Experiencing anger

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Anger is one of the basic human emotions. Emotions are generally made up of 4 components: thoughts (cognitive), physical reactions, tendency/actions (behaviour) and facial expressions. By being able to identify some of these components in your own experience of anger, you are more likely to be aware of when you are feeling angry, which is a solid first step to being able to manage it more effectively!

 

Physical reaction

As mentioned, anger is an energizing emotion, which is matched by our physical response. Be on the look-out for physical cues such as:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased sweating
  • Tense muscles
  • Clenched jaw/fists
  • Dry mouth

 

Cognitive (thoughts)

This component has to do with what you are thinking when you are experiencing the emotion. Common thoughts when you’re feeling angry are:

  • I hate this person/thing
  • This is unfair
  • This situation is wrong
  • This person is annoying or inconsiderate
  • They shouldn’t be doing that

One common thinking pattern when you’re feeling angry is rumination. Rumination is when you think of the same things over and over again. Think of when you are stuck in traffic, and you keep thinking about how late you are going to be and why the car in front of you is moving so slowly. Rumination actually causes you to feel angrier. There is a back-and-forth relationship between our thoughts when we are angry and the feeling of anger we experience.

 

Behaviour

Anger is often accompanied by the urge to make a change or take action. Some common examples of behaviour or actions we take when we are feeling angry are:

  • Aggression (not always)
  • Shouting / talking quickly
  • Expressing our anger
  • Seeking revenge
  • Harming someone else
  • Proving someone else wrong.
  • Setting things straight

 

Exercise

Now that you have a good understanding of what anger is and what common experiences of anger are, try to keep track of your own anger in the NiceDay app. Turn on the custom tracker ‘Angry’ and each time you feel angry, register it and include a note. Write down what caused you to feel angry and any thoughts, feelings or sensations you notice. Look at your registrations from the past week/few days. Do you notice any patterns in your anger? Do you often feel angry in certain situations, after certain events or at certain times? What makes you vulnerable to the feeling of anger? What caused you to feel angry? What helped calm you down? Write down your insights in your NiceDay diary and, if you’re undergoing treatment, discuss this with your professional.

 

References:

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.

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