What is anger?
Anger is an emotion that can range from feeling annoyed right up to experiencing rage. Like all emotions, anger is temporary and will die down quickly once you remove yourself from whatever results in your experience of anger.
For many, the statement that the emotion is temporary and will pass can surprise you, especially if you struggle with anger.
This article will explain the emotion of anger, explain what makes you angry and detail options to help you stop losing your temper.
Table of contents
How anger works.
Anger comprises the following three components.
- Physical – what happens in your body when you experience the emotion
- Cognitive (thoughts) – what thought processes run through your mind during the feeling, and
- Behavioural – what you do and feel you want to do when you experience the emotion.
The physical component of anger.
The physical component of anger and all emotions is usually the first sign you have that a feeling is occurring. I find it helpful to think of the physical symptoms of emotions as being energising or de-energising. Anger is energising; things speed up in your body instead of feeling sad, which causes more of a dampening effect physically.
The video is taken from my online course on anger
If you are trying to understand your own experience and feel that you have no control over it, discovering the changes in your body as the emotions bubble up gives you a chance to change it. You can’t be angry if you can calm down your body.
The feelings that you experience in your body alert you that your body is preparing for action. It is expecting to have to take a stand or defend itself. Anger is part of your stress response, or you might have heard this being referred to as the fight-or-flight response.
When you experience any emotion, you usually feel compelled to do something – you experience an urge. When you feel the physical sensations relating to anger in your body, as your body is prepared for action, you might feel compelled to move towards the thing, thought, or person making you angry.
Urge to move toward your anger.
Suppose you are at home alone and thinking about something making you feel angry. In that case, you might move toward anger by engaging more in your thought processes, and going over different scenarios, while all the time, your anger increases.
If you are angry at someone, you might feel the urge to move closer to them and raise your voice.
The emotion of anger can also make you feel the urge to move away from whatever makes you angry. This can help you understand if people often accuse you of walking out or getting offside if heated discussions occur.
Common urges experienced during anger include:
- taking faster and over the top of someone
- seek revenge
- urges of aggression
- prove the other person wrong
- drive or walk faster
The cognitive component is essential to understand as your thoughts cannot only talk up your anger but also calm it down.
It is helpful to note that all emotional components match what you feel. For example, you probably won’t have uplifting or motivating thoughts if you feel sad. There are typical thinking styles associated with emotions; one to watch out for if you are angry is rumination. Rumination means repeatedly repeating the same thought or scenario in your head, which, unfortunately, with anger, helps intensify the emotion.
Standard thought processes that accompany anger include,
- I hate that person
- The situation or person is wrong.
- Blame- either yourself or others.
- Being prevented from doing what you want.
I find it easier to think of the behavioural component of anger as having an action. You are doing something. When you are angry, you are communicating. The problem may not be with the emotion of anger but how you share what you are feeling.
Behavioural communication involves
- how you speak, your tone, your choice of words,
- how you are using your body, your body language
Now that I have summarised what anger is, most people on this page want to know how to stop being angry, and I shall discuss that now.
How to deal with anger?
If you have decided or been told by others that you have a problem with anger, it can feel like you have little control over lashing out at others. Anger, like all emotions, can be broken down and understood. Once you know what makes up your anger components, you can change.
If you want to get a hold of your anger, you probably do not have to come and see me in person; self-help is enough for most people.
Counselling and therapy for anger.
Your GP might have suggested meeting with a therapist for CBT to help with anger. I am also trained in a model of therapy called Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, and parts of this model are excellent for helping with anger issues.
Anger management course.
My self-help course helps you understand the different components of the emotion of anger, as outlined above and uses several different therapy models to help you experience emotions in a way that is helpful to you.
Throughout the course, you will be taught what situations make you angry and how to respond differently. You shall get the same information in my course that you would get from me in individual sessions.
I hope that by offering a course for anger management, you will solve your problem without any expensive therapy fees!
If you have been looking online for anger management, I will start by saying it is not about managing the emotion, nor is it as simple as ‘taking time out.’
My course will not give tips like ‘count to ten’ as this does not work for most people. Anger is an emotion; if you have severe anger problems, I doubt my telling you to count to ten will do much good; it will probably make you angrier!
If you are looking for tips you can readily find on the internet, this course is not for you.
If you want to understand what is happening in your brain when you are angry and what you need to do to fix it, this course will help.
