“Why am I so quick to get angry?”
“Why can’t the person in front of me drive faster?”
“Why do my parents say ‘no’ to everything?”
“Why do I feel like no one is listening to me?”
Anger is a normal response to questions like these, but can we change our response? How do we become less angry and react differently? For many, that is not an easy question to answer.
Anger is like slipping on ice. One minute you are walking along and all of a sudden you find yourself on the ground. You didn’t think about slipping while you were falling. But that was the result – you fell. All of this happens in a matter of nanoseconds, without being consciously aware of it. Your brain functions the same way to anger. It convinces you that anger is a normal, automatic response.
Anger is our body’s response to something not feeling right, something feeling unfair, something out of our normal experience. Many of us have been taught anger is negative. So we suppress it and don’t know what to do with it. And oftentimes, this leads us to explode in anger. It is like the classic science experiment of adding vinegar and baking soda. As the vinegar reacts to the baking soda, it starts fizzing. Depending on the amount of vinegar and the size of the container, the baking soda bubbles up or it explodes, spewing out like an erupting volcano.
You are the baking soda in this analogy – nice, calm and just going through your day. But life stressors, such as emotionally charged situations, represent the vinegar. As these stressors come into your life, they begin to bubble. The more stressors there are, the more the pressure rises and the higher the possibility of an angry explosion.
But, did you know anger can be good? It can inspire us to make important changes and learn how to cope in situations. It leads us to be assertive and helps us become more aware of ourselves, while also becoming more in tune with our emotions. Think of it this way:
Anger is internal —> reacting to external stimuli
All of us have …
- Needs and Desires
Needs and Desires lead to …
So, now we have needs and desires present in our lives and expectations of ourselves and others when …
- An Event Occurs
We then have to see what the situation is about and …
- Appraise It
Some (not all) of these events and appraisals may result in …
- Negative Feelings
Anger may be one of these negative feelings. So, what do we do with our anger in these moments?
- Gauge Your Anger. When we are angry, we can gauge the level of our anger on a scale 1-10. For example, 1 is cool, calm and collected (picture the baking soda with no vinegar added to it), and 10 is extremely angry (picture the baking soda and vinegar boiling over).
- Know Yourself. God created only one of you and He knows you better than anyone else does. When you are dealing with anger in your life, you may have various supportive people who can tell you their perspectives. However, it is also important to determine where you are spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically when approaching a stressful situation in your life. Therefore, get to know yourself! What makes you feel happy, sad or agitated? When do you find yourself laughing, crying, complaining or feeling angry? Notice your body language and tone, as well as how you are feeling physically at that moment. If you are clenching your jaw, fists or body, then that likely means you are upset.
- Slow Down. Think about getting your anger level down from an 8 to a 7.5, rather than trying to get yourself from an 8 to a 1. Think of something or do something that makes you feel calm. For example, it might be taking a deep breath, praying, squeezing a stress ball, playing a sport, working out, counting to a specific number, talking to a friend or spouse, playing a game, listening to music or reading. If one activity does not work, choose another one and keep on choosing until you find one that works for you. Find something that makes you feel like you can slow down for a moment.
“When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, a hundred.”
“Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.”
Dr. Lawrence J. Peter
Heather Harvey completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Master’s degree in Family & Consumer Sciences at Louisiana Tech University. She also completed a second Master’s degree in Counseling at Dallas Baptist University. Using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and additional eclectic counseling methodswhile incorporating her faith, Heather provides counseling to adolescents, children, couples and families.