Dealing with anger

May 16, 2024

It is totally normal to feel angry sometimes. We all get angry because we are human beings – it would be strange if we didn’t! So remember, anger is not a ‘bad’ emotion – it is a signal that something is not right. 

Anger is a defensive emotion. It tells us someone or something has made us feel unsafe, under attack, jealous, disrespected, or unloved. Anger sends us into fight or flight mode to keep us safe from the perceived ‘danger’ we are in. 

This can be positive when it motivates us to create positive change. But most often, feeling anger can be a sign that you need a little bit of extra love, care and support. 

Signs that anger is becoming a problem for you include: 

  • feeling angry all the time 
  • very small things making you very angry 
  • hitting or physically hurting other people or yourself
  • shouting a lot or constantly arguing with other people
  • breaking stuff or throwing things
  • feeling angry at yourself and being too self-critical 

If you’re feeling angry it is important to be aware of your behaviour so that you can identify your patterns. Do you show your anger by: 

  • Acting aggressively (shouting, hitting, arguing). 
  • Turning your anger inwards on yourself (hurting ourselves on purpose, not eating properly, deliberately not getting enough sleep etc). [hyperlink to the self-harm blog]
  • Act ‘passive aggressively’ – for example by refusing to speak to someone, being sarcastic, not answering calls, or deliberately doing a bad job when asked to do something. 

Here are 8 things you can do when you’re feeling angry: 

  1. Walk away – deal with the situation when you’ve had time to cool down 
  2. Distract yourself – do something completely different to get your mind off things for a while to help you reset your mood 
  3. Write down your feelings – grab a pen or laptop and write down everything you are feeling, and don’t stop until you have let it all out, then throw it away or delete it. 
  4. Exercise – go for a run, do some yoga at home, get the tension out of your body 
  5. Breathing exercises – take long, slow, deep breaths
  6. Take a shower – changing your body’s temperature and engaging different senses can change your mood 
  7. Think rationally – put your anger into context and think about different perspectives you could have on the situation
  8. Talk to someone you trust – call a friend or someone who cares about you and tell them how you feel and what is happening – it can really help to feel better

These are of course just short-term ways of dealing with intense emotions. If you struggle with anger regularly, it is important to get some more help and support, and to look deeper at what might be causing you to feel this way. 

Why do some people struggle so much with anger?

Childhood 

The way you were raised plays a big role in how you handle anger. If you’ve always seen people around you behaving a certain way, you might automatically react in the same way. We often model the behaviour of our parents – whether it is good or bad. If you have never seen people deal with anger in healthy ways, you might not know how to process your anger in a positive way.

Unhealed trauma 

Sometimes you can think you’re angry about one thing, but your anger is really being caused by something bigger. If something traumatic happened to you in the past, you might still be carrying that feeling of injustice with you and small things might trigger the pain of this past experience. It could be feelings of abandonment, rejection, loneliness, unworthiness or something else- but deep past pain can often show up in our present moment in unexpected ways. 

Suppressed feelings 

For example, your brother always leaving the kitchen messy might trigger your anger in the moment, but deep down, you’re really upset because you don’t feel like he spends quality time with you any more. Digging beneath the surface helps you find the real issues behind your anger, so that you can talk about your feelings in a calm way that helps other people understand.

Powerlessness 

Feeling like everyone else has power over your life can be infuriating. It’s frustrating, but the anger you’re feeling can be a good thing if it’s expressed in the right way. Lots of people find that activism and campaigning is a healthy outlet for their anger. Whether it’s joining up with a local action group or raising your voice for a cause you’re passionate about, there are plenty of ways to turn that anger into positive change.

Resource that can help: 

 

Videos 

How to process anger and rage

How to reframe a challenging moment

How not to take things personally  

How to deal with difficult people 

Why we get mad – and why it’s healthy 

 

Articles 

Dealing with difficult emotions 

Control anger before it controls you

Strategies for controlling anger

11 Anger management tips

Meditation for anger