggression (even non-harmful aggression) actually intensifies your anger.
Instead, one of the most helpful ways to effectively deal with your anger issues is to get better at identifying and controlling your aggression.
Now, aggression sometimes takes the form of physical behaviors—punching someone, slamming the door, etc. But just as frequently it takes other less obvious forms:
- Aggressive speech. We can be aggressive in the way we talk to others. It’s important to get a handle on our default patterns of speech in angry situations because lashing out typically only fuels our anger (and makes the conflict worse).
- Aggressive thinking. The most subtle—but in some ways the most powerful—form of aggression is our own thoughts. Specifically, our automatic thought habits that come up any time we’re angry, which usually take the form of negative self-talk. The stories we tell ourselves in our head about what happened and why we’re angry.
We’ll talk more later on about how to actually control aggressive speech and thinking patterns, but initially, it’s important to simply increase your awareness of your tendency to be aggressive more generally. And to separate that aggression from the emotion of anger.
3. Validate your anger.
To validate means to acknowledge that something is valid—that it makes sense and is understandable, evening if undesirable.
For example: Imagine a friend calls you in tears because they just got fired from their job and they’re scared about not being able to get by financially. They recount everything that’s happened and how upset they are. Now, how do you respond?
Chances are, the first thing you’re going to do is some form of validation. You’ll say something like:
- Oh my God, Sarah, I’m so sorry.
- That’s awful. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you.
- I’m so sorry. Do you want me to come over so we can talk in person?
In this case, validation simply means that you’re acknowledging your friend’s suffering. Importantly, it doesn’t mean that you’re discounting what they’re going through or giving advice and telling them what they should do or why this happened to them.
You probably wouldn’t have many friends if your reaction to this was to say:
- Oh, it’s not a big deal. People get fired all the time. You’ll be fine.
- I don’t understand why you’re so worked up… I got fired last year and held it together just fine.
- Here’s what you need to do: Buck up, re-do your resume, and start calling contacts to see if anyone knows of any job availabilities.
See the difference?
When someone’s having a hard time and struggling, it’s important—at least initially—to validate their difficulty and pain. This lets them know that you care, that they’re not alone, and that—even though what they’re feeling is painful—it doesn’t mean they’re broken or something’s wrong with them for feeling that way.
I give these examples because most people who struggle with anger issues are pretty good at being validating of other people’s struggles, but are actually quite invalidating of their own emotional struggles, including anger issues.
People with anger issues are often hard on themselves for feeling angry. They think it’s a sign of weakness or moral failing that they get angry. They compare themselves to other people who seem to be able to “keep their cool” no matter what happens. They criticize themselves for not being able to control their feeling better.
Unfortunately, all this self-criticism about their anger only piles more negativity on. Now, in addition to feeling angry, they feel ashamed for feeling angry. Or anxious about feeling angry. Or lonely because they’re angry. Or any other number of other difficult emotions.
Then, because they’ve built up so much negative feeling, they feel compelled to do something to feel better. And often this takes the form of being either more critical of themselves or critical of other people. Because when we put others down, we necessarily raise ourselves up in comparison. And while this temporarily alleviates some pain, in the long-run it only makes things worse.
So, no matter what your relationship with anger, it’s always best to validate it as soon as you first notice yourself becoming angry. And usually, the best way to validate your anger is with some brief but compassionate self-talk:
- I don’t like the fact that this little thing just made me angry, but it makes sense given how stressed I’ve been lately. Any other time it probably wouldn’t have bothered me much.
- I feel myself getting angry. I know that I can’t control what triggers my anger—my feelings are what they are—but I can control what I do. I can decide what’s in my best interest long-term in terms of how I think and behave now.
- Getting angry is kind of scary. I’m always worried that I’ll really lose it like I did that one time in college and really hurt somebody. But I know that just because I feel angry doesn’t mean I have to act on it.
Validating your anger simply means taking a second to acknowledge that you’re feeling angry and gently remind yourself that it’s okay to feel angry.
You’re not responsible for what emotions get triggered in you any more than you’re responsible for how stuffy your nose is. You’re only responsible for actions—for what you choose to do with your anger.
