angry kid

How to Control Anger Emotions

You’ve probably heard that anger is bad, that you should always be in control, and that emotion should never be shown.There seems to be a global conspiracy against anger: we should all ‘keep cool’, ‘stay in control’, and somehow ignore the bad driver who nearly caused a fatal crash or that terrible argument with your partner.

And that’s very wrong.

It all starts from misunderstanding the natural role of anger. Let’s make things a bit more clear…

Anger is Part of Us

Have you ever shown an angry picture of yourself to the population of a remote island? Probably not — it sounds like a very weird way to spend your holiday! Dr Paul Elkman spent most of his life researching basic human emotions all around the world.

It’s not surprising to discover that we all get angry. Research has proven that anger is one of the universally recognizable emotions. Anywhere in the world, if you show a photo of an angry person, everyone will recognize the emotion that is being displayed.

When you get angry, your facial expressions and body posture communicate that damage is being done and that you are prepared to do something about it.

Now, you might think that you could just say something like: “You are damaging me, stop it” Instead of getting all worked up. Unfortunately, verbal messages are processed by an evolutionarily younger part of the brain. Emotions convey your message in a way that words cannot.

Anger is Healthy

What happens if you decide not to feel angry and manage to restrain yourself? Unexpressed anger can lead to self harm. You could develop an ulcer or other physical illnesses. Psychological problems such as alienation might appear. Anger might also help assert yourself: expressing your own needs and making sure they are met.

What you say and do when angry might be unhealthy

A client of mine used to routinely have fights with bad drivers who made a mistake that could have caused an accident. He would get very angry, follow the car, stop it, and try to start a fight. His reasoning was: he’s wrong, I’m angry, I’ll hurt him. He later managed to change his ways, accepting that he had every right to be angry and no right to punch the object of his anger in the face!

Anger is no excuse to verbally and physically abuse others.

How to Control Anger

1. Now is the time to feel angry – Anger naturally evolved to help us deal with the present. If you find yourself constantly angry, your anger might be masking other emotions like fear and sadness. The next time you feel angry, try asking yourself: ‘Am I angry-afraid, angry-sad or angry-angry?’

2. Remember that you can feel and think at the same time – There is a popular myth that feeling and thought can’t go together. The reality is that no one shuts down your brain when you get angry: you still have the capacity to think, even if it might be harder than normal.

3. Choose – We have the capacity to choose how to express our feelings. In the workplace, expression of anger might need to be limited, while at home it’s important to find a constructive way to express your feelings.

4. Use Action/Feeling statements – A good way to communicate your anger is to say “When you do (action) I feel (feeling).” If the situation allows it, shouting an Action/Feeling statement is another interesting option! Remember that when speaking of an action it’s important to characterize it in strictly descriptive terms: only what the person did, not why you think he did it.

5. Express your anger, then go away – If channeling your anger in non abusive ways becomes too difficult, you still have the option to briefly express it in an acceptable way and then leave immediately.

For those with anger issues, the ability to control anger and emotions can be developed through an anger management program.

As a Counselor, Marco helps people living a happier life from the comfort of their own home. To read more great posts from Marco, check out Even Happier.

  • http://www.newstasis.com/2007/08/28/emotions-are-not-thoughts/ Patrick

    Hi Marco,

    I like your article as a starting point for a discussion about anger.

    Anger is the emotion that remains after a nonessential fight or flight response has been triggered. It occurs because we have interpreted a threat to our existence when one does not actually exist – like your friend who would chase down and fight dangerous drivers.

    In most instances it happens when we commit the fundamental attribution error and blame peoples character and not circumstance for their behaviour.

    I like how you mention that thoughts and feelings can exist at the same time, although I think it takes a lot of practice to be able to identify when you are thinking a feeling and thinking a thought because, from an evolutionary point of view, feelings need to be taken into consideration due to the survival nature of the lessons they were attempting to bring forward into ones awareness – thinking about feeling fearful is going to inhibit the running response that feeling fearful is trying to facilitate. Emotions that tend to keep us alive will be more difficult to stop and require a lot more practice to identify and engage than those that tend to present us with novel or trivial information. Anger and fear tend to take over your consciousness while happiness, sadness or guilt can be engaged consciously.

