Managing Anger with Understanding: What Need Does Your Anger Express?

What makes you angry? Do other emotions crop up for you alongside feelings of anger? Here are some strategies you can use to both understand and manage them!

Anger appears in our lives, sometimes accompanied by other emotions, and sometimes as the core emotion. There may be times when it impedes our ability to grow and move forward, causing us trouble and putting us in unwelcome circumstances. We may sometimes feel the intense anger of a child or perhaps we experience anger bordering on despair. While we might get angry at unfairness, we can also feel angry when personal boundaries have been crossed.

However, anger, which is one of the basic emotions, can be as natural as being happy and as intense as being sad. Do you remember the first time you experienced anger? Where were you? What were you doing? How did you manage your anger? Look within yourself.

Notice Your Triggers

What makes you angry? Think about the times you’ve felt angry recently. What could be your triggers? Can you group these triggers under a few different categories? For instance, maybe it’s unfairness, your texts being left unanswered, being misunderstood, or your boundaries being crossed. Do these topics sound familiar to you? When these things occur, what could be the root cause of your anger? 

Where do you feel anger in your body? Take a moment to scan yourself, noticing how your body feels alongside the emotions you’re experiencing. Which part of your body is more active when you feel intense anger? Try to take stock of yourself, your body, when your body goes into a state of anger, and which situations exacerbate this anger.

Do Other Emotions Accompany Your Anger?

Anger is like the tip of the iceberg. Someone who looks furious, angry, and frantic on the outside may sometimes feel lonely, guilty, or anxious, for example. Anger can be such an overwhelming and intense emotion that we may not be able to see our deeper wounds. The better you know yourself, the better you can soothe yourself and navigate difficult emotions. Try to feel the emotion underneath your anger. Look within yourself,  knowing that you can deal with the emotion that comes up. Can you try to identify whether anger is the main feeling or companion to another emotion?

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Review Your Thoughts & Beliefs

Notice what’s going through your mind. Maybe it’s, “He doesn’t like me,” or, “She’s making fun of me,” or, “They’re infringing on my rights,” or, “They’re doing it on purpose just to piss me off!” or, “What do I always have to remind them of the same things?” or, “If he lied to me, then everything he’s ever said or done was just a lie. He can’t do this to me!”

Let’s look closely at the content of your thoughts. Could it be that you’re assuming what another person’s thinking or interpreting their behavior in your own way? Is it possible that you’re focusing too much on being right or on what others think about you? Does it really matter if others agree with you or not?

Identify the Thoughts Fueling the Flames 

If we think of anger as the color yellow, imagine it becoming dark yellow as its intensity increases, becoming orange as it gets more intense, and as flame-red when it reaches its peak. Can you identify when your anger starts turning darker, deepening to that flame-red? What do you say to yourself in these moments? How can you talk to yourself differently, opening your thoughts to other possibilities?

What Do You Do When You’re Angry?

Protecting Boundaries: Blue Bubble

Imagine as if there’s a tiny blue bubble surrounding you. Picture everyone around you with their own blue bubble. When someone’s bubble touches another’s, making it burst, a boundary has been crossed. You’re not only responsible for protecting your own bubble, but also for making sure you’re not bursting the bubbles of others. When you’re angry, do you notice yourself interfering with other people’s bubbles? 

Observe Your Anger’s Frequency

How often do you find yourself deep within the flames? Several times a week? Several times a day? Or, is anger an emotion you rarely experience? Once you recognize your triggers and understand your anger, it’s possible for you to manage and temper those flames.

Determine the Direction of Your Anger

Anger is a very healthy and natural emotion. It’s quite normal to feel angry, to notice it within your body, and be unsure of what to do from time to time. So, where can you direct your anger?

Recognize your boundaries and do your best to respect the boundaries of others. In order to protect your own boundaries, you can try to embrace your anger in a healthy way, making sure not to cross someone else’s boundaries or bursting their bubble.

What Would You Like To Do With Your Anger?

Sometimes expressing your anger, moving forward by cooling the flames, is the right thing to do. You know what’s best for you; look within yourself. What would you rather do with your anger? By taking responsibility for your anger, you can make your own decision and manage it without harming others. You’ll see that, as you get more in touch with yourself, your anger can decrease.

What Do You Do When the Wave of Anger is Over Your Head? 

Anger is something that surges up and down like deep, blue waves of an icy sea. You can swim or surf, depending on what you’ve learned so far. When the waves get too high and you anticipate the possibility of being overwhelmed, there are still a couple of things you can do. 

  1. Distance yourself from the trigger that makes you angry.
  2. Notice what’s going on in your mind at that moment and write it down.
  3. If your anger is getting worse, try counting down from 20 to ground yourself in calm.
  4. If you’re worried that this anger might hurt someone, wait in a safe place until you feel more at ease.
  5. Try saying soothing words to yourself, recording and listening to them over and over if necessary.
  6. Try allowing your body to relax and your mood to change through breathing exercises.
  7. Identify your actual need, ask yourself how you could express this need differently, and list what you can do to meet this need.
  8. Remind yourself that what you do with your anger is more important than anything else.

Don’t be afraid to get angry. Anger is information as well as an emotion that can change your path or direction. Just be mindful of what you’re doing with it. How will you take the next step in life with this new awareness around anger? 

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