4. Learn to see the quieter emotions behind your anger.
Most of the time, when we’re in the middle of a strong emotional reaction it feels like we’re experiencing one big emotion:
- When a car cuts you off on the freeway and almost hits you, fear or terror dominates.
- When you learn that a close family member has passed away, sadness dominates.
- When your manager makes a sarcastic comment about your idea at the meeting, anger dominates.
But here’s the thing: We almost never experience just one emotion at a time. Usually, in any emotionally charged situation, there are at least a handful of emotions happening all at once.
Of course, there’s usually one dominant or primary emotion. But “behind” that one big emotion, there are typically a handful of smaller emotions.
- When a car cuts you off on the freeway and almost hits you, fear or terror dominates. But you also feel a bit of relief that you didn’t get hit, and more than a twinge of anger that the other driver would be so reckless.
- When you learn that a close family member has passed away, sadness dominates. But you also feel some guilt that you hadn’t talked to that person in a while, and maybe some regret as well.
- When your manager makes a sarcastic comment about your idea at the meeting, anger dominates. But you also feel embarrassed because they called you out in front of your co-workers. Plus, there’s some fear there too since you’re worried that maybe their criticism was actually true and that your idea wasn’t a good one.
The point is, no matter how angry you are, there’s usually some other emotions happening at the same time. And it’s almost always a good idea to explore those other emotions rather than allowing the anger to dominate the whole of your emotional landscape.
For one thing, shifting your focus and attention off the anger and on to another emotion diffuses and lessens the intensity of the anger itself. And sometimes, just a small decrease in how angry you feel makes the difference between acting on your anger and aggressing or inhibiting your anger and addressing the situation in a more constructive way.
But here’s the bigger reason you should learn to look for the quieter emotions behind your anger: Often anger is a defense mechanism to distract us from other emotions.
There are many, many examples of this:
- Road rage on your evening commute is a way to avoid feeling depressed about the job you hate.
- Sarcasm and frustration with your spouse is a way to avoid the embarrassment of having a difficult conversation about your actual wants and needs in the relationship.
- Self-criticism and anger about your own poor performance is a way to distract from feeling afraid that you’ll never get better and reach the goals that you set for yourself.
The problem is, if you’re constantly using anger as a defense against some other painful emotion, you’re constantly running away from the real problem and not addressing it. All the while becoming more and more of an angry person and feeling bad about it (not to mention the havoc it’s wreaking on other aspects of your life like your relationships, your health, or your work).
So, the next time you feel yourself getting angry. First, pause and validate the anger. Then, try looking “behind” the anger and observe any other emotions you might be experiencing. Ask yourself: Am I using anger as a way to avoid or distract myself from some of these other emotions?
5. Expand your anger vocabulary.
Just like it’s easy to miss smaller emotions hiding behind your anger, it’s also easy to miss subtle variations on your anger itself.
For example: Suppose you walk through the door after a long day at work and your spouse makes an off-handed comment that triggers some anger. Now ask yourself, what exactly am I feeling?
Is it true that I’m simply angry? Or maybe I’m more annoyed? Irritated? Frustrated?
See, in some ways, anger is a category for a much larger family of emotion with many different variations:
- Rage is an extreme form of acute anger that’s almost “blinding” in its intensity.
- Resentment is a much less intense form of anger, but the fact that it is long-lasting and “sticky” can make it quite impactful.
- Frustration is a milder form of anger that usually comes up specifically when we’re obstructed from arriving at a goal or destination that we want.
- Impatience is a specific variant of anger that has to do with things not being done on a timeline that matches our expectations.
I could go on and on, but the point is that it’s unlikely that you’re simply feeling angry all the time. Chances are, there is a lot more subtlety and nuance to your anger. And understanding these different shades or forms of anger can actually help you manage your anger issues more effectively.
For one thing, thinking more carefully about what form of anger you’re experiencing just slows you down. Instead of racing thoughts about who did what to wrong you and how you could get back at them, your mind is put into a more deliberative and reflective mode of considering which specific form of anger you’re experiencing.
