Anger is a perfectly normal emotional experience and can often be an appropriate reaction to something that might come up. It is a way for our mind and body to release built up stress. However, anger can also hurt others and the self by causing one to behave in ways they later regret. Although anger can be destructive, if managed correctly, it can be used in a very healthy way. The first step to managing one’s anger is to understand it.
It is quite common for anger to be masking a different emotion, usually one that is deeper in the subconscious and often related to past experiences. Many of the people I’ve worked with have mentioned feeling sadness, pain, hurt, fear, or loss underneath all of the anger. These other emotions can sometimes be suppressed due to shame, guilt, or the mind’s natural way of protecting itself from pain, similar to the fight or flight experience. This protective coping mechanism is one of the many ways individuals protect themselves. Thus, it is important to become aware of the anger and its triggers and then identify any other emotions beneath the anger. By understanding these other emotions, individuals can learn more about their past and process emotions left behind, with the ultimate goal of having more control over their life. Here are some tips on how to be more aware of anger and ways to manage it:
Tip #1: Take a moment and take a breath
Instead of reacting impulsively, when you begin to feel anger building within your body, pause whatever you might be doing and take note of it. This can be done in many different ways but taking a deep breath can sometimes help. Try to feel where the anger is located in your body and just sit with it for a moment. Then, note what happened for that anger to get there. This can be a challenging thing to do when in the moment but by doing so, you become more aware of what triggers the anger. If you’ve mastered this or want to experiment with something different, try meditation. Meditation can significantly help individuals be more in touch with their body and mind.
Tip #2: Communicate
We can often get into the habit of reacting through angry outbursts. Although reacting this way can feel good to some, it often leads to regrettable behavior. By taking a moment during highly emotional experiences and checking in with one’s body, individuals can be more effective at understanding their primary emotions (e.g., sadness or fear) and describing them for others to understand. Communicating one’s emotional experience accurately is one step closer to developing meaningful connections with others and the self.
Tip #3: Be mindful of toxicity
Sometimes it is our environment that causes us to be stressed and react through anger. So, it is important to be mindful of people and things that bring toxicity into your life. These people can often be very important figures in one’s life, but by being mindful of the triggers that cause pain, one can have more autonomy and control over who they share their life with.
Are you seeking help to become aware of and manage anger? Would you like to work on ways to be kinder to yourself?
Lucas Saiter is a therapist in NYC. He specializes in providing therapy to those struggling with anger issues, impulse control, emotion regulation, and more. If you are looking for a therapist near central Manhattan and want to manage your anger and take control of your own life, contact him today for a complimentary phone consultation.