Anger seems to be everywhere these days. Truthfully, anger has been everywhere for as long as history books go back, including the Bible. It’s really nothing new. But where does it come from? What causes anger and what can we do to prevent it from turning into catastrophe? A big debate with anger management is whether or not to embrace it or simply let it go. Neither of those things come as easily as people hope, so more often than not people are completely giving into their anger and allowing it to turn into a state of hate. Hate is getting us into too much trouble these days. It can be really hard to determine what we as individuals can do, and the truth is, it all has to start with us. No matter how much we want to impact or change the world around us, inevitably we have got to begin with our own person.
Anger is a sensation that we feel when something happens that we deem unpleasant or unfair. This could be a wide variety of things. Something as little as a person at the supermarket cutting in front of us in line or as big as finding out a loved one has cancer. Anger arises in us from a deep sense of dissatisfaction or discontentment.
We have all felt anger in some form or another. I know when I was younger, if I had a bad day, I would come home shove my face deep into a pillow and scream at the top of my lungs. I just had to find a way to get it out. Now that I’m older, I manage my anger in a whole different way. Thanks to the help and guidance of many experts on the topic, I have taken the time to truly understand my anger and how to effectively deal with it before it gets out of control. No, I haven’t keyed an ex boyfriends car or made threatening phone calls, but I have been known to passive aggressively flush all the toilets in the house when my husband was taking a shower. What can I say, I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all, after all? So, let me share a bit about what I’ve learned about anger so far.
How anger is hurtful to us can spin off into a thousand different directions. I know we’ve all experienced those days where someone cuts us off in traffic and for the rest of the day we are quick to anger at every other situation that crosses our path. There is no more looking at the bright side because we are quick to see every negative thing that happens for the next 12 waking hours in our day. At worst case scenario, unresolved anger can turn into hate and hate is an emotion that does nothing but hard to our bodies. Anger an often times keep us holding onto pain from the past or holding grudges against another person that eventually leads us to feelings of hatred toward people or situations.
“I believe that generally speaking, anger and hatred are the type of emotions which, if you leave them unchecked or unattended, tend to aggravate and keep on increasing.” -Dalai Lama
So what do these unresolved feelings of anger eventually lead toward? Internal damage and shorter life expectancies. Studies show that people prone to outbursts of anger or even those who repress their anger have increased risk of heart attack. In fact, after an angry outburst, for the next 2 hours that person is more prone to experience heart failures. These same things hold true for a stroke. The 2 hour period after an angry outburst, a person is also more likely to experience an aneurism after experiencing a stroke.
In a more mild, but just as dangerous way, anger also lowers our immune system which prevents our bodies from fighting off diseases as quickly. Personally, I can think of a handful of people that stand out when it comes to illness and negativity. It seems every time I talk to them, they are complaining about some new terrible illness they have. Hard to way whether or not their outlook is affecting their illness or vis versa. Maybe their illness is all in their head. Which brings me to my next point. An angry attitude is also correlated with an increase in depression and anxiety. No big surprises there.
It might be surprising to learn that anger is indeed helpful in a lot of ways. If it is properly managed of course. Like I said earlier, anger arises when we feel we have experienced something unjust or unfair. When these instances happen to awaken deep feelings within us, we have the chance to spring into action and make big things happen. Rosa Parks, for example was angry and she used that anger not to lash out, not to harbor hate or start a riot, but to simply stand her ground.
“When anger is motivated by compassion, it can be used as an impetus or a catalyst for a positive action.” – Dalai Lama
Anger is helpful when it pushes us toward change. Maybe you are angry at yourself for continuing a string of bad relationships with people that you knew weren’t all that great to begin with. Now you are faced with the opportunity to use your anger with yourself to start making some seriously needed changes. Plan a course of action and take charge of your own life.
You may find yourself angry at a situation that is going on in the world, aren’t we all? Whether it’s problems with sex trafficking, environmental destruction or the fact that Kim Kardashian has her own book filled with selfies. –Yeah, that’s a real thing. I was just as angry as you are, trust me. We as human beings are given our anger to get assertive, to use our problem solving abilities to start making big differences in the world. Anger can help us get involved, get informed and make us open the eyes of others who we want to see our side. Like Rosa Parks, the best way to get people to see our side is by channeling our anger the right way, without causing more anger or hatred. We have to figure out the best way to manage our anger before we just take off and run with it.
There are tons of self-help and anger management theories out there today, each one claiming to be the best. Since every person is different, every strategy will work differently for different people. But let’s look at what we know to be effective and not-so-effective.
