How Can We Control Our Anger?

June 22, 2019
Knowing how to manage emotions such as anger is key in the upbringing of children and in social interaction.

Anger is an emotion that appears when we find ourselves in situations that cause us frustration, or that we feel are unfair. It’s a basic emotion, and it’s normal to get angry from time to time, especially when you’re a mother or a father. Knowing how to control our anger is fundamental in the upbringing of children and, ultimately, for our general well-being.

According to María José Bosch, the more we think about what has caused our anger, the more reasons and justifications we’ll think we have for being angry. Therefore, knowing how to understand and channel anger is vital in order to have a better quality of life.

But how can we identify this emotion? What does it consist of?

Anger: a basic emotion

Emotions have many varied definitions:

  • Involuntary impulses
  • Reactions to environmental stimuli
  • Cognitive and neurochemical processes.

They can even cause changes in our bodies such as sweating or agitated breathing.

However, a very good definition of emotion is the one given by psychologist Daniel Goleman. For him, an emotion is a feeling and the thoughts that characterize it. This is influenced by the psychological or biological conditions that affect it, thus causing our bodies to react in a certain way.

Emotions are messages that our bodies send in order to cope with, and react to, any given situation. Anger belongs to the group of basic emotions along with joy, sadness, aversion, fear and surprise, and it’s a necessary survival mechanism for our bodies, but how can we manage our anger?

How Can We Control Our Anger?

Our anger is unleashed by our thoughts and feelings, and causes physiological and neurochemical changes, which then causes our bodies to react in a certain way. However, there are also a series of conditioning factors which have an influence here, such as personality and the socio-cultural context that we find ourselves in.

How to control our anger: identify the emotions

Identifying our emotions is key to our well-being and is a basic tool in our day-to-day social interaction. If we can quickly see that a certain situation is causing us to get angry, then it won’t catch us by surprise and we’ll be available to redirect and handle our emotions more effectively.

People experience emotions in very different ways. It depends on our character, the situation we find ourselves in, and our own past experiences.

So, in order to identify which situations make us angry, we must first understand and analyze ourselves, and find out what things bother or frustrate us. In this way, when we begin to face a situation that we’ve identified as “high risk,” then we’ll be prepared.

Some signs that can alert us that we’re about to explode can be found in the physiological signals that our body sends us. If you’re able to recognize these signs, then you’ll also be able to take measures to control your anger:

  • Restless breathing
  • Nausea and upset stomach in general
  • Muscle stiffness, especially in the shoulders
  • Sweating
  • Clenching of the jaw or hands

Another of the most visible and detectable signs we can find is in our thoughts. Constant negative thoughts will only serve to stoke the fires of our emotions and increase the chances of an angry outburst.

4 ideas to manage anger

Accept the emotion

First of all, we have to accept the fact that this emotion exists. There are always fundamental reasons for us to have these emotions. In the case of anger, we often express it when we consider that something is unfair. As a result, if we repress or inhibit this emotion then it could affect our self-esteem.

Identify the emotion

Identifying our emotions is one of the first steps in being able to control them. Knowing and recognizing that we’re angry, and that something is annoying us and making us feel bad, helps us identify the emotion and regain control in our decision making. But how can we control our anger?

How Can We Control Our Anger?

Look for calm

When we’re angry, then calm is the best weapon. If we continue to fuel our anger then we’ll try to justify our actions. Because of that, even though it’s a very obvious solution, finding calm is the best way to stop the wave of anger.

Good options are to go running or walking, breathing and exhaling deeply, doing an activity that relaxes us, or just simply going to a quiet place.

Reflect on what happened

This is really important, as reflecting on what has happened helps us to learn from the experience and to manage anger in the future. Questions like: “Why was I so upset?”, “How do I want to solve it?” or “Can I do something about it or should I just let it go?” will all help you analyze the situation and understand yourself better.

According to Bosch, anger, like sadness, is an emotion that feeds itself. That means that the more you think about the reasons that make you angry, the angrier you will get. Going over the situation in your mind will only fan the flames of anger. As a result, we’ll find even stronger reasons to be angry.

Anger is an emotion that activates our defence-attack mechanism, and it causes negative thoughts whose purpose is to cause damage or destroy. It’s true that it’s a basic emotion, and it can be counterproductive to inhibit it. However, if we can’t control our anger, then it’ll end up destroying us and harming those around us.

“The greatest remedy for anger is delay”

–Séneca–

 

  • Bosch, M.J. (2009). La danza de las emociones. Edaf. España: Madrid.