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Working With Anger

Updated on September 6, 2012

Anger isn't the problem.

Too much anger, at the wrong time, focused in the wrong direction is the problem. In this lens we will look at how learning more about stress reduction and better communication will allow us to work with anger. When we learn to work with our anger we harness the energy and turn it to solving the challenges in our lives.

Managing Stress

The first step to work with your anger is to manage your stress. These are the hot points in your life. By observing yourself you can see what is working and what isn't. Then you can make the choices you need to thrive.

When there are more demands in our lives than resources to meet those demands we feel stress. The demands can be positive or negative and there will be stress just the same. The reactions to stress change depending on how an individual responds to the stressor.

Stress expresses itself physically. This is where we fight, flight or freeze. Under stress our bodies react. Our breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Adrenaline and other chemicals are pumped into our blood streams. The body prepares for action.

Chronic stress can lead to health problems. Heart disease, cancer, asthma and decline in the immune system have all been linked to chronic stress.

Stress is also mental. It is important to remember that other people don't make you stressed. Situations don't make you stressed. It is how we perceive other people and situations that is stressful.


Learning to be aware of what is stressful for you is the essential first step. Different things trigger different people. For each of us there are situations that really push us. For example, being hungry, hot and tired are all triggers for me. For others it can be bad drivers, time management, money or loneliness.

After finding what triggers you, thing about how it makes you feel. Are you anxious, fearful, or angry? Do you feel depressed, unworthy, or stupid? Put a name to how you feel. Next think about what how you react. Upset stomach, yelling, over eating, or blaming.

Now connect all of it. When you can connect your trigger with your feeling and your action then you aware of the stress in your life. This is so much more powerful than just complaining about being stressed, overwhelmed or that you are getting burned-out. Vague descriptions of stress don't open the path of managing the stress. Becoming really aware allows you to take the next step.


A key skill in managing stress is living in the world as it is. We learn to accept the things in the world that we cannot change. So much frustration and dead end thinking comes from wishing that the world, or the people we know, were different. But they aren't and likely will not make the changes we are wishing for.

We also drain ourselves focusing on the world we fear. What might happen, dramatizing worse case outcomes, and over emphasizing the reactions of others. Of course, most of these things never happen at all. but focusing on these bad outcomes raises our level of stress a great deal.

One of the most important skills is to learn the are of self talk. Having phrases ready and at hand that will help us keep perspective and calm. "I will get over this." "It is natural that I find this scary." "I have made it through worse than this."

Self talk helps you keep a positive attitude and allows you to work your way through a difficult moment. It allows you to build upon your strengths and keeps you from focusing on the negatives.

Coping Skills

There are many ways to cope with stress and the more skills that you learn and have at hand the better off you will be. Some skills are for daily practice and others are for the moment.

Try daily exercise. Make it non-competitive. Walk, jog, bike, swim. You can garden, shoot hoops or take a class. The point is to move a little. This gives that built up energy a release. When we are under stress our system is ready for action. our muscles are tight, our breath rapid and shallow and chemicals in our body are being released. We are all primed with no where to go. This is called unproductive tension. It builds up in our bodies and our flash point is closer to the surface. A little daily movement helps us release this.

Learn to relax. Learning breathing exercises, stretching, and practicing meditation will all help manage stress. A quiet meal, a little reward and a candle lit bath will also help. Learning to laugh, a lot, is perhaps the best of all. Once you begin to look for them, you will find dozens of ways to relax a little even through the most difficult days.

Better Communication

When communication skills are rusty or maybe just not present, relationships suffer. This is often deeply frustrating. When communication breaks down hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and a wide variety of disappointments come to the surface.

When you are angry and in conflict it is difficult to maintain perspective on the conversation. Learning and applying these four principles to your difficult conversations will improve, your anger and stress will decrease and you will find your relationships will improve.

