Managing your anger

Anger is one of the most misunderstood and overused of human emotions. It is a normal healthy human emotion though. It only becomes unhealthy when it is too long, frequent or intense. When it is person-directed and destroys interpersonal relationships and reputation.

According to George Anderson, an anger management coach, ‘Anger is not a planned action rather a reaction to an inner emotion. It is the energy that serves a purpose, by giving people the drive and determination to cope with difficult situations. Anger helps release tension. If handled well, anger can help resolve conflicts and improve relationships with others. Anger is an easy emotion to show; everyone gets angry’.
So basically anger serves two purposes: it tells you that something is wrong, and it gives you the energy to do something about it. However, anger can’t tell you how to handle a situation. That’s where anger styles come in.

The other day I came across a book ‘Letting Go of Anger’ by Ron Potter-Effron and Patricia Potter-Effron. They identified the following anger styles which are adopted by most people. Your anger style is the habitual, predictable way in which you handle angry situations.
Anger Avoidance. Anger avoiders don’t like anger, and in many cases they fear anger in themselves and others. They think they’ll lose control if they get mad, or that getting angry is a bad thing. They feel that they’re a good person because they don’t get mad. The problem with those that avoid anger is that they often fail to heed the signs that something is wrong, they fail to act assertively, and they often feel like others are walking all over them.
Sneaky Anger. Anger sneaks don’t let others know they’re angry. Often, they themselves don’t know that they’re angry. However, their anger manifests in sneaky ways, such as “forgetting” to do things they’ve committed themselves to do. When an anger sneak resents some demand from another, they keep from meeting the other’s demands through avoidance, and this can lead to frustrating relationships with those around them.
Anger Turned Inward. Some people feel that it’s safer to get mad at themselves, rather than getting mad at others. Therefore, when something goes wrong they blame themselves, even if the other person is at fault. Although it’s important to ask ourselves how we may have contributed to a situation that has gone wrong, too much anger turned inward can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Sudden Anger. People with sudden anger let all of their feelings “hang out”, for better or for worse. Their anger is like a sudden thunderstorm. They yell and make a big show of force, maybe even throwing things against the wall, and then it’s over. These people often lose control when they’re angry, and they often say and do things in the heat of the moment that they later regret.

Shame-Based Anger. These people feel ashamed by even the slightest criticism. They don’t like themselves very much and often feel worthless. When someone else ignores them or says something negative to them, they take it as proof that they’re not good enough. However, these feelings of shame make them feel bad, so they lash out the other person. Their anger strategy is the following: “You made me feel bad, so now I’m hurt you back”.

Deliberate Anger. Some people use anger deliberately to get what they want. They’ve discovered that they can control others and get what they want from them with their anger. Deliberate anger may work for awhile, but people usually get tired of being bullied around and they figure out a way to get back at the bully.

Excitatory Anger. Some people like the adrenaline rush that comes from anger. Their anger gives them emotional excitement, and their lives feel dull without these sudden “rushes” of intensity and emotional power. If they haven’t gotten their anger “fix” for awhile, they deliberately provoke a fight. Anger may not be a pleasant emotion, but for these people it’s better than feeling bored.
Habitual Hostility. Habitually angry people get trapped in their anger: anger is a constant, background emotion. They wake up grumpy, they’re usually complaining about something, they immediately look for the bad in others, and so on. Anger runs these people’s lives.

Fear-based anger. Fear based anger occurs when someone feels irrationally threatened by others. These people see aggression everywhere: people talking about them behind their back, plotting to take things away from them, and getting ready to attack them physically or verbally. Because of this irrational fear, they spend a lot of time “defending” what they feel is theirs, from their possessions to their relationships with others.

Moral Anger. Morally angry people feel that their anger is for a good cause. These people are always fighting for one cause or another, and whoever isn’t with them, is against them. They feel that their anger is fully justified since they’re on the side of righteousness, morality, and justice. These people suffer from black and white thinking, are intolerant of the opinions of others, and often have rigid ways of thinking and acting.
Resentment/Hate. Hate occurs when someone decides that another person is completely evil or bad. Hate starts off as unresolved anger; this anger turns into resentment, and then it hardens into hate. Hatred makes people bitter and frustrated, and it prevents them from moving on with their lives.

The idea is to recognise your habitual anger style and avoid falling into its trap next time. You need to realise that anger is a good emotion as far as it is healthy yet it needs to be managed properly. There could be several ways people can mange anger. They could work on creating self-awareness through developing certain skills like empathy, conflict management, good interpersonal skills, diplomacy, flexibility, personal accountability and sensitivity to others. They could learn to evaluate candidly what is said and then make a balanced decision. They could relate to others, to persuade or correct them in a nice manner. And most importantly, they could surrender the need to control others.

2 October 2009
Published in Daily Mail, 05 October 2009

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