How can you deal with anger constructively?
We’ve all bought the ticket and took the ride on the emotional rollercoaster. Every now and then, the frustration build-up becomes just too much for our strained minds to handle. The immediate response is the familiar breakout. We often pass our days exactly like ticking time bombs, getting closer and closer to the point of explosion. Even though it is perfectly normal to express your anger, too often we do it in the wrongful manner and trigger a chain reaction that not only hurts those around us but also ourselves. Learning how to deal with your anger on its different levels will help you avoid not all, but most of the potentially dangerous situations.
First of all, what is anger and where does it come from?
The American Psychological Association defines anger as “an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something you feel has deliberately done you wrong.” However, they also highlight that anger “can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems.” Therefore, anger could actually be a productive state of emotions. The real damage is inflicted only when excess interferes and anger becomes the dominant feeling.
Anger can be expressed through several emotions or states which vary in intensity from being slightly annoyed to being furious or enraged. The feelings are triggered by either internal or external sources, although most times they’re born through a combination of both. While external sources may be represented by events which are unpredictable and beyond our personal control, internal sources, on the other hand, are generated by our own minds and decisions. They can be memories of hurtful events, worries, disappointments and other personal issues.
What kind of damage does anger produce?
Part of the consequences caused by anger are all familiar to everyone: passive-aggressive, or even violent behavior, colorful and hurtful vocabulary, victimization, irrational thinking and acting. The less-known results of an anger-driven behavior are often spread over an extended timeframe and, therefore, may not be immediately associated with bad anger management. Nonetheless, these may be the triggers that can truly alter our life courses for the worse: decaying health and mental state, alienation, turning loved ones and friends into strangers or even enemies, chronic depression and so on.
Long-term consequences only appear when one has no control whatsoever over his or her reactions. Moreover, if anger is, normally, just a temporary attitude or reaction, when it’s excessively used it will turn into an around the clock behavior.
3 steps for expressing your anger constructively
Letting go of your bad emotions is natural but, at the same time, it is an overrated myth. Our primary instinct is to respond aggressively to threats and this explains many of our irrational and violent reactions when we are angry. People are simply defending themselves because they felt attacked.
But, on the other hand, this kind of behavior will most surely backlash on us if we continue to react in the same manner every time we feel threatened. The silver lining in this situation is to learn how to express anger in a controlled manner. That way you will not let a negative situation pass by you without taking a stance and you also avoid hurting somebody else.
The American Psychological Association states that there are three manners in which people react to anger: they either suppress their feelings, express them or calm themselves down. However, the most constructive way to deal with them is to combine all three attitudes.
First of all, there is the calming process: learn to detach yourself, even for a few moments, from the situation you are in. You can learn to breathe deeply, to count to 10 and hum a song you love or whatever you find useful. This will help you avoid acting irrationally and become unnecessarily violent.
The second step is expressing your frustrations. However, keep in mind that you must choose your words carefully so that everyone clearly understands your point of view. A frequent mistake is that people too often either victimize themselves or overreact and become verbally violent with another person. But this will simply lead to a dead end road and the same situation might repeat itself in the future, as you offered no possible remedy for the problem.
The suppress stage of the process is a bit more complex and may be harder to achieve. Because anger is a triggered emotional state, people generally tend to attach an entire range of past frustrations, worries and negative thoughts to the triggering event. The result has a snowball effect as it collects emotions tied to other problems. Suppressing a frustration does not mean to let go of it entirely but rather to let go of those parts which you have no control over. There will always be aspects of your life which, beyond all efforts, remain out of your control. Gathering stress and worries over it and then discharging them on someone else is never a viable solution. Once you’ve learned to calm yourself down to a rational state of mind, you will find it easier to suppress part of your anger.
At large, these are the most direct strategies to adopt in order to control your anger. They are daily strategies which, in time, with enough repetition, will produce a change in mentality and behavior. It is no one’s wish to worsen a situation which is bad to begin with. Thus, simple everyday anger management exercises will improve your qualities as a person and, eventually, as an employee. Ultimately, these behavioral changes will lead to a step forward.
Your general performance, whether it is work-related or not, is greatly influenced by the state your mind and body is in at the time of the activity. Therefore, an ill mind will slow you down, anger will stop you from focusing on what you want to achieve. Manage your emotional states in order to increase your performance, become more productive and be a step closer to the person you imagine yourself as.
- Controlling anger before it controls you, American Psychological Association
- Swales Cheri, What’s eating you?, Monster career advice