Increasing your anger vocabulary and the ability to distinguish different varieties of anger can also help you to be more compassionate and validating with yourself when you’re feeling angry. Instead of the same old story of there I go again getting angry… understanding that in one case you’re feeling resentful and in another case you’re feeling frustrated can help you see that your anger makes sense in a way.
So, after you’ve validated your anger, and looked for other quieter emotions behind it, take a moment to ask yourself what type of anger you’re experiencing specifically.
Here’s a quick exercise to help you improve your anger vocabulary:
- Pull out a blank sheet of paper and a pen.
- Set a time on your phone for 3 minutes.
- Try to list as many anger words as you can. That is, words like frustration or impatient that are synonyms or variants on the word anger.
- Once your 3 minutes is up, open up a thesaurus and type in anger. See what sort of interesting synonyms come up there and add them to your list.
- Then plug in some of the synonyms you found into the thesaurus and add more anger variants to your list.
- Bonus: try it with a friend or partner and then compare notes.
The larger and more refined your anger vocabulary, the easier it will be to see subtle but important variations in your anger. The better you can do that, the more effectively you’re going to be able to manage whatever anger issues you’re dealing with.
6. Stop storytelling.
The next time you’re really angry, take a second and ask yourself what you’re doing with your mind: Where are your thoughts? What is your internal self-talk saying in the middle of a major bout of anger?
I think you’ll find that, as much emotion as you feel when you’re really angry, you have even more thoughts.
Decades of psychological research has confirmed that thinking is the engine of emotion. Like the ancient stoic philosophers suggested thousands of years ago, things in the world don’t change how we feel; it’s how we think about things that leads to our feelings and emotions.
In modern psychology, this is known as cognitive mediation, the notion that thinking always mediates or affects the relationship between what we perceive and how we feel emotionally.
This idea has powerful implications for managing difficult emotions, including our ability to deal with our anger issues: How we habitually think determines how we habitually feel.
Which means if you’re feeling angry it’s because in some form you’re thinking angry. And the style of thinking that usually leads to anger is called rumination.
Rumination is a style of thinking where we go over and over something bad that’s happened in the past. Often, this takes the form of re-playing stories of how other people have wronged us and how we could have dealt with it differently or why they need to pay.
- After a hurtful comment from your spouse, you start replaying all the other instances where your spouse has said hurtful things, reminding yourself of all the ways she’s mean and insensitive.
- After a near fender bender while driving, you start thinking about all the reasons people in your city are terrible drivers and how everything would be safer if other people drove more like you.
- After receiving some criticism on your new project at work, you start brooding over how stupid your manger is and how they just can’t see your value. Or maybe, the possibility that they’re deliberately sabotaging you because they’re jealous of your work and don’t want you to succeed.
The point is, when we ruminate on what happened to us, we fuel the flames of our anger. The more storytelling we do about what happened, why, and what should have happened instead, the bigger our anger grows and the more consumed by it we become.
Bottom line: The quickest way out of anger is to stop storytelling about what happened leading up to it.
Just like a fire dies quickly without oxygen, anger quickly fades when deprived of narrative and storytelling.
So, anytime you find yourself angry and unable to shake it, try this: Notice your mind and the stories you’re telling yourself and see what happens if you stop. Stop storytelling and switch on the radio. Or, tell a completely different story—your top 5 favorite memories with your spouse, the 10 best Beatles songs in order of greatness, who’s going to win the Super Bowl and why, etc.
It’s not easy, but if you can change the story you’re telling yourself about the events leading to your anger, you’re much more likely to deal with your anger issue effectively.
7. Manage your aggression, not your anger.
As we discussed earlier, you can’t change your emotions directly. You can’t simply turn down your anger any more than you can turn up your happiness. Emotions are only influenced indirectly by changing things that affect our emotions, mostly how we think and how we act.
When it comes to managing your anger issues, this means that—contrary to the popular idea of anger management—anger is not actually something you can manage.
But, you can manage your aggression, which will both prevent you from doing things you regret and likely help you feel better, too. To refresh yourself on the difference between anger and aggression, read #2 above.
Even though most of us hear the word aggression and think about violent physical acts—punching someone, for example—most forms of aggression are actually more subtle. And they tend to come in two forms: Aggressive speech and aggressive thoughts.