    With practice one can identify the moment between stimulus and response to move away from click wirrr behaviours to more pragmatic decision based on the combination of both emotional information and conscious thought information.

  • http://www.evenhappier.com Marco

    Hello Patrick,
    Thanks for the very interesting comment!

    In this post, I also focus on the positive role of anger:
    I wonder if other readers believe that anger can have a positive role in their life…

  • http://adsoftheworld.com Ads of the World

    Slightly off topic. Why on earth would you edit out the little boys penis?

    • Anthony Levi woodall

      I hurt everyone I care bout, with out even laying a hand on them. I never knew love because I never haved loved. Im so stubburn that I won’t let my family help when im in trouble, I push my friends away, yet I don’t want to be alone. I let them go, and they never come back. Im so scared that I’ll end up alone for the rest of my life. It seems possible, because I’ve moved from place to place to place so many times its so hard to establish a good sense of home, and being the National Guard gives me a sense of strength, and being raised by a Marine rized that sense of strength to a state of numbness. All numbness of what I do to people, but not what people do to me. That hightens my anger because I’ve never known any other (other than my paternal and maternal sense) sensation than anger but only once; I’ve loved once and it was ripped away it seems. It was my fault I pushed her away too. I remember before I want basic training I told my step father I felt that I was out of place and he said that I was out of place. I don’t know if was to make me stronger or to tell me to grow up but it hurt so much that I just cried and cried. I don’t have any more options, but to say I need help, I’ve admitted I have an anger problem, I need some help stop my anger before I turn in to so giant green monster. Please help me.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/dragonwaregames JL

    ^ knew someone was going to say that

    Good article by the way.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Haha, I didn’t want to risk upsetting anyone or being accused of publishing inappropriate photos. To be honest, there wasn’t much to be seen in the first place.

  • http://blog.potterzot.com The Decision Strategist

    Great post! I think that determining how much and in what way to show anger depends on whether the situation is a cooperative one or a competitive one. In a cooperative situation such as a marriage, it may be better to limit the display of anger to increase the value of the relationship. In a cooperative relationship, displays of anger can really damage things.

    On the other hand, if it’s a competitive relationship in which the other person’s well-being has zero or negative impact on your own, it makes sense to show your anger, since you are defining boundaries and ensuring safety or access to resources.

  • http://www.thelostglobe.com Dan

    Haha, I was going to make comment on that too, showing anger: ok, showing a natural part of the body: no. But I guess really on the net if you use a photo like that I’d be more concerned about someone getting off on it than someone being offended.

  • just4today

    hmm. interesting article and I thank you. I find that most of the time, my anger is kept at bay by ACCEPTANCE. I can ACCEPT that I don’t have any control over people, places, and things. That pretty much leaves ME. For example, I know that I have no control over the jerk who cut me off on the highway. There is nothing I can do to change that. Why spend all that energy on ANGER then? ACCEPTANCE is the key I believe.

  • http://www.everythinginaweb.com Ruben Diaz

    That’s the thing about anger, natural to have and we’re being lead to stifle it. I don’t think you should allow your anger to build to the point where you’d do someone physical harm, but yelling and blowing off steam… sure why not! You’ll live longer :)

  • just4today

    Ruben: You’ll live happier with more serenity if the anger is not developed in the FIRST place. For ME (not you or anyone else), when I find myself angry (and I do once in awhile), I consider it a symtom of not having control of some person, place, or thing. I try to avoid anger all together by accepting the fact that I am not in control of anything accept myself. When the jerk on the highway cuts me off…guess what?…I don’t get angry. It is a spiritual axiom that when someone else does something that makes ME angry…then there is something wrong with ME!

  • http://qreativ.com Gary

    I accept that all people experience feelings of anger. I also recognize that anger comes in various shades like frustration, peevishness, rage, irritation, impatience and other degrees. But I don’t accept that all people are susceptible to strong feelings of anger to the same degree. I still believe that being brought up in a proper environment and being a well-adjusted individual can stem feelings of anger and that people can have a balanced view of the world that allows them to be tolerant in challenging situations. I don’t buy that strong anger that requires an ‘outlet’ is universal.

