Anger is one of the basic emotions hardwired into the human brain.
Anger can sometimes be scary – for both the person experiencing it and people around him or her – but there is nothing wrong or shameful about feeling angry now and then.
Anger is natural, and it can even be helpful. For example, anger can alert you to unfair treatment or to behavior that goes against your sense of right and wrong.
However, some people fall into a habit of constant, strong feelings of anger. This is not only upsetting for them, but can also be dangerous. It places strain on the body and it can impair a person’s ability to make decisions. Extreme anger can even motivate violent behavior.
How Can You Manage Powerful Feelings of Anger?
Anger is felt under many circumstances, but one factor is common: The idea that you are threatened. People who have been victimized, such as sufferers of abuse, often harbor feelings of anger. When not addressed, these feelings can cause them harm.
No matter your background or circumstances, it is possible to recognize and manage anger. Managing anger does not mean denying your feelings or saying they are “not real.” It does mean, however, that you can choose how you express them.
The most basic skill in anger management is recognizing anger’s early signs. Anger does not usually boil up all at once – it begins with annoyance, which builds to frustration. By tuning in to what anger does to your body and mind, you can build new skills for coping with it.
When you start to feel angry, you might notice:
- The muscles in your chest and elsewhere in your body start to tighten;
- You have faster, more shallow breaths, and may clench your jaw tight;
- You feel like you “can’t stop” thinking about the subject of your anger;
- You feel the urge to move, shout, or even break something around you.
By becoming aware of these sensations, you can take action to change them – and change how you react. For example, breathing deeply can induce a sense of calm and keep muscles from locking up. Choosing to take a walk outside can clear your mind and give you some time to yourself.
Asking yourself if the thing you are angry about now will still matter to you in a month could change how you feel right away. You might find stirrings of anger will go away on their own when the matter is really not that important to you after all.