The key to successfully managing aggressive speech and thoughts is to dispel two common myths about anger:
- Anger needs to be expressed in order for it to be released. False. Decades of research have shown just the opposite, in fact: Expressing and acting our your anger tends to amplify it. It’s actually much more helpful (and not psychologically unhealthy at all) to suppress or inhibit your aggressive speech. Biting your tongue, in other words, is actually a perfectly valid strategy.
- Anger is a “negative” emotion. Most emotion researchers actually conceptualize anger as a positive emotion. Even though people end up doing negative things in an angry state (i.e. acting aggressively), anger itself isn’t “negative.” In fact, the experience of anger—how it actually feels—is positive in the sense that it’s pleasant. See, anger is an ego-inflating emotion in the sense that it makes you feel good about yourself. Think about it: when you are angry at someone, the story is that they’re somehow wrong or bad or have done something inappropriate, the implication of which is that you’re right. Calling someone “bad” implies that we’re “good.” And thinking that we’re good feels really good.
The implication of these two points is that there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry. You don’t have to do anything when you feel angry. It’s perfectly healthy to simply be angry. And what’s more, what we tend to do and say when we’re angry is often just a sneaky way to boost our own egos and make ourselves feel better.
The next time you feel angry and want to verbalize it to someone, remind yourself of these two ideas: 1) Anger doesn’t need to be released—holding it in and not expressing it is actually a perfectly healthy option. 2) Maybe your desire to express your anger in words is really just a way to make yourself feel better, and not really about correcting some injustice.
Validate the anger, manage the aggression.
8. Get a rain check on your anger.
Sometimes the event or situation that triggered your anger is a legitimate issue that needs to be addressed and resolved:
- If your spouse is frequently sarcastic and hurtful, this is an issue that probably should be addressed.
- If your manager is frequently demeaning or overly critical, this is an issue that should probably be addressed in some way.
But your odds of effectively dealing with the issues behind your anger are better when you’re not in the middle of intense anger.
For example, if you try to hash out your husband’s sarcastic communication style in your marriage right at the moment that you’re feeling very angry and upset, chances are you’re not going to be very articulate or clear, your husband is likely to get defensive and not hear you anyway, and then you’ll end up even more angry and frustrated than when you started.
On the other hand, you could briefly let him know that that bothered you and that you’d like to talk about it later. In other words, you could get a raincheck on your anger. You can validate that your anger is reasonable and that the issue does need to be addressed. But that right now at this moment is not the most advantageous time to do it.
But here’s the trick: You have to make a concrete plan for addressing the issue, not just tell yourself to remember to talk about it later and then hope it happens. It won’t.
Back to the sarcastic husband example: After letting him know how the comment made you feel, go someplace quiet, jot down a few notes of what happened and what you would like to talk about with your husband, then set a reminder in your phone for a day/time in the future when it’s likely that both of you will be a good place and more receptive to actually discussing and working through whatever prompted the anger issue.
In other words, it’s perfectly fine to delay dealing with the issue behind your anger as long as you have a real plan for doing so.
9. Put your anger on paper.
This is the technique I personally use most frequently and always find it really helpful.
The basic idea is this: When you feel really angry, rather than acting on your anger, talking about it, or even thinking about it, try writing about it.
Literally, just get out a piece of paper or open a notes file on your phone and just start writing down whatever’s on your mind.
There are a few key advantages to this technique:
- It’s easy. You can do it anywhere and you can do it right away. Especially now that we all have smartphones on us 24/7, it’s a piece of cake to just pull out your phone, open the notes app, and start jotting things down (what happened, what emotions you’re feeling, what you feel like doing, what would help the situation, what’s in your best interest in the long-run, etc.).
- It’s active. It’s good to know that you don’t have to do anything in response to your anger. And sometimes, doing nothing really is the best way to manage your anger issues. But when we’re angry we’re activated and primed for action. Writing about your anger allows you to channel this energy into a more productive and less destructive way.
- It’s slow. The great thing about writing is that it forces you to slow down. You can’t write nearly as fast as you can think, so if you slow your ruminative and aggressive thoughts down to the speed of writing, you’re simply going to have fewer of them, which means less intense and shorter-lasting anger.
