How To Express Anger in a Healthy Way: 6 Helpful Tips
We all get angry. Some people more than others, but we all get angry from time to time. While anger is a ubiquitous and completely normal emotion, some of us struggle with regulating it and expressing it in a healthy manner. Some might suppress or repress it. While others might express it in an unhealthy way (for example, with aggression). If left unchecked, unmanaged anger can lead us to live unfulfilling lives. That is why today we want to share with you what anger is, why it is not so bad after all, and how to express it in a healthy way.
What is Anger According To Psychology
Anger is a normal, intense and sometimes overwhelming emotion one experiences when something has gone wrong or when something happens we don’t like/agree with. Anger is evolutionarily related to our fight, flight, freeze response system. It prepares a person to fight.
Anger is the general umbrella term under which various emotions are categorised, namely: frustration, annoyance, and irritability. Given its broad meaning, anger can be difficult to break down into its many components and identify for some.
When we get angry, our bodies can indicate it through more energy, higher blood pressure, muscle tension, and more. When we get angry, we also express anger differently. While some raise their voices, others may clench their fists and jaws, while others may simply frown. Regardless of how anger is expressed, anger is typically felt similarly by everyone as this fiery sensation in your upper body.
3 Types of Anger
This emotional experience can be broken down into three types of anger expression:
This is the type of anger where someone tries to keep themselves from expressing their anger. What happens instead, however, is they express their distaste in undermining ways.
This form of anger involves controlling your anger by calmly explaining your feelings and thoughts in an attempt to calm the situation down. This is the healthiest form of anger expression.
3. Openly Aggressive
This is the most extreme and explosive type of anger. Here, anger is shown through physical or verbal aggression aimed to hurt another person/thing emotionally or physically.
What Causes Anger? 5 Examples of Triggers
There are various reasons why a person can become angry. Some examples include:
Is Anger Unhealthy?
Anger is a normal and typically healthy emotion to possess. Anger allows us to express negative feelings, even giving us fuel to find solutions to problems we may be facing. While there is some benefit towards feeling anger, excessive bouts of anger can cause physical and social harm. Anger becomes an issue when it starts to impair our way of life, our view of others/situations and how we respond to others.
When we have excessive anger, or when we experience anger often, it can be harmful to our health. When we get angry, our heart rate and blood pressure rises; and our body releases certain hormones. When we experience this on a regular basis, we can develop medical conditions such as headaches, high blood pressure, a weakened heart, ulcers, and more. In addition, by expressing our anger in destructive ways, we show others we are unsafe to be around and thus push them away.
On the other hand, while expressing anger excessively can be unhealthy, excessively repressing anger can lead to damaging effects for our mental and physical wellbeing. Even suppressing anger is featured in anxiety and depression.
Why Do We Suppress Anger?
As we have discussed, anger can be a healthy and totally normal emotion. However, some of us, at some point during our childhood, may have learned that it's not okay to express our anger, or to even feel anger in the first place. In such a situation, we learned that anger is dangerous and out-of-control. We may have learned this by being ignored, shamed, or punished for trying to express our anger. Or, perhaps we had a parent who was excessively expressive with anger that we learned that adding anger to anger was not a good idea.
For more information about why we suppress anger, take a look at our other article in the subject.
4 Signs of Suppressed Anger
1. Psychosomatic symptoms: Holding back from suppressing yourself can create self-inflicted tension that plays a role in various health scares such as heart complications, headaches and more.
2. Lashing out at loved ones: When we suppress our anger too often, we can begin to project this anger onto other people. In doing so, we are more likely to push our loved ones away, because we can get perceived as hostile and dangerous. As time goes on, this is a never-ending cycle that feeds into each other until we are left with no loved ones surrounding us.
3. Self-criticism: When we are unable to express our anger, and we internalise it instead, that anger can be converted to self-criticism and self-loathing. This can play a large role in feelings of worthlessness. At the extreme, it can also lead to engaging in self.destructive behaviours.
4. Numbness and lethargy: When we repress one of our core, most valuable emotions, we tend to become lethargic and numb. It takes a lot of energy to suppress our anger. As such, even other emotions can be numbed. We can become disconnected from ourselves.
6 Ways to Express Anger in a Healthy Way
1. Walk away
If you find yourself losing control over your anger, step away from the situation calmly until you're able to cool down and return to a more appropriate state/mindset.
2. Recognition and Acceptance
There is no good in trying to suppress anger and be ashamed/embarrassed for getting angry. Sometimes it helps to recognise that you are feeling angry and accept that that’s how you’re feeling: it's normal and potentially useful.
After removing yourself from the situation, take time to figure out exactly why you’re angry. What was the trigger? What was the maintaining factor?
4. Alternative strategies
Once you have identified the cause and the problem, come up with alternative ways on how to fix the situation without losing control over your anger. If your natural reaction is to shout at someone, take time to brainstorm alternative ways to react to this person in a respectful manner.
5. Physical exercise
When the feeling of anger is intense, it can be helpful to channel all those stress hormones into a sport or activity that you enjoy. While this can only pose as a temporary solution, sometimes it can calm us down enough where we feel comfortable talking it out.
6. Talk it out
Let others know that you are experiencing anger, that it will be difficult for you to communicate and that you need some time. If you need extra support, talk to someone who you feel comfortable with about how you’re feeling.
Anger can be an emotion that brings great use, when expressed in an appropriate manner. Anger can be used as a way to motivate oneself towards making change. When handled inappropriately, anger can be destructive to yourself and those around you. Anger can lead to physical altercations and verbal conflict which can be damaging to one’s social relationships and one’s emotion regulation abilities.
Learning to cope with anger is a skill that is not easy to possess, requires work, but can be learned. Although it might take time to learn it, keep at it and be forgiving if you find yourself reverting to your old ways of dealing with your anger.
Remember: when expressed in a healthy manner, anger can be a valuable emotion to possess- especially in situations that require a fight-or flight response. Be careful that the anger does not get out of control.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE.