If you’re reading this article, it is likely that you struggle with anger. In that case, it is important to know that you are not alone. In fact, 45% of employees report losing their temper at the office regularly and a study by Romanov (1994) found that 15% of people scored very high on hostility.
Anger is one of the basic human emotions: we all experience it to varying degrees from time to time. However, intense and poorly managed anger can cause distress and problems in your daily life. Poorly regulated anger can have a negative impact on, for example, our relationships, our mental health and our work. Think about shouting at your colleague or acting aggressively toward a friend. In fact, poorly regulated anger can worsen situations and often ends up increasing your own anger.
Learning about anger and how to express it appropriately and gaining insight into your own anger can have a positive impact on your practical and social life. The goal of this article is to help you understand anger as a first step to help you acquire skills to manage it in a better way.
Anger as an emotion
Anger is an emotion that lies on a spectrum ranging from annoyance to frustration, intense rage and hate. Intense anger can be a very powerful and overwhelming experience. It charges you and prepares you to take action. It is part of your natural defence system; your ‘fight or flight’ response. Anger does not necessarily make you ‘fight’, but it is an emotion that helps you to stand up against injustice, stand up for yourself and others if you feel attacked, and make changes where necessary.
You experience anger when you detect that something is wrong, when you sense a threat or if you feel that you are being mistreated. It tells other people to listen to you. Therefore, anger is often also warranted and is, therefore, a very important emotion! Think about important social movements for equality and the motivation to right wrongs.
Common things that cause you to feel anger:
- Situations you perceive as threatening, such as when someone insults you or a loved one, it can be considered as a threat to your well-being or status.
- Being prevented from reaching an important goal, such as being stuck in traffic, causing you to be late for work.
- Unpleasant physical or emotional sensation such as pain, such as when accidentally cutting yourself with a kitchen knife.
As with any other emotion, anger is a brain and bodily response or reaction to events or thoughts we are experiencing. Therefore, it is temporary and will flare up and die down if you allow it to run its course.
Tip: This is important to keep in mind if you are learning to manage your anger!
Continue to the next article on experiencing anger to help you become aware of when you are experiencing anger, which is an important first step in learning to manage your anger.
Chapman, A. L., & Gratz, K. L. (2015). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook for anger: Using DBT mindfulness and emotion regulation skills to manage anger. New Harbinger Publications.