It is especially important, and useful, to have effective emotion regulation skills when it comes to anger. Without the all-important pause, where we identify our emotion, ask ourselves what prompted it, and choose our reaction, anger can easily produce harmful behavior. Anger often results from hurt and can result in hurting others.
HelpGuide.org puts it this way:
Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, neither good nor bad. Like any emotion, it conveys a message, telling you that a situation is upsetting, unjust, or threatening. If your kneejerk reaction to anger is to explode, however, that message never has a chance to be conveyed. So, while it’s perfectly normal to feel angry when you’ve been mistreated or wronged, anger becomes a problem when you express it in a way that harms yourself or others. You might think that venting your anger is healthy, that the people around you are too sensitive, that your anger is justified, or that you need to show your fury to get respect. But the truth is that anger is much more likely to have a negative impact on the way people see you, impair your judgment, and get in the way of success.”Anger Management, HelpGuide.org. Retrieved 7/9/2020.
It’s important to note that anger management is not about suppressing or ignoring anger. It is about learning to stay in control so we can have an appropriate response.
In one section of her Self-Mastery Workshop, Rose Mary Boerboom points out that, as humans, we have the ability to think about our emotions. We can prolong and even amplify them in this process. Strong emotions also give us selective memory—only allowing us to remember things related to that emotion. In this way, when anger spirals out of control, we lose the ability to remember more positive things about a person or situation. Both anger and fear trigger our “fight or flight” response—not only in response to physical threats and danger but also “when we perceive a threat to our self-esteem or dignity.” Anger is triggered “in response to emotional pain and is used to cover up hurt.” This is when anger is often referred to as the secondary emotion with hurt being the primary emotion.
Boerboom further states that “as human beings, we must develop the ability to regulate our painful and negative emotions. This will allow us to choose our responses and behavior instead of being controlled by uninformed emotion and reactivity.”
See excerpts from Self-Mastery Workshop by Rose Mary Boerboom, MA, LP. Used with permission.
Helpguide.org also offers helpful tips about exploring what’s behind your anger, becoming aware of its warning signs, and identifying its triggers, as well as techniques for modulating the emotion.
Other links of interest:
- Controlling anger before it controls you (American Psychological Association)
- Anger management: 10 tips to tame your temper (MayoClinic.org)
- Anger and Aggression (Out of Home Care Toolbox)
- First Comes Hurt, Then Comes Anger and Aggression (Washington Parent Magazine)
- 11 Anger Management Strategies to Help You Calm Down (verywellmind.com)
- Mental Health and Anger Management (WebMD)