How to Cultivate a Healthier Relationship with Anger

Many people have unbalanced relationships with anger. Maybe you are someone who experiences anger and frustration frequently, which sometimes leads to conflicts in your relationships or workplace. Or maybe you have internalized the message that anger is ‘bad’ and should be suppressed at all costs. Each of these reactions to anger can be harmful. In this article, we will discuss the nature of anger, as well as strategies to help you acknowledge and work with your anger in a healthy way.

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Understanding Anger

Anger can be thought of as an emotion that exists on a spectrum, spanning from slight irritation to rage. It is important to acknowledge that anger, like any emotion, is not good or bad. It is normal and healthy to feel angry sometimes, whether towards a situation, another person, or due to memories of the past. Anger can help us to recognize when something is unjust, or alert us to a need that is not being met. Experiencing anger can be beneficial, as it can motivate us towards positive change. 

Getting in touch with our anger is essential. However, many individuals tend to react out of anger in ways that are aggressive or hurtful to others. Research has shown that uncontrollable anger can lead to many negative effects on one’s physical health, mental well-being, career and relationships.

Denying or suppressing anger can also be very harmful. If anger is not acknowledged, it can turn inward (leading to depression) or convert to problematic behaviors like passive aggressiveness. Individuals who are not in touch with their anger may find it difficult to identify what they want and need, and find the drive required to create positive change in their lives.

Strategies for Cultivating a Healthier Relationship with Anger

  1. Take note of how anger feels in your body. The next time you find yourself feeling angry, pay attention to how you experience it in your body. Does your heart start pounding and parts of your body start becoming tense? Do you need to pace around while you feel yourself starting to hyperventilate? Gaining awareness of these physical signs can act as a signal in the future, and help you to recognize the presence of anger without immediately reacting or pushing it down.
  1. Identify what emotions may be underlying your anger. Oftentimes, we express anger to mask other emotions that may be difficult to acknowledge- such as fear, shame, hurt, embarrassment, or vulnerability. Exploring the feelings that may be underlying anger can help you to tune into those parts of you that may just be really scared or hurt.
  1. Develop coping techniques for times of overwhelming anger. There are various strategies that can help with managing anger in the moment, such as deep breathing techniques, taking a walk around the block, slowly counting to ten, repeating a calming mantra, visualization exercises, or taking a break from a tense conversation or situation. All of these strategies can help to recenter your body and mind before reacting out of anger in ways you might later regret.
  1. Be receptive to the message your anger is sending you. Take the time and space to validate your feelings of anger, and determine what it could be trying to signal to you. Is it alerting you to an unmet need in a relationship or a boundary that needs to be drawn? Is your anger evidence that you feel strongly about a certain social issue that you could get further involved in? Anger can serve as a force for positive change, if we are open to acknowledging it, letting it inform and move through us, and drive us towards improving our lives and the world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is a healthy relationship with anger? 

A healthy relationship with anger is one where we are neither acting in ways that are aggressive or harmful to others, or suppressing our anger. Instead, we acknowledge that anger is a healthy emotion, and it is not good or bad. By welcoming the presence of anger, we can determine what it may be telling us about a change that needs to happen in our lives or the world. It can motivate us towards positive actions to improve our relationships, workplaces, and communities.

Can being angry be healthy?

Yes. It is perfectly normal and healthy to experience anger. However, if we are unable to control our anger and act in ways that are harmful to ourselves or others, it can be detrimental. Therefore, it is essential to learn how to cultivate a healthy relationship with anger, where we can recognize its presence and express it in a constructive way.

What emotion is behind anger? 

It is often said that anger is a ‘secondary emotion’ that can mask primary emotions such as fear, shame, embarrassment, hurt, or vulnerability. Many people in our society, especially males, are programmed to display anger, as they believe showing any other emotion is a sign of ‘weakness.’ Tuning into what emotions may be underneath anger can help us to give attention and care to those vulnerable parts of ourselves.

How do you get rid of anger fast? 

There are various calming strategies that can help you to calm down when flooded with anger, such as breathing exercises, visualization, physical activity, repeating a mantra, or slowly counting to 10. However, it is important to note that the goal should not be to ‘get rid’ of anger or never feel angry. Instead, we can accept the presence of anger and understand what it may be signaling to us. For example, maybe our anger clues us into the need to set a healthy boundary or have an important conversation.