Why so angry? Tips for keeping your cool

By Kelly Jirsa

Why so angry? Tips for keeping your cool
Leonardo da Vinci once said "where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge."

We all get angry from time to time, it’s one of the seven universal expressions, however anger unchecked could be damaging your relationships and segregating you from your social sphere.

Anger is a quick emotion that fires up typically when we feel that something or someone impinges on our goals, or threatens something or someone we care about. Anger has an evolutionary purpose but misdirected and unchecked it becomes not an issue of anger but one of a mental disorder.

Failure to control impulses, doing or saying things you later regret, feeling on edge a lot, quick reactions instead of thoughtful responses, and people telling you that “you tend to get angry” are all signs you may need help.

“The best vaccine against anger is to watch others in its throes.”
Marcel Proust

Anger is not aggressiveness

Like a barometer, your emotions are a pressure gauge, giving you valuable emotional feedback on what is happening internally in response to a thought or situation. Anger as an emotion is not the problem, it’s the way we manage the emotion may be what leads to a distorted and potentially dangerous manifestation.

Ultimately we are accountable for our actions and the way we respond to our emotions. Researchers James Kirby and Stan Steindl, from The University of Queensland, suggest that “when we feel angry, we can try to relate to it in a way that invokes feelings of wisdom, strength, courage and assertiveness.”

Getting help

Anger management programs run by clinical psychologists show promising results for reducing aggressiveness and increasing positive behaviours. Results from 92 studies on anger management programs found that cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT), both individual and group sessions, significantly reduced negative anti-social behaviours.

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) is also showing promise in the treatment of “intermittent explosive disorder” or uncontrolled anger. According to researchers at The University of Queensland, the aim of CFT is to “start directing compassion toward ourselves to help us self-soothe, feel more comfortable and work with the distress and negative feelings that fuel our anger.”

Tips for managing anger

The Australian Psychological Society suggests 4 ways you can manage your expression of this often misunderstood and potentially scary emotion.

  • Identify your triggers. Is there a particular environment or person that has you feeling the beginnings of an aggressive episode?
  • Check your body for warning signs. Are you feeling tightness in your shoulders, increased heart rate, a hot face?
  • Draw on a strategy that works for you. This could be as simple as slowing down your breathing, imagery, evaluating your thoughts, taking time out and changing your environment, or using other relaxation techniques.
  • Rehearse your anger strategies. Imagine being in a situation that makes you angry and draw upon one of your strategies, playing it out in your mind.


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