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Anger, is it good or bad?

Anger, is it good or bad?

What is anger?

Anger is a human emotion that can be associated with the need for a violent and aggressive response resulting from intense dissatisfaction, hostility, or a perceived threat, or injustice. It may also arise when one’s desires or expectations are not met or if one is mistreated, threatened, or disrespected. One feels angry because of reasons, both external and internal. It could be because of an event (eg. a traffic jam, or a cancelled flight), worry or thoughts about your personal problems, a memory of a traumatic event, or even a specific person (such as a supervisor or colleague).

What is the nature of anger?

Charles Spielberger, PhD, (1927-2013) a psychologist who specialised in the study of emotions, stated that anger is both an emotion and behaviour. He said it brings about both physiological and biological changes. The whole spectrum around it can range from mild irritation to explosive rage, and rage can be expressed in various ways. This emotion can bring biological changes in the body, such as rapid breathing, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, sweating, tense muscles as well as an increase in levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Spielberger also noted psychological changes, such as irritability and frustration and sometimes even physical actions, such as aggression, lashing, and yelling.

Is it good or bad?

Anger can be construed as a normal and healthy emotion when expressed in a constructive and controlled manner. However, it can also become problematic when it is excessive, chronic, or leads to destructive and harmful behaviour leading to negative consequences in our surroundings and relationships. As Jim Butcher, the American author of ‘The Dresden Files’, wrote “anger is just anger. It isn’t good, it isn’t bad, it just is. What you do with it is what matters. It’s like anything else. You can use it to build or destroy. You just have to make the choice.”

Is this emotion universal?

Though anger is a universal emotion experienced by people everywhere, certain cultures have a more restrained or reserved approach to expressing it. For example, in many East Asian cultures such as in Japan and China, there is an emphasis on maintaining harmony and avoiding conflict, which can lead to a more indirect expression of fury. In these cultures, it is often considered impolite or inappropriate to express annoyance or displeasure openly or to lose one’s temper in public.

Similarly, certain indigenous groups such as the Inuit people of the Arctic, have traditionally valued emotional control and restraint to maintain social harmony and avoid conflict. In such societies or groups, there are social norms and customs that discourage open expressions of anger. Research has also found that family background plays an important role too, and people who are easily enraged often come from chaotic families that are not adept at emotional communication.

What are the strategies to manage anger?

Anger is a natural human emotion but it can be difficult to manage when it becomes overwhelming or causes problems in relationships or other areas of life. Mark Twain is quoted to have said “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”

According to Spielberger and Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, a psychologist who specialises in anger management, some strategies for managing anger are:

1. Identify triggers: Try to identify what triggers you — situations, people, or events. Once you know your triggers, you can develop strategies for avoiding or managing those triggers. This could include maintaining a diary where you pen the episodes of anger mismanagement and what triggered it. It will help you the next time a fresh episode occurs. When something triggers you, you can put into action the strategies mentioned after this point.

2. Practice relaxation techniques: When you feel yourself getting angry, take a break and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation. By doing this, you can calm down and regain control of your emotions.

3. Reframe your thoughts: Try to reframe your thoughts about the situation causing your anger. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, try to find positive aspects or alternative solutions.

4. Communicate assertively: Instead of lashing out in anger, try to communicate assertively and express your feelings and needs calmly and respectfully.

5. Seek support: Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings or seek the help of a therapist or counsellor to develop strategies for managing your rage.

6. Take care of yourself: Make sure to prioritise self-care, such as getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. When you feel physically and emotionally healthy, you are better equipped to handle challenging situations without getting overwhelmed by anger.

A healthy and well-rested body and mind deal better with emotions, making it easier to control outbursts of anger. Some things you can incorporate in your life to better regulate your emotions include getting enough sleep, avoiding drugs and alcohol, good nutrition, engaging in physical activities, and practising mindfulness or meditation.

It is important to keep in mind that managing any emotion takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and continue to work on developing strategies that work for you.

Here are some ways you can control your anger.

  1. Count to 10 before reacting
  2. Take deep breaths
  3. Focus on solutions, not problems
  4. Listen to music or other calming sounds
  5. Use humour to diffuse the tension
  6. Take a hot bath or shower
  7. Write down your thoughts and feelings in a letter but don’t send it. Sleep over it. Express anger constructively if you still feel it is justified to do so
  8. Talk to a trusted friend or relative
  9. Seek professional help and talk to a therapist
  10. Practice forgiveness and empathy. If required, learn to compromise
  11. Avoid jumping to conclusions or blaming others
  12. Identify triggers that made you angry. Write them down in a diary, and practice visualisation techniques or mindfulness that help be in managing these triggers
  13. Take a walk or engage in physical activity
  14. Practice active listening
  15. Learn to let go of things you can’t control
  16. Find healthy ways to express yourself, such as through art or writing
  17. Engage in a hobby or an enjoyable activity
  18. Take a break from social media and other triggers
  19. Practice forgiveness

You must be patient and practice patience to manage anger successfully. Further, with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, you can develop the skills you need to manage it in an efficient way.

Avoiding road rage

Road rage is a variant of anger that can be a common problem that can lead to dangerous and even deadly situations. The following tips will help you avoid road rage:

1. Plan: Plan your route ahead of time and allow plenty of time to reach your destination. Rushing and feeling stressed can contribute to road rage.

2. Be polite: Be polite to other drivers, even if they are not. Using polite language, waving, or acknowledging other drivers with a smile can help diffuse tense situations.

3. Stay calm: Remain calm even if other drivers are behaving aggressively. Do not engage or make eye contact with other drivers who are in a rage. Taking deep breaths and listening to calming music can help. Avoid making eye contact or gestures that could escalate the situation.

4. Leave enough space: Maintain a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. This will give you time to react to any sudden action by the driver in front of you.

5. Use your horn sparingly: Use your horn only when absolutely necessary.

6. Follow traffic laws: Follow all traffic laws and signs. Avoid continuous shifting of lanes, cutting off other drivers, or speeding. Remember, the best way to avoid road rage is to stay calm, patient, and focused on driving safely.

In summary, anger itself is neither good nor bad, but rather a natural emotion that can be beneficial or detrimental depending on how we manage it. It is important to recognise our feelings, understand their underlying causes, and learn effective strategies to express and manage rage in healthy ways.

Greek philosopher Aristotle said, “Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

Article by: RK Menon

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