Feeling angry from time to time is natural, and it can even be helpful if you use anger to initiate a change that will prevent the situation that made you angry from occurring again. Instead, the problems with anger come from the response that you have to anger rather than the anger itself.
When you feel anger or similar emotion, there are three ways in which you can process it – expression, suppression, and calming. The right choice depends on the situation and how you navigate each of the three different responses.
How to Have a Healthy Response to Anger
Anger is going to occur. Responding the wrong way can be damaging to your mental and physical health and can be upsetting to others in a way that is damaging to your relationships. Understanding the three different response types can help you more consciously choose your response when you next feel angry:
- Expressing Anger – Expressing anger is acknowledging to yourself that you are angry and sharing that with others. For many people, expression is the first instinct when they are angry, but there are different means of anger expression and some are better than others. Assertive expression, in which you calmly but definitively state why you are upset, is the best way for using anger to make a change. Other types of expression include aggression, which is generally forceful and can involve taking your anger out on others, and passive aggression, in which you express your annoyance without explaining what is wrong. These tend to be more damaging to your relationships without enabling you to use your anger productively.
- Suppressing Anger – Suppression is when you hold on to your anger but do not express it. You may try to push it down and pretend that you do not feel it or simply keep it to yourself by insisting that you are fine to others. Suppression is the least helpful of the anger responses as it can lead to negative personality traits like hostility and cynicism, and it increases your risk of physical health problems through increased blood pressure, chronic pain, and more.
- Calming Anger – Calming oneself when feeling angry means actively letting go of the anger or at least calming oneself down both emotionally and in terms of outward actions. Calming down is different from suppression in you can focus on other things. This may mean letting the anger go entirely, or waiting until you can bring it up in a productive way. Calming works well with assertive expression. It can also be helpful if the situation you are angry at does not need to be addressed, often because it was a small issue. If you are frequently choosing to calm yourself and let go of anger rather than express yourself and a situation that continues to reoccur, it might be worth changing tactics.
When someone struggles with anger management, they are often not able to use these three responses effectively and calming can be almost entirely impossible. A person with anger management will often feel incapable of anything other than an aggressive expression of anger or suppression.
Problems with anger may also keep a person from being able to do any of these three, and simply leave them feeling overwhelmed and out of control as a result of their emotions.
These ways of coping with anger are learned skills, and you can teach your mind effective coping strategies so that when you feel anger, you respond in a way that is beneficial for you without harming those around you.
Anger management techniques are a focus in our Long Island anger management therapy at Long Island Counseling Services. If you have been struggling with anger, contact us today to learn more about anger management.