- Mental Health
How to Keep Yourself from Reacting to Others in Anger
Sam leaves the boss's office with a burning sensation of anger in his chest. Standing over his desk, he throw's a folder down that explodes into pages of reports with numbers that didn't add up. Suddenly, his phone rings and a woman's voice answers, "Hello, baby." He quickly snaps back, "What do you want, now?" Shaking his head at the silence on the phone, he pushes a harsh whisper back to the receiver, "I told you not to call me at work!" Sam stuffs the phone back in his pocket with one hand and wipes the sweat from his head with the other.
Modern Ego and Anger
If anger is used in the response to a physical threat, it is a natural and healthy component of survival. However, in civilized society, "threats" have gained a new meaning and are now more part of protecting the ego than the person, property or family. The ego is the part of our personality that rates our value in two ways: the way we value ourselves, and the way others value us. In our modern world, an insult has become a devaluation of our self worth, and often, we respond with anger to the "perception" of the threat.
Misplaced Anger and The Consequences
Although Sam clearly misdirected his anger at his spouse, he was reacting to a perceived "threat" of devaluation by his boss. Perhaps his job was threatened, but his self-esteem was also wounded, and he directed his anger to a safer place, the voice on the phone. The breakdown of relationships, family and careers are often lost to angry individuals that consistently abuse those they love the most. Each individual is responsible for their decision to act out of anger and hurt others. Often, people who act out in anger will state that the "person made them angry."
No One Can Make You Act Out in Anger
When one reacts in anger to a stress, they chose or not chose to handle the situation with rage. Although the baseball that just went through the living room window can justify anger, reacting to the crisis with the belittlement of your child or spouse is not going to restore the window to a solid glass plane, but it will scar your child or spouse with a lifetime of emotional memories. As the emotional scars build in those you care for from your cross and hurtful words, resentment rears its ugly head. Anger creates resentment, and resentment is the ruination of most relationships.
Steps to Recognizing Your Anger
Most people gain insight when they evaluate and analyze their emotional reactions to stress. A good place to start is to take personal inventory and reflect on the reasons you respond negatively to stress, criticism or fear. Finding the causes for your rage can help you find a way to control your anger and understand it.
- Traumatic and abusive childhood
- Cultural aspects of anger in a family
- Fear of loss or jealousy
- Unhappy with your life or career
- Depression or anxiety disorder
- Poor coping mechanisms due to substance abuse
- Personality disorder or mental illness
- Rare: Tumors of the nervous system
Battered Children become Angry Adults
Children who are battered by their parents are taught to respond to stress or solve problems with violence. Adult children who have experienced parental abuse or have witnessed the battering of a parent have a 70 percent chance of becoming a batterer themselves.The child sees the batterer as the person who has the power and is in control of the family. In the pursuit to feel safe and in control of their own world, children will mimic the abuser and find their own power as a batterer. Adults who have been traumatized frequently go through their lives with an angry wounded inner child that reacts to stress and criticism with anger and rage. Parents who teach and respond to their children with positive coping stress management skills truly raise powerful children. Studies have shown that the ability to handle stress is more valuable to a successful adult life than high intelligence or the possession of a brilliant talent.
Bullies are Angry and Afraid
Although the complex nature of the "bully" is contributed to biological, genetic and environmental factors, uninformed parents that inflict anger towards their children do induce fear and promote low self-esteem. In order to increase their own self worth, bullies seek to find and exploit the flaws in others by defining them as inferior, thereby, making the bully more superior. Adult bullies also use misplaced anger to improve their egos and restore their value by "taking it out" on their children, spouses or the family pet.
Control is an Illusion
Anger is usually a response to fear of losing control. People can only control how they react to others; they cannot control other people. In other words, the only power you possess is the power to control your own actions. Giving up the illusion of control is a major step forward in letting go of anger.
Be Assertive, Not Aggressive
Anger is a natural emotion that occurs in to every individual and is part of survival. However, the expression of anger can be dangerous and hurtful to those exposed to it. People use different methods of controlling their anger and aggression, and not all are healthy. Controlling your anger does not mean you have to accept the abuse of others, it means you have to be assertive--not aggressive, to successfully control your angry outbursts.
- Unhealthy: Suppression of anger may cause hypertension, heart disease or other health conditions
- Unhealthy: Anger is suppressed and turned inward and causes depression, anxiety and emotional disorders
- Unhealthy: Unexpressed anger may lead to deviant behavior, fantasies of revenge or an unresolved hate turned on others.
- Healthy: Expressing your anger in an assertive, but not an aggressive manner is the healthiest way to control your emotions. For instance, your child broke a neighbors window and now the neighbor is yelling at you in your front yard. You firmly assert yourself and demand that your neighbor "stop yelling and calms down so you can talk about the problem like two grownups." Being assertive, not aggressive,provides a powerful message to your child as well.
Practice Makes Perfect
Chances are, if you have a problem with anger, you were probably never taught how to deal with the stress of being human. As social creatures, it's hard to escape the chance interaction of a human being that will make you angry. Be assertive, not aggressive. Make your needs known in a diplomatic but firm manner. Practice makes perfect, and give yourself time to perfect your new way of looking at life. An expression of anger is a choice, just like any other decision we make as humans. You don't have to choose to be angry anymore.