What models of therapy will you use to help me with my anger?
I shall use different approaches that I have been trained in and that are effective in helping with anger. These include;
Dialectical Behavioural Therapy – DBT. I shall use the skills teaching of DBT to help you with anger; these include
- Distress Tolerance Skills
- Emotional Regulation Skills
- Mindfulness Skills, and
- Interpersonal effectiveness skills
DBT is a model of therapy that was first used to treat personality disorders. Please note this course is for anger management and not personality disorders. I chose to include the skills element of DBT in this course as it is effective in helping people who want to learn how to express and manage their experience of anger.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will also be used.
What makes me angry?
Everyone is different, and this shall be dealt with in the course, but basically, for you to feel angry, you have to experience a situation or thought as harmful in some way.
Suppose you are having difficulty controlling your temper and wish to gain control. In that case, you must understand what makes you angry. Once you have a list of instances that make you mad, you then have a starting point to work from.
Different things make different people feel anger. The problem and what you should look for is what makes you feel anger out of proportion to what is happening.
If you are at the beginning of trying to manage your anger, it is helpful to group the things that make you angry into groups. Many things that upset you can fall into the following categories.
- Things that are unfair or break the rules.
- Things that irritate or annoy you.
- Things that cost you time or money.
THINGS THAT ARE UNFAIR OR BREAK THE RULES.
You feel angry, not only when a rule is broken, such as laws set down by the government or rules of the road, but also be alert to anger your experience when someone breaks rules you hold.
RULES SET BY LAW
Someone not following the rules of the road.
People who make noise after a pre-defined time.
People who break the law.
RULES SET BY YOU
You must think about the rules set by you, as these are more likely to provoke an angry response than when someone breaks the rules set by law. There are far too many to list, and many will be unique to you, but I shall give some examples to show you what to look for.
- People should tidy up after themselves.
- People should respect my space.
- People should not question me.
- Kids should stay out of my garden.
- People should not make use of my things.
THINGS THAT COST YOU TIME AND MONEY.
Examples of things that can make you angry in this category can include,
Someone who is wasting your time.
Not taking care of something that cost money. This could be not taking care of a car, right down to minor things such as not taking care of or appreciating smaller items that cost you money and time to earn it.
THINGS THAT IRRITATE OR ANNOY YOU.
Like the other examples above, this list will be unique, but I shall give some examples to get you started.
- Loud people.
- Being shouted at.
- Neighbours not taking care of their property; think untidy front garden.
- People who eat with their mouths open.
- Not saying thank you, or excuse me.
- impolite people
Note many of these things can cross categories. You might have an internal rule to be polite, expect the same from others, and be irritated by rudeness.
Someone is coughing, standing close behind you in a queue. This is one of mine!
A stranger standing too close to you.
WHY DO YOU NEED TO BE AWARE OF THE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU ANGRY?
If you want to express anger without losing your temper or want to feel less wound up all the time, you need to know your triggers before you can start working on them. I divided them into the categories above. It is easier to identify your triggers when you can label or categorise them.
Once you have your list, you can start practising responding differently in different scenarios.
Steps that you can use to help with anger right away.
Break the experience into the three components of anger and do the opposite. For example, if you are on a train and feeling angry at the person opposite you who is eating loudly and with their mouth open while talking on the phone, break the experience into the three components of anger.
What is happening in your body? Is your heart rate speeding up? What is happening with your muscles? If you are feeling more energised because of this new feeling of anger, do the opposite. Try to slow down your breathing and relax your muscles. Remember, at the start of this article, I said that anger is only temporary; whether it dissipates quickly or bubbles up depends on what you do when you first notice it.
What are you thinking right now, as the person on the train annoys you? You might think;
- I can’t believe how rude they are. Do they have no manners?
- Do they think they are the only person sitting here?
Ask yourself if your thoughts are helping to calm your emotion or making you angrier. If they are growing your anger, try to change them, for example.
They might never have been taught to eat with their mouth closed. They might have a blocked nose that makes eating difficult. In this instance, you might not want to have these thoughts, and the pull to have angry thoughts will feel very justified, but try it.
And finally, look at your behavioural component and change it if necessary.
Are you staring at the person? Are you tutting out loud? If so, change your behaviours to ones that do not belong with anger. Stop looking at the person, do something else instead.
If you achieve just one of these things, you interrupt one component of anger and give yourself a chance to choose what to do next.