Whether this is anger at yourself or an outside circumstance, take a moment to problem solve. Chances are you can’t fix the entire problem in just a snap of your fingers. For example, I could stand in front of the Kim Kardashian section at Barnes and Nobel and warn onlookers of what is behind me. However, I would never be able to cover every Barnes and Nobel store. It’s just more than one woman can handle. So what can I do? I can not purchase this “book.” I can avoid tabloids that feed into this big booty babe and avoid all articles about her or her self-love book. No matter how small the step may seem, find one that is doable and effective. Start to figure a way for you to get yourself the results you seek.
Studies show that the more you feed into your anger, the more you talk about it, the worse it gets. It builds inside of you. The best way to manage your anger is to take measures to slow its build up in the first place. Daily meditation, breathing exercises and prayer beads are some of the ways that I personally have worked on lowering my anxieties and anger. As you work on calming yourself down and practicing contentment, you will definitely still have “set backs” where you still experience anger. Keep at it. I personally have had to go through these practices and trust me, they work, it’s simply a matter of time. Working at making yourself a more “zen” person all around will help you better analyze and manage your anger when it presents itself again.
Just like angry outbursts, avoiding anger will cause similar health problems, stressors and anxiety. Once you have worked on lowering your stress levels and are better able to manage your anger, make sure you acknowledge your anger when it arises. Ignoring it will not ever fix a problem. Acknowledge, problems solve and decide on the best way to proceed. When I first started meditation practices I loved the feeling of joy so much that I would suppress stress without even knowing it. I could tell something felt off in my body but I wasn’t sure what exactly it was. This meant carrying around this feeling of heaviness everywhere until I finally managed to get honest with myself about what had been bothering me in the first place.
When big problems that cause a lot of anger arise, there is nothing wrong with distracting yourself, taking a break and allowing yourself to cool down before responding. A lot of hurtful things can be done or said in the heat of anger. None of these things are things you can fix or change after they have happened. To prevent anger from spiraling, there is nothing wrong with removing yourself from a situation. You know the old “sleep on it” theory? Well, I believe it to be a great one. Never go to bed angry has never worked out for me. More often than not, I go to bed angry and wake up with a rested, better perspective on a situation. Yes, I would prefer not to go to bed angry, but sometimes my brain needs a break before dealing with a tough situation head on.
Anger will grow when given attention. Just like a child’s tantrum. The more you feed it, the bigger it will become, until it can be overwhelming to deal with. Screaming into a pillow when I was a teenager may have felt better instantly or at least released a little pressure, yet I was still just as likely to react with anger and frustration when faced with the next problem. If I would have acknowledge my anger and taken steps toward facing the problem, I would have been able to handle the situation and future situations with a clearer and calmer head.
Like I mentioned earlier, suppressing anger is just as dangerous to your health and wellbeing as lashing out and giving into anger. By doing this, we become unable to work toward fixing the issues that caused anger in the first place. In fact in a 17 year old study done on couples, it was found that those who suppressed their anger toward one another had shorter life expectancies. It’s crazy what harboring all those feelings can do to a person.
There are so many things that give us those pretend feelings of joy, things like drugs, alcohol, sex, food and even exercise. When faced with big problems, big causes of anger, people often turn to one of these for comfort and a little temporary relief. It seems that the best way to make that pain go away is to numb it or just avoid it. Problem is, by doing either of these things, we either create new problems or bigger problems, and the original cause of anger will still be there waiting for us in the end. While drugs, food and alcohol seem like huge no-nos, exercise doesn’t seem like a very bad option. It’s definitely the lesser of all of these. Exercise, when used properly can be a great way to manage anger and be used as a “time out” to help clear your head and get your thoughts together before facing a big problem. It’s when it becomes an obsession that over-exercising can become a real problem. Diseases like orthorexia are on the rise. Orthorexia is a disease of the mind where people become obsessed with exercising and eating right to the point that it can lead to serious health problems and depression. So, if you turn to your running shoes or the weight room to help manage stress, just make sure you don’t use it as a means to completely avoid the problem.
“The only factor that can give you refuge or protection from the destructive effects of anger and hatred is your practice of tolerance and patience.”
If anger is something you are truly struggling with, I highly suggest surrounding yourself with positive reading material designed to boost you up and get you on the right track. I was inspired to write this post after reading a book for all religions based off the Dalai Lama’s teachings. The book is called, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. Everything I have offered up here is literally based off of 4 pages in this book of over 300 pages. I highly recommend picking it up. Below are some of my other top-recommended books to help you get started with lessening your anger one day at a time. Remember, getting angry is the first step to getting lessing angry!
*This post contains affiliate links. For more information see my disclosures.