- It helps your memory. If the thing you’re angry about is in fact something that needs to be handled and dealt with in the future, writing about what happened helps you remember what exactly happened so that when you go to address it later, you have some notes rather than relying purely on your memory.
10. Be long-term selfish.
Like most strong emotions, anger is all about the now—how you feel in this moment. We get into trouble with anger because the thing that feels good now—aggression in one form or another—often has damaging or even disastrous consequences in the future.
But when we’re angry, we tend to get tunnel vision, focused almost exclusively on what’s happening right now. This lack of vision and clarity about what’s in our best interest in the long-run is one of the biggest reasons we end up acting impulsively on our anger and aggressing rather than managing our anger issues more effectively.
Which means, one of the best ways to handle anger and aggression is to keep ourselves mindful and aware of what we really want, of what’s in our best interest in the long-run.
Think about it: What if the next time you felt angry with your spouse and were about to make a sarcastic comment about them, time stopped, and a voice from the cloud boomed out:
Hey buddy, do you really think making that sarcastic comment is in your best interest? Is that really going to get you what you want in the long-term? Oh yeah, and by the way, what do you actually want in the long-term in terms of your relationship with your spouse? Sure, getting this jab in will make you feel good right in this moment, but what’s it going to do to the quality of your relationship overall? Because as we all know, when our partner’s unhappy, we tend to be unhappy too. Think about it…
In other words, if you can pause and briefly consider what’s really in your own best interest long-term, it tends to put the anger of the moment into a much bigger perspective. And as a result, it reframes the impulse to say that aggressive comment or behave in that aggressive way.
So remember, the next time you’re feeling angry, be selfish, but be long-term selfish. Try to ask yourself: What do I really want and will acting on my angry impulse really help me get it?
Why Anger Management Is a Bad Idea
I alluded to this several times earlier, but I want to address a common misconception about managing anger issues more directly: Addressing your anger issues in a healthy way does not mean “anger management.”
In fact, a theme running through this guide is that you should not try to manage your anger at all. Instead, you should focus on managing your aggression.
But let me back up and explain…
You can’t control or change any emotion directly. Think about it: if it was possible to directly change our emotions, we’d just crank up the happiness dial anytime we felt down or adjust our anxiety levels any time we were worried or afraid. Obviously we can’t do this with any emotion, anger included.
We can only influence our emotions indirectly, mostly by way of how we think and what we do. If you’d like to feel less lonely, you could call a good friend—a behavior that might lead to your loneliness decreasing eventually. If you’re feeling nervous before a big speech, you might mentally reframe it as an opportunity to show off your knowledge, which could result in your feeling less nervous and more excited.
Well, the same principle applies to anger. You can’t manage your anger any more than you can manage your sadness, nervousness, or embarrassment. But you can learn to manage your thoughts and behaviors related to anger, and as a result, influence your anger indirectly.
Now, as much as this might sound like a distinction without a difference, it matters a lot. Trying to control your emotions is almost never a good idea because A) It doesn’t work, and B) it trains your brain to view them as problems or threats.
When you try to control your anger, for example, you are subtly but powerfully teaching your brain that anger is an enemy to be avoided. Which means the next time you get angry, you’re also going to get afraid or feel ashamed of your anger, which will lead you to try even harder to get rid of it. Cue the vicious cycle…
Rather than trying to control or eliminate your anger, the better strategy is to learn to accept and validate the emotion of anger and try to manage something you actually have control over—saying something cruel, for instance, or ruminating endlessly on previous slights against you.
Dealing with anger issues in a healthy way is not about controlling or managing anger itself. It’s about managing the thoughts and behaviors around anger you actually have control over.
In fact, the entire gist of this guide can be summarized quite briefly:
Accept your anger; manage your aggression.
For a more in-depth discussion of how anger really works and some of the surprising psychology behind it, I strongly recommend that you read this article: The Secret Life of Anger. It’s something of a prequel to this guide.
