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Dealing with Anger in Our Modern Society


Dealing with anger: What is it? Where does it come from?

dealing with angerDealing with anger is something we all have to learn and cope with, and may be anything from a minor annoyance to a psychotic rage. It is usually a healthy, completely normal emotion, that may be a helpful sign that an emotional or physical violation has occurred that may be necessary for us to pay attention to and/or respond. Nature seems to have provided us with an awareness of potentially harmful threats to our physical and emotional well-being, and an appraisal system which functions to a large degree on an unconscious level, assessing potentially damaging stimuli or threats, activating an arousal of our autonomic nervous system, and resulting in a response to preserve our well-being. Our personal abilities in dealing with anger may determine our ability to function in society, hold onto a job, maintain healthy interpersonal relationships and ultimately have a significant effect on our entire life.

Like most emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, increases in hormonal energy levels, adrenaline and noradrenaline. In terms of “primitive functioning”, it prepares us for “fight or flight“.

When dealing with anger, it is important to understand that both internal and external events may be responsible for its occurrence. You may be upset at a neighbor or co-worker for something they said or did not say, or may have an internal origin such as worrying or brooding about your own personal problems. Memories of hurtful or traumatic events may sometimes trigger anger.


Expressing anger:

Many people believe that the natural way to express anger is through aggression. While it is true that it is a natural, adaptive response to threats, and that it motivates a powerful reaction that sometimes may be necessary to preserve our emotional or physical well-being, it frequently results in a reaction that is out of proportion or not an accurate reflection of the circumstances.

People use a variety of both unconscious and conscious processes in dealing with anger. Researchers have found at the three main approaches to dealing with anger include expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your anger in an assertive, direct, specific way, is probably the healthiest way of expressing your anger. You need to make it clear what your needs are and how to get them met without hurting others. Being assertive does not mean being demanding and not respecting and showing consideration for another person’s feelings or needs, however.

Many people suppress anger, and then convert and redirect it. Frequently this happens when people deny it or attempt to stop thinking about it, and try to focus on something else. Obviously the objective is in these circumstances to suppress the anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The problem is that denial of these feelings and the allowance of an outward expression may lead to the anger being turned inward to be expressed at a later point in time, or in an inappropriate way. Also, suppressed anger has been found to have a high correlation with hypertension, high blood pressure and depression. It can also lead to pathological expressions such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back people indirectly) or affect the personality by causing the person to become cynical and hostile.

However, you can calm down inside. This doesn’t mean just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses and consciously forcing yourself to relax, taking steps to lower your heart rate, and letting the angry feelings subside.

Finally, sometimes it may be necessary to get some additional assistance in learning specific techniques of anger management.

Information and webpage by Paul Susic  Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist   (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)  

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