We all know that feeling. Everything was going well, life felt rosy, the sun was shining. Then all hell broke loose in a second and before you knew it the sales man was told some nasty things that really, despite his incessant, unadulterated sales attempts, were a bit too far. Now rage has consumed you; your heart races, beating with a fury that God-forbid be unleashed. The Incredible Hulk looks like a kindergarten kid to you now. Okay, time out.
Anger is a force that runs through everyone to varying degrees. It is a somewhat useful evolutionary mechanism that triggers the fight or flight mechanism in the body, causing the heart to pump more blood around the body, and neurotransmitters to be released, all in preparation of running, or fighting to the death. The triggers and responses to anger are very different today than they were thousands of years ago, and are often less related directly to survival, and less extreme. Anger is still however, an emotion that is experienced by everyone and has found a new context in modern society.
It is important to understand the root of anger, and its uses, because it is not something that should lead to guilt. Anger is a natural human emotion which once helped us to survive physically. Now it may not be as useful, and sometimes it can irrational, although it is still believed to have a function in helping us to decide right from wrong. It is important not to deny anger, or suppress our emotions, but to control the destructive elements that come along with it, and provide for ourselves outlets with which to deal with it.
What are Your Triggers?
Anger is not the same for everyone. In fact it is vastly different across every individual. What enrages one person can bring joy to the next. Anger is highly subjective, and each person has their own triggers and emotional patterns, that quite often repeat themselves. There is a wide range of triggers for anger and in order to understand how anger works in your own life it is necessary to become aware of the reaction in yourself.
Some triggers are physiological, and because of the evolutionary nature of our emotions many of them can be related to our physiological survival needs, including sleep, sex, food, and shelter. If basic needs are not met anger may be triggered easily. Other triggers include substance abuse and withdrawal, money and work, relations and other people, or being behind on time pressures, among others.
Avoiding -v- Dealing With It
When you understand your triggers it will be easier to make a plan and there are a couple of ways to move forward, usually requiring a combination of tactics. Firstly consider moving some of the triggers out of your life, especially certain pointless and unavoidable ones. Get enough rest and eat well, and consider cutting the company of people who frequently make you angry.
Avoiding triggers is not always the healthiest way to deal with anger, and sometimes they need to be confronted. If the trigger is out of your control, because it involves another person for example, then consider confronting the person in a calm state when neither of you are angry. This is much more useful than letting blind rage lead you into destructive arguments that ultimately don’t solve anything anyway. Approaching people when emotionally calm, rather than angry, takes courage. This is because anger is an emotional outburst, whereas talking constructively involves deliberate compromise, honesty, and integrity.
If the trigger is completely in your control, make changes to your reaction; understand that anger is internal and that you don’t have to react with outbursts. Remain calm, and deal with the emotion. Regain composure by stopping the emotional reaction that could be potentially destructive. Puase for a second, and react when you feel calm.
How to Overcome Anger and Regain Control
There are many ways to regain control of our sense of self during a situation that makes us angry. Try shifting body posture for example. The body takes up certain postures when it is angry. It becomes aggressive or defensive, and tenses up. Try shifting to a more relaxed one and this will effect the body and mind, and give relaxed signals both to your self and to others. Take a deep breath. Take a few deep breaths until you feel that you have regained an equilibrium. Think positively about the situation as far as is possible, even where it concerns a person. Cultivate forgiveness so that anger does not consume you.
Anger is equally damaging and destructive when it is pointed inwards. Some people express anger in a very outward way. This often releases the massive amount of energy that is accumulated, but has the negative side effect of damaging people around you, or perhaps the lamp if no one is around to explode at except for inanimate objects.
Other people remain silent in anger. Sometimes the silent anger is still directed outwardly towards the trigger, and sometimes the anger becomes inward, and the person feels that they are the problem. Either way inward anger should not be ignored. It is as valid as outward, but is less subtle. It should be recognized equally for what it is, and dealt with accordingly.
Whatever your usual vent for anger there are always healthy alternatives. For people who find it exceptionally difficult to control, to the point where it is extremely damaging for themselves and their families, it is essential to find a healthy vent. Healthy vents can be very physical as is the case with boxing, martial arts, or competitive sports, or can be emotional and mental, such as story-telling, debate club, and poetry. Yes poetry.
Anger is a result of strong emotion, and creativity is a vent for this. Painting, drawing, writing, or any creative activity can be used to express anger. Using angry emotions to create rather than destroy is pure alchemy. By understanding anger, regaining our composure in the moment, and then expressing ourselves creatively, we transform our anger into our source for creativity. Great art and literature comes from emotions that are expressed in this way.
Anyone who needs serious help could consider talking to loved ones, or speaking to a counselor. Do not leave anger to fester away. Learn to understand its roots, its triggers, and its responses, and then find healthy vents, and seek healthy life changes.