Managing Anger

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

When our security and safety in this world are threatened or are being violated, it is our animal instinct to defend ourselves. In an attempt to defend ourselves, we may attack. Wolves, lions, and bears all try to defend themselves from predators. If they don’t, they will be attacked, killed, and devoured.

Anger is an emotional response to perceived victimization and mounting pain/stress. It is a defense mechanism impulsively employed by the human mind to ward off further threat to the safety of he/she who is being victimized. Due to the fact that we live in a world where hostility and inequality thrive, and where there is intolerance, abuse, and the struggle for power, manifesting negative emotions including anger is almost too normal. By logic, you have a natural tendency to defend yourself against a transgressor/assailant. The effect of this is that we degrade those who degrade us, attack those who attack us, and destroy those who destroy us, as our minds yearn for justice.

The desire for revenge, first and foremost, stems from the feeling of anger, and anger is felt because pain, fear, and insecurity are also felt. To put it another way, underneath the anger we feel lies the experience of pain. In the absence of pain, anger cannot be felt. Human beings employ defense mechanisms because they feel vulnerable and insecure. And they feel insecure because there is such thing as pain; pain remains man’s most dreaded experience in life (similarly, pleasure remains man’s most desired emotion in life). Therefore, the exhibition of anger is one of the ways we protect ourselves from having to experience further pain. It is both a defense mechanism and a survival tool.

Although, anger is a normal human emotion, a useful defense mechanism, and a way to protect/defend ourselves in a hostile world (lest we will be oppressed, victimized, and trampled upon by human predators), unmanaged anger can bring about catastrophic consequences. The mere fact that an emotion is normal (and makes us human) doesn’t necessarily make it healthy. Uncontrolled anger can cause a lot of problems for you and other people. The nature of anger makes it less cognitive (as it bypasses your reasoning faculty) and more impulsive (similar to how we experience fear). We show anger, sometimes irrationally, because we are psychologically compelled to defend ourselves against a perceived threat. The immediate interpretation of the threatening event immediately bypasses the prefrontal cortex, where cognitive reasoning and rationalization take place, and heads directly to the amygdala.

As earlier mentioned, uncontrolled anger can lead to cruel and disastrous actions; actions you may later regret. Numerous unethical and illegal acts, including homicide, rape, emotional and physical abuse, and other forms of violence have been perpetrated by people under the influence of anger. Eighty percent of convicts in prisons had committed crimes out of hate, envy, jealousy, bitterness, frustration, vengeance, and resentment, all of which have the element of anger in them. Therefore, these is a cogent need to manage one’s anger.

Unmanaged anger can be an overreaction to issues that can be much better addressed by using other means. In managing anger, we must take note of the following

Do not suppress your anger

Suppressing anger is similar to holding a very hot coal in your hand, and instead of throwing it onto the ground, you decide to swallow it into your belly. Suppressed anger will burn you inside. Although, the reason for suppressing your anger may vary from fear of social sanction to feeling powerless and inferior, suppressed anger (studies have found) has several health demerits, which include depression, hypertension, and cardiovascular problems. Suppressed anger may also lead to passive-aggressive behaviour, such as grumpiness, irritability, back-biting, undermining other people’s efforts, the silent-treatment, and other forms of hostilities

Do not express your anger impulsively

Anger expressed without due thought of its dangerous consequences will do great harm to you and to other people. Although, you should not suppress your anger, it is also important that you do not express your anger on impulse. In a moment of anger, try to calm yourself, and think first about the consequences of your actions. Is anger really necessary at that point in time? Are there more mature ways of approaching the situation at hand?

Upgrade your mentality

Wise and healthy people trivialize the common issues that arouse anger feelings in others, simply because they are preoccupied with far more important life tasks. They sometimes view an angry outburst as an unnecessary waste of their time and attention. And while anger is normally a show of power and control, at this point, it would seem a show of weakness and lack of purpose.