You have the right to say what you want to say, but not to be abusive, intimidating or controlling. It is so important to learn how to fully and completely speak your mind. You need to tell others what you are thinking and how you feel. Your experience, what is working and what is not working are all important.

On the other hand, no matter how frustrated you become, no matter how disappointed, verbal abuse, intimidation and controlling behaviors are not justified. These will end any hope for real communication. They are conversation killers. They are dead ends.

Everyone must listen. Every communication requires a sender and a receiver. A speaker and a listener. Without both there is no communication. In addition to everyone being a good speaker, able to share how they think and feel, there must be an equally capable listener.

It is easy to get caught up in defending our position. It is easy to become consumed with our next retort. This however can end the communication because there is no listener. It is hard to acknowledge sometimes that what someone else has to say, even someone we are very angry with, is just as important and valuable as what we need to say. For there to be real back and forth of communication there will need to be two people able to listen and two people who are able to speak.

There is one test that you can give to yourself along the way. Listening, really listening, requires that you are open to being changed. If there is nothing that can be said, no evidence offered, or anything that you will budge on, then you are not listening. You are only defending your position.

This is going to require negotiation and compromise. The aim of good communication in relationship isn't total victory. We aren't seeking to make winners and losers. Even when we are angry, our goal needs to be to work through the disagreement and find a resolution.

This is the goal. The goal is to remain non-aggressive and non-evasive in the relationship. This is more important than any other single issue. It is more important that you become the type of person that can communicate effectively even when you are angry, than to win on any single issue. Who washes the dishes, pays the bills or picks up the kids are minor league concerns when compared to what type of person you are going to be, how you are going to resolve conflict and what type of relationships you are going to enjoy.

Working With Anger

Working with anger accepts the reality that we will be angry sometime and rightfully so. The trick is to contain the anger so that the relationships are not damaged.

Anger isn't all bad. It energizes us. It prepares us for action. Instead of lashing out, these are the ways to work with anger.

Use anger wisely. Instead of lashing out, let anger work for you. Make it productive. This may take some thought and even more practice, but the efficient use of this energy will bring unexpected results.

Find out what is behind the anger. Since anger is a secondary emotion, it is helpful to identify the more primary emotion behind the anger. We always feel something before we feel anger. This is true even if we don't notice it. These feeling might include fear, disrespected, lonely, trapped or pressured. Find these and name them and you will be on your way to working with your anger.

Avoid trigger situations when you can. This isn't always possible. When it is take advantage of it. Take care of yourself while you are getting stronger and bringing your anger under control.

Communicate your thoughts and feelings. This is an effective way to avoid getting angry in the first place. Learning and using assertive communication helps keep the brain in balance and out of the more primitive habits of anger.

Drop a line and let me know how I can improve this lens.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      best lens i have read in a while well put

    • sheriangell profile image


      8 years ago

      This is an excellent lens. I have struggled with anger issues much of my life. I've bookmarked this and will reread it often to reinforce the skills I struggle with. Thank you.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great lens. This is useful advise for all of us.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Very good advice and nicely written lens! 5*s

    • monarch13 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great ideas. 5 stars and rolled to "Coping with Anger".

    • NAIZA LM profile image

      NAIZA LM 

      10 years ago

      Fantastic lens! It's so true that its really hard to control Anger at times. Very encouraging pieces of advices. Definitely, a fabulous five! :)

    • allinfoisfree profile image


      10 years ago

      Awesome. Anger for me seems to be all about choice. I can choose to be angry ot not, as long as I can accept people and situations and worry only about what I can control, myself, I do ok.... :) 5 *'s.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      An excellent article. Stress can be very damaging, very harmful to your mental health too.


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent, James! This is an important topic that many don't want to look at. Awareness is the key and willingness to look at ourselves turns it.

    • JakTraks profile image

      Jacqueline Marshall 

      10 years ago from Chicago area

      Welcome to the Mental and Emotional Health group!


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