Is anger controlling your life?

  • Anger is a much-misunderstood emotion
  • Anger is often used as a catchall for a range of problems

There are 7 basic human emotions (according to Ekman, 2007):

  1. anger
  2. sadness
  3. joy
  4. surprise
  5. fear
  6. disgust
  7. contempt
  • It is worth remembering that emotions range along a continuum – rather than yes/no or off/on.
  • the anger continuum ranges from mild annoyance through to intense rage (and which is often accompanied by physical aggression.
  • anger is linked to our fight/flight response, and the amygdalae – parts of the brain that scan for threat/danger in the environment
  • the Australian Psychological Society debunks the myth that venting anger – such as hitting something – is good for us
  • Similarly, suppressing anger is not good – think of the pressure cooker.

Think of anger as being the tip of the iceberg – obscuring a range of emotions such as:

  • fear
  • disappointment
  • hurt
  • embarrassment
  • worry
  • sadness
  • loss

Poor communication styles can also contribute to feelings of anger: miscommunication, lack of trust.

So what works?

  • increasing awareness of how you are feeling emotionally (and the physical signs of anger) and knowing what are your triggers – people, situations, events
  • stepping back/gaining perspective
  • calming down so as to be able to problem-solve instead
  • using distraction techniques
  • taking time out
  • learning assertiveness skills
  • write about your trigger situations – communicate these to loved ones – writing is also a great way to engage the logical, problem-solving part of your brain, while also allowing “distance” to view (potentially) differently
  • visualise situations that trigger you, and rehearse new ways of responding rather than reacting.
  • remember practice makes progress and maintains motivation/commitment to change.

Source: Poerio, L. Veterans Affairs Winter, 2017.



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