4 Practical Benefits of Addressing Your Anger Issues in a Healthy Way
The benefits of healthy strategies for addressing anger issues are numerous, so I’ll just list a few of the most important ones:
Many relationships are suffering because one or both parties has anger issues that they don’t know how to deal with effectively. And while major anger outbursts and rage episodes can certainly wreak havoc on a relationship, most of the time it comes in more subtle forms.
Resentment is a subtle form of anger that builds up over time and creates distance and isolation in a relationship. We become resentful of others when we have needs and wants that are not getting met, either because they are being ignored or because we’re not assertive enough to express them.
The key to undoing resentment in a relationship is to be honest with yourself about what things you want more of and less of in the relationship. Then, have the courage to ask directly for those things you want and be willing to set (and enforce) boundaries on the things you don’t want.
Another form of anger that can be toxic to any relationship is passive-aggressiveness. Passive-aggressive communication is when we speak or act in a fundamentally aggressive way but wrap it up in the guise of niceness or humor.
Sarcasm is a common form of passive-aggressive communication. When a relationship is characterized by lots of sarcasm and passive-aggression, it usually means that one or both partners have needs that aren’t getting met but are struggling to express those needs in a direct, respectful way.
In any case, a powerful way to improve your relationship is to learn to be honest with yourself about the things you really want out of your relationships and the things that really bother you. Then to be assertive in asking for those things or saying no to them.
Chronic resentment and irritation in a relationship is usually a sign that the relationship needs more transparency and direct communication. Learn to be assertive.
Anyone’s who’s ever been really angry (which is all of us!) knows that eventually anger fades, leaving behind it a trail of even more painful emotions like guilt or regret, anxiety, and shame, or even grief and loneliness.
When we get angry and then choose to act on that anger, our aggression often results in poor decisions and behaviors that hurt other people or even ourselves. And if we’re in the habit of acting on our anger, we end up habitually experiencing all those painful emotions that follow in anger’s wake. In other words, poor aggression management skills keep us caught in a perpetual cycle of bad moods and regrettable behaviors.
On the other hand, when we learn to change our relationship with anger and manage our aggressive impulses more effectively, it’s amazing how many other emotional struggles and moods simply melt away.
One of the underappreciated benefits of cultivating better strategies for managing our anger issues is that it improves our physical health, sometimes dramatically so. Loads of research has shown that poor anger management and aggression problems lead to all sorts of physical issues and health problems. From heart disease and stroke to anxiety and immune functioning, unchecked anger issues clearly take their toll on the body.
But the flip side of this dilemma is that learning to reduce hostility and aggression can have profoundly positive effects on your physical wellbeing.
Better Job Performance
Work can be frustrating. Coworkers even more so. And bosses, well….
Frustration is an inevitable fact of working on a team of any sort, whether it’s a startup with 4 employees or an established corporation with thousands of people in a single division. Learning how to identify and manage the inevitable frustrations you encounter at work will not only make you more effective in your work, but it will make your work more enjoyable.
Unfortunately, many people have adopted a defeatist and helpless attitude toward the frustrations involved in their job. This is understandable since, especially if you work for a large organization, there are many things that are frustratingly outside your control or sphere of influence. But that doesn’t mean you’re powerless or helpless.
With the right mental shifts and a little practice, you can train yourself to see your frustrations as opportunities. And with the right approach, those frustrations could actually be transformed into positive changes.
The key is not to avoid the frustrations and write them off completely as just “a fact of my job.” Sometimes this is true, but frustration is an emotional messenger trying to communicate that something isn’t working well. And with some patience and creativity, that frustration could be the first step in making positive changes to your work or even your entire organization.
Summary & Key Takeaways
Misunderstood and unchecked anger can have devastating consequences on our health, our work, our relationships, and our happiness. On the other hand, when we take the time to understand the psychology of anger—how it actually works in our lives—we can learn to manage our anger issues far more effectively.
If you struggle with anger issues, there are 10 basic strategies you can use to help:
- Anticipate your anger triggers.
- Validate your anger.
- See the quieter emotions behind your anger.
- Expand your anger vocabulary.
- Stop storytelling.
- Distinguish anger from aggression.
- Manage your aggression, not your anger.
- Take a rain check on your anger.
- Put your anger on paper.
- Be long-term selfish.