We all get angry from time to time. However, there is a time and place for outward emotional displays. While anger is a healthy emotion, it also is a strong emotion, and it must be managed carefully.
“Anger is part of the survival mechanism of human beings. When faced with a threat — not unlike other animals — humans either run away or attack. Anger is the fuel behind that attack. But anger can also have the opposite effect and lead to our untimely demise … too much anger can cause heart attacks, precipitate debilitating work injuries, and facilitate risky sexual behavior. Anger is truly a double-edged sword,” writes clinical psychologist and anger-management expert W. Doyle Gentry in Anger Management For Dummies.
One important part of staying healthy is keeping anger under control. Research has shown that frequent anger can significantly increase your chance of developing coronary heart disease and also worsen existing heart problems. So if you want to live longer, you’ll need to find ways to calm down. Here are four ways to keep your anger in check.
1. Identify the source of your anger
Why are you angry? Sometimes the source of your anger isn’t what you think it is. You might believe you’re angry at your friend because he borrowed an item of yours without asking, but the origin of your anger could be something else. Maybe you saw your friend flirting with your spouse and you’ve been burning with rage for days. Once you’ve gotten to the bottom of things, make every effort to address the real problem. Don’t go on pretending everything is fine. Something will eventually cause you to erupt, and the result may not be pretty. Do yourself — and those who spend time with you — a favor and deal with your issue before things get out of control.
As Dr. Les Carter in The Anger Trap:
There is always something more that feeds the anger than what is observed on the surface. Angry people may appear strong, willful, or certain, but be assured that beneath the veneer are fear and loneliness and insecurity and pain. Especially, there is pain. Whether they admit it or not, angry people are hurt people, and they have somehow come to believe that they can resolve their own pain by inflicting pain on others. Their reasoning is usually subconscious; nonetheless, each time anger is misapplied, it is a reflection of a deep wound that longs to be healed.
2. Step back
When you’re in the thick of things, it’s easy to just go with whatever emotion you’re feeling. Restrain yourself from flying off the handle and give yourself a few minutes to take a step back and gather your thoughts. If that means you have to leave the room, then do it. If possible, remove yourself from the situation and come back when you’re in a better frame of mind. Otherwise, words may be exchanged that you can never take back. Speaking in anger can harm a relationship to the point where the damage is irreparable.
3. Learn to forgive
Refusing to forgive can eat away at your emotions and cause anger to build up over time. When you hold on to thoughts and feelings related to how someone betrayed you, it becomes very difficult to live your best life. Before you can truly be happy, you have to let go of the bitter fruit that is unforgiveness.
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward,” says Dr. Steve Maraboli in Unapologetically You.
4. Consider anger management
If your anger has gotten to the point where you feel you’re putting yourself or others in harm’s way, reach out for support. An anger management class may be a good option. These classes can help you work on developing skills necessary for coping with overwhelming anger.
“When adults know how to deal with their own anger in healthy, positive ways, they not only create a more secure environment for the family, they also have greater potential for teaching their children how to process anger. … When adults have not learned to process their anger, marital and family turmoil usually results, sometimes spilling over at work or other settings,” says Dr. Gary Chapman in Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion.