There are all sorts of good, sensible, civilised reasons to avoid getting angry. Not only does it make you feel bad, but it can make you do silly things without noticing the risks and it can be self-destructive. As a result most people do their best to suppress, redirect and mask their anger. Most of us treat our anger as though it’s unreasonable and unmentionable.
An emotional response to a real, felt or imagined grievance anger may have its roots in a past or present experience, or it may be in anticipation of a future event. Anger is invariably based on the perception of threat or a perceived threat and can be both an active or a passive emotion. In the case of “active” emotion the angry person may lash out verbally or physically at an intended target. When anger is passive it is characterized by silent sulking, passive-aggressive behaviour or hostility.
Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems at work, in personal relationships, and in the overall quality of life, it can also make you feel as though we are at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful force.
People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. Expressing these feelings can be done in violent and destructive ways or in an assertive, but non-aggressive, manner. We are often encouraged to supress and re-direct our difficult feelings in the hope that we might convert our anger into more constructive behaviours. The danger in this type of response is that if our true feelings aren’t allowed outward expression, our anger can turn inward and begin to attack us from the inside. Anger turned inward may cause various physical symptoms such as anxiety, high blood pressure, or depression. Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of emotion, such as passive-aggressive behaviour (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments may have no constructive outlet for their angry feelings. We may become blind to the truth and unable to accept what’s sensible and correct. When anger is the primary emotion being felt, we become less able to think and act rationally. In extreme cases anger may be followed by depression.
We can not eliminate our anger, life is filled with frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable actions of others. Whilst it can be difficult to change our environment, it is possible to change the way such events affect us. Managing our angry responses can keep us from becoming unhappy in the long-run.
It is possible to manage your feelings of frustration and anger so they do not control you. Traditional types of therapy like psychotherapy, dynamic interpersonal therapy and Cognitive Therapy have shown positive results with frustration and anger.
By considering the immediacy of our emotions – such as sadness, anxiety, loss and depression and the intensity of our responses with a trained therapist we may develop space between our feelings and our reactions. Therapy can help us recognise that our frustrations, impatience or lack of tolerance lie in our past experiences. Self-awareness and self-care can help us develop new and healthy ways of thinking and behaving so we are able to break out of cycles set by our past and create a more positive way of managing our conflicts.