Somehow we’ve been taught to believe emotions fall into neat and tidy categories. The first category consists of “bad” emotions. Anger is one of the emotions that people consider bad. The second category consists of “good” emotions. Love and joy fall into this category.
People come into therapy thinking they need to banish the bad emotions from their lives. They think the goal of their work should be to live exclusively in the emotions they’ve deemed acceptable and good. Unfortunately, this is an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation.
Human beings were given a full range of emotions in order to survive and flourish in a rapidly changing and highly variable world. Instead of splitting these emotions into good and bad, people should view their emotions as either comfortable or uncomfortable. Not only is this a more accurate description of the nature of emotions, but it also enables people to benefit from them.
Anger is an uncomfortable emotion that people want to banish. Instead of banishing our anger, we can learn to manage it constructively and use it to enhance our lives. In this way, we can avoid channeling it into self-destructive expressions or allowing it to build until it comes out explosively. The following four points will assist you in this regard:
1. Learn what triggers your anger: Instead of suppressing your anger or “letting it rip," develop a conscious relationship with it. Pay attention to the specific situations or people who invoke anger in you. Once you have an understanding of what triggers your anger, you can begin to explore the root cause and make healthy changes in response.
2. Find healthier ways of emotionally expressing your anger: Anger needs to be expressed, but it needs to be expressed in a healthy, assertive way. Assertive means you express it without hurting others. A good way to do this is to keep a private anger journal in which you spill out your emotions in an uncensored fashion.
3. Find healthy ways of physically expressing your anger: Again, this expression needs to be assertive (non-hurtful to others) not aggressive (hurtful to others). Go for a long walk or take a run.
4. Calm yourself down: One of the best ways to do this is to physically change where you are. If your anger begins to overwhelm you in the house, go outside. If you’re driving, pull over and stop the car. Deep breathing and counting from 1 to 100 are also an incredible ways to break the grip anger can have over you.
Above all else, remember that anger is an emotion that is meant to be experienced and expressed – within a normal range. When you feel like your anger is controlling you and destroying the quality of your life and your relationships with others, seek professional help. You will not be the first person who experienced overwhelming anger and you will not be the first person to find a solution.