Contrary to its bad press, anger is a defining emotion.
It is the gift of setting boundaries.
Yes, anger can act as a barometer for what has gone wrong, where people have overstepped a person’s limits, or where injustice is occurring.
It happens far too often, we let our anger make us unhappy.
We get caught up in the emotion, instead of investigating the trigger.
But anger is merely the warning light on your dashboard of life.
It doesn’t force you to feel a certain way, it lets you know that something is out of whack and needs to be fixed.
Because of this, anger is actually a powerful state to be in, as long as you have the skills to manage it.
So what is anger?
It is an emotionally triggered reaction to a situation or event and comes in three different forms: passive, aggressive and constructive.
Some people bottle it up and feel bad inside, many let it out in ways that are destructive to themselves and those around them, while others are able to use the anger to make improvements in their life.
Your body will usually tell you when you are angry.
The emotion manifests itself in physiological changes such as increased respiration and heart rate, muscle tension, sweating and flushing of the skin.
It can also reduce peripheral vision, and the processing of auditory language.
Of course people experience anger in different ways; some may experience a physical sensation, others more perceptual distortions, while some may only report changes in how they think when they’re angry.
Anger doesn’t have to dictate our behaviour, it can be used to create positive changes.
The raw emotion itself is powerful and clarifying as long as we choose to express it in a constructive way.
When used with discipline and compassion, anger is the warrior’s sword that can cut away that which is putrid and unhealthy.
In her book The Dance of Anger, Psychologist Harriet G. Lerner, says “Our anger may tell us that we are not addressing an important emotional issue, or that too much of our self is being compromised in a relationship.
Just as physical pain tells us to take our hand off the hot stove, the pain of our anger preserves the very integrity of our self.”
Anger aids survival by preparing us to deal with a potential threat.
It can also draw our attention to important issues that need our attention.
Keeping control of anger can allow us to express our needs or concerns constructively and assertively, facilitating clear communication, and effective problem-solving.
Ways to dampen unhealthy anger…
Stop, take yourself out of the situation and ask yourself ‘If this was a movie, what would I see?’
In other words, practise detachment.
To reduce the physiological effects that anger can invoke, practise positive self-talk, muscle relaxation or deep breathing, or simply remove yourself from the place or situation that is triggering the emotion.