    People who deal constantly with anger can easily but falsely assume everyone else is like them and that the very ‘universality of human rage’ justifies ‘loosening the valve’ from time to time.

    Anger is an emotion. It’s natural. It is also blinding. Acting on that emotion is almost always destructive. It’s better to cool down and make decisions and judgments based on solid thinking, not on knee-jerk reactions prompted by bouts of anger.

    Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. I feel better now.

  • Erik

    I think you made it weird when you blurred the kid’s penis. He is as he is, you shouldn’t pander to the paranoid. It’s a hilarious picture and by blurring it, you made it sexual.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I don’t really disagree with you, Erik. But I was worried of being accused of child pornography. Truth is you could barely even see it. I just didn’t want to be the guy posting naked pictures of little kids.

  • http://YAHOO KIANO

    HI I CAN NOT CONTROL MY ANGER AT ALL I HAVE GONE TO ANGER MANIGEMINT CLASSES AND TO DAY MY DOCTOR TOLED ME IF I DIDENT CONTROL IT I COULD HAVE A HART ATTAC OR WORSE PLEASA HELP ME .

  • http://YAHOO KIANO

    I HAVE REZOLTED TO ALCAHOL LATLY AND SOME TIMES I JUST START CRYING AND CANT STOP AND SOMETIMES IT IS OF NOTHING ALSO SOMETIMES I JUST BRACK DOWEN AND SAY GOD HELP ME PLEASA.

  • Utkarsh

    Hi Marco,

    I gone through your article and found it very useful for me,actually I am very short tempered and some time it is very difficult for me to manage myself because on that moment I loose my self control and something did very unexpected things and after that I realize that I made mistake.

    Passing through this article I found a very interesting headline i.e. “Anger is Healthy” and while reading this paragraph I feel that I am laughing(ha ha )and it helps me to reduce or to come out from that situation,so I take a print out of it and paste it infront of my desk.

    Thanks a lot Marco
    Utkarsh K. Shrivastava

  • http://www.angerdefense.com angerdefense

    I have to admit… when I first starting reading this post, I didn’t agree with what was being said. But, as I continued to read, it started to make sense. In particular the 5 tips you listed on how to control anger. Anger is a “healthy” emotion that we all have, but it should only be expressed in “healthy” ways. It’s not so much the anger itself that becomes the problem (although one should know what triggers it), it’s how people choose to react to it that becomes the problem…and there should be no mistake about it… there IS a choice. Tip #2 says it best.

  • emolover

    this is a very good article it helped me read up on my anger issues and now i am 1 step closer t controling my anger. thank you

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  • http://bunchogames.com robert

    I think my anger controls me and i think its gonna make my girlfriend and I break up. I don’t want that and I dont want it to sound like im trying to control her. shes had enought of that in the past. Im printing this out along with other sites to try to control my anger. I usually go for a walk but she just told me in a text msg i usually end up sayin im not going back home. I do anyway cause I don’t wanna lose it and come to my senses Thanks for this :(

  • luke reynolds

    hello

    im at witts end with my anger i think pritty soon im gunna losse it so bad im really gunna do myself some damage what is it when ur brain abilty to keep u under control and help keep u out of harms way but my brain dosent let me think about what im doing i just do it how bad is that i want to die tbf and i may use my anger to do that :(

  • jessica

    i just wanted to thank u for posting this kinda stuff…. i am a person that can get angery real fast and i am tryin too learn how to control it cause my love on(boyfriend) hates it too were if i say something he wont talk to me for 2 maybe 3 days!!! i need too find some ways too learn to control it or i am goin too loose him and i dont want that cause i am in love and i can see us together for ever but not if i dont learn to control…. anyone has a advice that be great….. email me at lilbrat4life@aol.com

  • moose

    i alwas get mad for no reason the i flip out and loose my self lil things make me lose it i hav two kids and am afraid that if dont control my anger my kids my suffer cuz of me

  • mimi

    i hata my dad he keeps traeting me like a 2 yr old i never get wat i want and he always gets mad easily wich makes me flip and know whenever i ask him 4 something he never stays calm

