How to Deal With Anger: Top 3 Tips on Controlling Anger
We’ve all been there before, that beet-red person standing an inch from you face, boiling with rage, screaming, yelling, and cursing at you. The only thing that you can think of is to scream and yell back, but you know that it’s not going to end well for either of you…
Looking at it from a logical perspective, there is a set way and a wrong way to do it. Let’s figure out how to get rid of anger, what you are doing wrong, how you can do it right, and its effect on all those around.
Suppressing Anger? Rarely a Good Idea
You grit your teeth, hold it in and say, “I’m fine“
The good news is that suppression actually works. You can completely blot out your feelings and not look angry.
The bad news – It is almost always a bad idea. True, it may prevent anger and frustration from being vented but the problem with this is that as time goes on, your feelings and anger just gets stronger. When you try to stop yourself from crying, the tears aren’t cathartic. You don’t feel better afterward and anger is no different so what happens when you try to clamp down on said rage? A whole mess of bad stuff.
Your ability to experience positive feelings goes down, but those negative ones stay right where they are. Your stress level starts to soar. In turn, this makes your amygdala (a part of the brain closely associated with emotions) start working overtime but this is where it gets really interesting. Whenever you suppress your feelings the encounter only gets worse for the angry person too. You begin to clamp down on your emotions and the other person’s blood pressure spikes. They start to like you less, believe me. Studies show that over the long haul this can lead to lousy relationships that would definitely not be rewarding.
Fighting your feelings doesn’t help either, and also requires a lot of willpower so afterward you have less control. This is why you are more likely to do things you regret after you’re angry (ok, 100% likely).
Now some of you might be saying, “I knew bottling it up was bad! You should let it all out!”
You’ve been told by friends or by experts and counselors that whenever you feel angry you should just punch a pillow, or yell loudly, or rant about it to a colleague or friend. These things are actually NOT good ideas, and here’s why. Focusing on your negative emotions will most likely intensify the experience further, making it harder to lower your level and adjust.Venting your anger doesn’t reduce it. Venting actually intensifies emotions. Sharing your feelings with others constructively is a great idea, but getting it out tends to snowball your anger so you need to be very careful.
So what works then? Distracting yourself is the answer, but why would distractions help? Well, the answer is simple. Your brain has limited resources so thinking about something else would mean you have far less brain power to dwell on the bad stuff. I know what you’re thinking; when someone is yelling in your face it’s really hard to distract yourself, but there is a way to do this that is very easy.
Reappraisal is the Answer
Now let’s imagine that scene again. Someone is screaming at you, beet-red, an inch from your face. You feel like you are going to explode, scream back, or quite possibly hit them. Firstly, let me ask you a question.
What if I told you their father died yesterday, or that they were going through a rough divorce, or they just lost custody of their kids? How would you react then? You’d let it go wouldn’t you? You’d probably even respond to their anger with the complete opposite; compassion.
What exactly changed? Not the event and the situation is certainly the same, but the story, reason and circumstances are different and have completely changed everything.
As the famed scientist and researcher Albert Ellis once said;
“You don’t get frustrated because of events; you get frustrated because of your beliefs.”
Studies have shown that when someone is exploding at you, a good way to “reappraise” the situation and resist the urge to explode is simply to think;
“It’s not about me. They must just be having a bad day.”
When you start changing your beliefs and reactions concerning a situation, your brain begins to change the way you feel. Reappraisal works for not only this but for anxiety too! Reinterpreting stress as excitement can improve your performance for any auditions, tests, exams, or functions so give it a shot next time.
And what is going on in your brain?
Well, the busy guy begins to calm down and doesn’t get worked up the way it does with suppression. As opposed to bottling it all up, when you tell yourself that they’re having a bad day, most angry feelings tend to drop and good feelings increase.
Here’s a summary of how to get rid of your anger.
- Suppress rarely.The cause of the anger may not know you are angry, but you would feel horrible inside and hurt the relationship without meaning to.
- Don’t vent.Communication goes a long way, but venting just increases anger. Distract yourself.
- Reappraisal –Tell yourself, “It is not about me. They are probably having a bad day.”
Sometimes, the only thing you can do to avoid a homicidal rage is to suppress everything you have in you for the moment, but the benefit of this (in small doses) can cause a lot of hurt in important things.
However, telling yourself a compassionate story about what’s going on inside the other person’s head is usually the best option.
And what’s the final step in getting rid of that anger over the long haul so you can maintain good relationships?
It’s not for them, it’s for you. Forgiveness decreases your anger, which in turn makes you less stressed, which in turn makes you healthier! As the old saying goes;
“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Just remember to keep in mind: “They’re only having a bad day.”