Taming your temper
Managing anger in a good way
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
In light of several cases in the Canadian news regarding random assaults and road rage, it is important to boil it down to what the underlying problem is: an anger management issue. We hear about these extreme cases but managing anger is something that people can struggle with. Anger outbursts can lead to heart problems, an increased likelihood of having a stroke, and it weakens the immune system. Lashing out can lead to increased depression and anxiety, and can result in strained relationships with other people.
Everybody gets angry. Anger is a healthy and natural emotion. For some reason, in our society, most people think that anger is “bad;” that it is negative and becoming angry equates to being out of control. On the contrary, anger can be a good, positive force – if handled effectively.
Most people deal with their anger in three ways. One way is to “stuff” your anger; where you do not admit that you are angry, to yourself or to other people. You tend to “sweep things under the rug” because you feel it is not nice to be mad at someone; that you might hurt someone’s feelings, that you will damage a relationship if you show anger. But avoiding confrontation can end up damaging a relationship anyway because others may take advantage of you. Your silence may be viewed as uncaring, leaving the door open for misunderstanding. Internalizing your emotions can affect your physical and mental health. You may be more susceptible to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression or anxiety.
Secondly, some people allow their anger to escalate and explode. Your tendency is to blame other people and make them feel ashamed. You want to demonstrate power and appear strong because the last thing you want is to be viewed as weak. Reacting in this way means that you don’t address underlying feelings such as fear or embarrassment. You may get what you want for the short term, but your relationships with other people are damaged. You are also prone to physical and mental health difficulties.
And lastly, there is managing anger in an effective way. This is the healthiest way to deal with anger, and results in stronger relationships, more confidence, a higher energy level, better physical and mental health, and an overall sense of happiness. If you are not used to managing your anger in this way, it can be a challenge at first. But if you value yourself and others around you, it is worth the effort. Some ways to change the way you handle anger are:
- Only consider the here and now. Don’t bring up past events to support your argument.
- Avoid name-calling and labels. Focus on the behaviour. For example, avoid saying, “You are so selfish!” but instead, “You didn’t ask me what my opinion is. That makes me feel like I don’t matter to you.”
- Ask yourself if you are a controller. Do you think things like, “They should just do it my way,” or “Why is he going out dressed like that?” If you are a controller, think about the effect that you have on others around you.
- Take responsibility if you lose control. No one has the power to make you act in a certain way.
- Slow your anger down. If you tend to react quickly, train yourself to take deep breaths, count to 10 before you talk, or walk away until you cool down. You could save yourself from saying or doing something you regret.
- Stay away from other angry people.
- When the issue is resolved, forgive the other and ask for forgiveness yourself. You will eliminate resentment from your life.
- Make changes little by little. Ask yourself, “what can I change this week?” and evaluate whether you’ve reached your goal. If not, be patient and try again.
“The more anger towards the past you carry in your heart, the less capable you are of loving in the present.” – Barbara De Angelis
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.