Anger may be a perfectly natural emotion, but its effects are often damaging.  Biologically, it was valuable as a response to danger – it triggered the survival alarm of fight or flight - useful 10,000 years ago when sabre-toothed tigers strayed onto our patch but much less so in the modern world!

Persistent out of control anger is invariably destructive. Examples of such outbursts are increasingly witnessed in our stressed society. While righteous anger can be a healthy response to the world’s problems, when it’s manifested as road rage, public meltdowns, domestic abuse, or drunken brawls, the symptoms and outcomes are problems in themselves.

Displays of anger can mask underlying emotions such as shame, guilt, or fear of criticism. Anger can also turn inward in the guise of self-criticism, self-harm or abuse of alcohol or drugs.  Similarly, non-confrontational displays of passive-aggression are hard for others to understand but like the quiet rumblings of a volcano, can eventually lead to unexpected eruptions of temper.

For those who habitually lose their temper, it invariably does more harm than good. Some may think it’s a show of strength, but it also can betray a loss of control. Others see anger as ‘just a natural emotional response’ to a situation, but it can damage relationships and create a toxic atmosphere leading to other problems. Another myth is that angry outbursts are psychologically healthy – but it usually just increases frustration as well as alienating those burned by its fiery blast. Furthermore, chronic anger is detrimental to health - when a body blows a fuse, it may do so with a heart-attack or a stroke.

Controlling the Dark Side…

When the sources of your frustrations are understood, anger can be healthily harnessed to actively overcome them.  In some families or environments, expressing any emotion is discouraged and can go underground and becomes repressed.  Counselling can uncover these deep roots triggering anger and talking therapy helps unveil some of these difficult hidden feelings. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can teach us to deal better with situations that provoke anger and identify faulty thinking often learned in dysfunctional upbringings or situations where we felt powerless.

CBT can also identify the negative thinking that often lies beneath. Such thinking is symbolised by the regular use of words like ‘always’, ‘should’, or ‘ought’ in expressions such as ‘Why does this always happen to me?’ 

When people think, and feel like this, they often make bad decisions. When a situation reminds them of a painful experience – separate from what is really happening in the present moment, they may compensate by over-reacting - and the wrong person usually gets blamed.

Counselling can teach us more creative and positive ways to respond. Simple calming techniques – such as counting to ten or breathing more slowly and deeply can reverse the biological response where more oxygen is inhaled to prepare us for action. Such ploys give us a second’s pause to choose the best strategy and solution, rather than react in a way that is a first instinctive reaction which may do more harm than good.

The links below offer practical tips in self-control but sometimes more specialist professional help is needed in the form of anger management.  For most of us, general lifestyle choices such as enough exercise, good diet and healthy sleep patterns are good protections to regulate energy and agitation to help stop frustrations boiling over.  Also channelling negative feelings and energy into a healthy creative activity to give it an outlet and voice can also defuse its power and improve our lives immensely.  With thoughtful and mindful management, anger can be harnessed into a strength and force for good.

Useful links

For a better understanding of anger and how best to deal with its problems go to:

www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/controlling-anger/

www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/anger-management.htm

www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anger/#.W9xhWpP7TIU

To gauge your own susceptibility to anger, try the quizzes at:

www.angermanage.co.uk

Organisations for victims of severe anger include:

www.refuge.org.uk

www.womensaid.org.uk

https://avpbritain.org.uk/

http://www.mensadviceline.org.uk/help-and-information/heterosexual-male-victims-of-domestic-violence/