DO you recall recently flying off the handle unexpectedly or reaching boiling point at something really small?
If so, you might be in need of some anger management.
Last month singer Ellie Goulding spoke out about having therapy for her struggle with anger issues, saying: “I don’t come across as an angry person, but it’s definitely something I’ve had to work on for a long time.”
More than one in ten people say they have trouble controlling their anger. So are we a nation in an anger crisis?
To help us understand our anger, we spoke to Mike Fisher, an anger management expert and founder of the British Anger Association, who says: “Anger is a feeling like every other one of our emotions, but it’s when we act the anger out that it’s a problem and leads to other people becoming victims of our inability to control it.”
Here, he breaks down seven sources of anger and how to control them.
Stress feeds into anxiety, which feeds shame and comes out in outbursts of anger. It’s a feeling that your life is in crisis and there is no way out.
How to prevent anger: Seek support. In the British culture we don’t like to reach out for support because we feel ashamed to tell people we are suffering.
The more we hold stress in, the worse the anger will be, so whether it’s a friend, family member or health expert, you need to stop answering, “I’m fine” and open up about what is making you stressed.
NOT HAVING YOUR NEEDS MET ANGER
You feel anger here because you think the person has not respected your needs, leaving you feeling unloved, unappreciated and/or unsupported.
How to prevent anger: Aggressively acting out this anger comes from not being able to articulate your emotional needs.
Take a step back and think, “Did I tell my partner last year that I was angry when he forgot our anniversary?” Or: “Does my friend know that I place a lot of value on text communication?”
If you realise you haven’t communicated your needs with people, it will help you understand why they have acted in this way and it gives you an opportunity to rectify it without aggression or passive aggression.
SHAME AND HUMILIATION ANGER
This could be over getting reprimanded at work, or someone publically disagreeing with your opinion or joking at your expense.
How to prevent anger: Instead of saying to yourself, “I feel ashamed so I will turn it back on to you”, stop and look at yourself.
You have a different opinion to them but you might have been able to perform better at work than you did — so maybe a bit of criticism is acceptable.
Try to understand that it is OK to have a different opinion, and practise really listening before you give your opinion back. Also, don’t take anything too personally.
Imagine getting angry with your partner for being late to an event, or angry with a colleague when they speak over you in a meeting.
You start to judge them for being inconsiderate or selfish and instantly demonise them. The reason is that you yourself have these same characteristics and dislike this about yourself.
When you experience these “negative” personality traits, it makes you more angry than usual because you don’t want anyone to remind you of your imperfections.
How to prevent anger: Take a deep breath and think, “Do I sometimes show up late?” Or: “Do I ever voice my opinions over others during meet-ings?” The answers to each question are probably “yes”. This will help you under-stand your anger and prevent it from escalating.
NOT MEETING A GOAL ANGER
You miss your train, you don’t get an A-grade in your exam or you haven’t managed to meet with friends this weekend.
Any one of these “missed goals” can set off your anger because you are furious with yourself for not achieving what you set out to do.
How to prevent anger: Your problem is the amount of pressure you put on yourself. Instead of just thinking, “It’s OK, I’ll get the next train” your brain runs into panic — thinking, “Now I’ll be late to meet my friend, which means I’ll be later to bed tonight, which means I’ll struggle to get up for the gym, which means that I’ll miss my training goals . . . ”
If you realise that the only person creating these goals is you, say things like, “If I make it to the gym today, that’s OK, but it’s also fine to just go tomorrow.” You will relax more. The next time you miss that train, your automatic response will not be anger.
INVASION OF BOUNDARIES ANGER
This may be caused by someone bumping into you, people talking loudly on the phone on public transport — or a big tour group standing in your way. You see all this as rude.
How to prevent anger: Stop and think about things you yourself do that might annoy others.
For example, you might sit on your phone for an entire train ride without making a sound, but also without making any eye contact with anyone else on the carriage.
Other people might find this rude. If you understand that everyone has different perceptions, you can prevent yourself expressing your anger negatively.
UNRESOLVED TRAUMA ANGER
Extreme trauma is something that is devastating and out of your control. If you have experienced this in the past and not been able to talk about it, then it turns inward and manifests itself as anger. You can end up being aggressive or verbally angry with people.
How to prevent anger: Start by realising what the historical trauma is, then speak about it.
It might be to those close to you, or to a professional. You need to be able to talk about the trauma to stop it coming out as anger. Using an anger journal is also very useful, as it helps prevent the anger taking up space in your head.
Write an angry letter or email you don’t intend to send.
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