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September 21, 2017

Anger: Manage It or Let It Manage You

By Dr. Richard Boyum

Anger is a very interesting emotion. It is much like dynamite. A little bit of it can go a long way, but used inappropriately it can backfire and blow up in your face. Anger that is not resolved or dissolved, or inappropriate levels of anger can lead to depression, a higher incident of various types of accidents, broken relationships, and can also be a major contributing factor to heart attacks and strokes in mid and later life. Keeping these thoughts in mind, consider the following thoughts and ideas to both better understand anger and to use I more appropriately.

1. Anger is often a function of frustration. Spend some time thinking about what you're really frustrated about and what actions you might be able to take to handle those frustrations.

2. Remember that, ultimately, you are responsible for your own anger. While situations may contribute to your anger, someone else doesn't make you angry; at some point you must accept responsibility for choosing anger over other emotions.

3. Speaking of emotions, anger is a basic emotion. There are things that are legitimate and appropriate to be angry about, but responses to anger do not have to be hostile or hurtful. In reality, anger is a way of protecting yourself. Spend some time thinking about what you really want to achieve in situations where you feel anger.

4. Consider to what extent your anger response is learned. Who did you learn it from? In what situations did it work for you in the past, but may not work for you in the present? Realize that for some individuals there may be a genetic predisposition to anger. In knowing this, you can make choices to keep yourself calm.

5. If you are prone to anger, rehearse appropriate and healthy responses that may be more beneficial to your situation.

6. Realize that basic, normal, human behaviors can help you effectively manage your anger. Getting appropriate exercise and making sure you get enough sleep can increase the number of choices and responses you have to situations where you may find yourself feeling upset.

7. Don not abuse alcohol and/or use other drugs. Drugs and alcohol tend to have a major effect on the rational part of your brain. When this part of your brain is anesthetized, raw emotion is more likely to take over.

8. Remember that you are not the content of your emotion; you are the invisible awareness. In other words, don't think of yourself in terms of, "I am angry ", rather think of yourself as, "Right now I am very aware of the anger I am feeling". When you do this, you can acknowledge your anger and somehow be a bit bigger than the feeling itself. Through your acknowledgement, you can find a way to say, "That's just the way it is, so what choices do I have now?"

9. Remember that anger can be overt, but it also can be covert, or passive-aggressive. Passive-aggressive anger in the form of backstabbing, gossiping about individuals, or baiting others can be as serious as more direct expressions, such as yelling at someone, or confronting someone with overt threats. Either way, these behaviors can damage your long-term goals. Think carefully about how you both directly and indirectly may use anger, not to only hurt others, but also possibly hurt yourself.

10. Know that if you have a serious problem with anger, antidepressant medication and mood stabilizers/ anti seizure medications seem to help individuals gain more appropriate levels of control. You may want to talk with a physician or counselor, if you think medication may be of help to you. Usually, a single consultation should give a professional enough information to help you decide whether medication is something you would like to try.

11. Finally, remember at some level, anger is a choice. At times you may want to pick other words, such as being bothered, upset, irritated. These words may help you get not only at the nature of the difficulty you have, but at possible solutions that may be of help to you.

Remember that anger is an appropriate emotion, but in our culture sometimes it is overused. Use it carefully, and it may help you achieve your goals. Misuse it, and it will create difficulties that will keep you from becoming the kind of person that you might like to be. It may be of help for you to talk with a professional counselor about ways to deal effectively with your expression of anger as an emotion. Some individuals find that anger is a mask for fear, and once they understand that important distinction, they can move forward in making more healthy choices. When you are angry, ask yourself, "Am I really afraid of something happening, or not happening?" It is normal for people to feel angry or mad, but it is also important for people to feel sad, to feel glad, and to feel afraid. Don't let anger become an emotion that blocks the healthy expression of all of the emotions you might feel. Hopefully, these thoughts and suggestions will help you further explore when anger is helping you, and/or when anger hurts you.