It is important to make the distinction between anger and aggression in order to apply any useful tool for anger management. Simply put, anger is an emotion whereas aggression is a behavior.
Anger is triggered in situations where a person feels threatened or unfairly treated. In these situations, anger is normal and anger is not always bad because there are some situations where it can be quite motivating. Nevertheless, anger becomes a problem when it shows up as aggression. Aggression is seen in acts like yelling, beating, biting, name-calling, damaging things, and even social exclusion. One practical way for anger management is to take part in anger management classes. It will have many benefits that also include long-term inner peace.
Identification of triggers
Different people have different provoking points so it is important to take note of them. Some common ones are negative comments, long traffic lines, hunger, and exhaustion. Identifying one’s trigger points helps in preparing a healthy response towards it.
For example, the individual notices that they get frustrated when waiting in line, so a healthy response that they can practice is to keep some books or music with them to pass the time.
Consequences of anger and aggression
Researchers at the Washington School of Nursing studied anger issues in marital relationships and found that there was a link between anger and health problems for men whereas for women anger was strongly linked with depressive disorder. Similarly, research done at Ohio State University found that angry people showed slowed immune response to wounds. Let us look at the social damages caused by mismanaged anger. People who are constantly upset have a weak network of social support because they trigger defensiveness and stress in people around them. Angry people hold grudges by constantly thinking about the negative events and reinforce their negative thinking patterns. Some thought biases that they are prone to are black-and-white thinking, disqualifying the positive, emotional reasoning and mind reading. So, they remain in a vicious cycle of physical, emotional, psychological, and social repercussions of anger.
Following are some maladaptive beliefs that can have negative consequences for an individual. They also present an obstacle in the development of emotional intelligence.
- Myth 1: I should not hold back my anger but express it with full intensity because it is natural and healthy for the body.
- Myth 2: Aggression and domination command respect and give people what they want. I should do it more.
- Myth 3: I cannot manage anger because it runs in the family genes.
Problem-solving for Anger Management
Pause and then proceed
This requires self-monitoring skills that when one notices anger rising in themselves then they should pause and remove themselves from the setting so that they can engage in self-calming activities (for at least 20-30 minutes). After cooling off, they can start the conversation again.
Manage negative thinking
During an angry episode when one monitors their thoughts, they will notice that there are some negative thoughts that reinforce their anger like quickly jumping to conclusions, catastrophizing, and mind-reading. Meditation also helps in managing negative thinking as it encourages one to stay in the present moment. For developing a habit of meditation, one can enroll in an online meditation course.
Thinking and engaging in a playful manner can help lighten the tense atmosphere, and think about the matter in a different way. The caution here is not to use abusive comedy or else it will backfire. For example, someone has spilled coffee at an individual so a joke can be made about it to soften the negative emotional arousal.
Seek social support
For this to be an effective strategy, talk to someone who is kind and understanding so that the conversation results in cool and calm feelings. All they have to do is actively listen to the individual. Seeking social support for anger management through this perspective is crucial as otherwise, anger can turn into a rage that is extremely destructive.
Approaching management for anger with the perspective of curiosity helps a lot because the person is using their exploratory skills. Curiosity will help them identify the triggers and causes behind their temper outburst then they will be interested to know the healthy ways to manage them. So, curiosity will start a healthy cycle of anger regulation.
Being assertive is about expressing one’s feelings responsibly i.e. this is done without violating the rights of others as well as oneself. Usually, the individual uses “I” statements to express themselves. The emphasis is to use blameless language.
For example, I felt angry when you did not take out the trash on time. Please be careful next time as you took the responsibility voluntarily.
There are times when anger regulation can be challenging. For example, some mental health problems like mood disorders and PTSD can make this journey challenging. The therapist will take the history of the issues and come up with a personalized action plan to help the client. The client can also enroll in a self-development course provided by the professional.
In sum, anger is not the problem but aggressive behavior is as it has severe consequences on multiple levels. The good news is that an individual can exercise the above-mentioned tools to keep a check on their hot temper. Furthermore, they also have the option of improving skills online through online anger management classes or an online meditation class.