  • nazir

    Excellence topic of anger and how it controll
    everybody must read and act accordingly to
    save life and leave longer

  • sky

    hi marco you have a good point on anger management, i have a real problem on my anger, i’m always angry to people because of some reasons and i cant tell it to anyone because they’ll just laugh at me, i tired it once and it never works… i’m about to burst everything… i hope that you can help me …. i can’t get some councelor coz im just a student…

  • Sahara

    Hi my name is Sahara Miller Im a freshman at MSJC. I just started a summer program at MSJC Womens Tennis and now everyone see how anger I get. When the coach confronts me I never look at her with my full attention I always do that it’s not like I do it just to be me. Everyone tell me how bright I am and Im a really good player I just have so much on my mind I feel so lonely so time and I take my personal problem with my to the tennis courts :( I been hurt for soo long and I never feel good about myself anymore and I always hide it and show Im the happiess person in the world. Sometimes I want to give up but I made it this far! I just don’t know… if your reading this please give me some advise, Thank you.

  • Lovie

    I thought that the inappropriate picture took away from the credibility of the article. Another picture with out the finger and “block out” could have symbolized the same message. I also used to think of anger as bad until some counseling helped me understand that it can also be a catalyst to express feelings that you were fearful about expressing otherwise.

    • Godson

      thanks for the piece, its worth reading

  • http://www.zentactics.com/ Adam

    Great article Marco. You’re right that we “choose” how we express our feelings. Over the long haul, one thing that has helped me is being able to understand some of the issues carried over from childhood and how that can trigger anger. When you make these little connections, it’s like a little light bulb goes on. There’s an article about this at: http://www.zentactics.com/how-to-control-anger.html

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  • Pingback: Off the Anger Train – Eliminate Need for Anger Management Techniques — Anger Flexibility

  • http://thememorywhisperer.co.uk Kathryn G Deyn

    We are have been ‘trained’ to hold back our anger, as we think of the ‘actions’ of anger, as anger!
    Anger itself is simply an energy, and it is possible to process it whilst remaining physically still, when you know how.

    Most people have trapped ‘fight’ energy frozen in their memories, hidden underneath their ‘freeze’ in the situation.

    It can easily be released and resolved.
    Kathryn

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  • http://www.aces-counseling.com/ DUI evaluation

    There are really lots of people struggling in managing their anger. This article provides a great deal of help for them. It is important for these people to realize that too much anger is not healthy and can cause destruction for themselves as well as to those around them. If such is the case, seeking professional attention is an option. Thank you for sharing these very helpful article. 

  • Www Spoof

    I hate my mommy and daddy…they didn’t get me the latest power ranger doll for christmas…so i peed in my sisters soup.Made me fel a little better.The the other day my dad yelled at me and took away my powder poofs,while i was eating them….AAARRGGGHH!!!! i will kill his dog

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  • Ali Goodarzi

    first of all great photo, i was laughing for a couple of minutes, which itself helps in reducing anger. i really agree with you on the fact that anger is actually healthy and it should exist. but i think that frequent anger is not healthy at all. it is not healthy in any plane, Physical, emotional, mental and even causal. for example i was reading that being angry all the time creates bad luck :
     http://pranaworld.net/frequent-anger-brings-bad-luck/ and it will affect the mental process of the body as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003705795696 William Toms

    The only thing I got from this article is that I’m supposed to take people’s crap and walk away. Like I’m some kind of door mat. NOT!

    Unless you yell at someone, they don’t really listen to what you’ve got to say. Unfortunately, when you yell at someone they usually end up yelling back. And that never solves things.

    My problem is that no one ever LISTENS to why I’m angry and they never seem to care. Even when I’m completely in the right. In other words, I’m always in the wrong it seems. And anyone with half a brain knows that’s totally impossible unless I just walk up to people and get in their face for no apparent reason. Which I certainly don’t do.

    My anger is eating me alive and NO ONE wants to hear about it or show me support for it. And it’s anger that goes back m0re than 40 years. No one cares and that’s the bottom line. So why should I care about them and treat with ANY respect whatsoever.