Anger is a much talked about emotion in our culture. We are increasingly confronted with examples of anger leading to violence that sometimes then results in injury, death or criminal charges. A healthy person will feel anger at times and the key to anger is what then to do or not do from this emotionally charged state.
Anger is a primary emotion and its job is to alert us to an emerging situation where either we are being compromised, our boundaries violated, or we are coming under some form of threat. The response of anger to these situations will vary from annoyance to out of control rage.
Anger is tied to our Autonomic Nervous System "fight or flight" response to the threat. Anger becomes our evolutionary response from our subconscious effort to protect and defend ourselves. As such anger can be an appropriate response but in our civilised society we have boundaries, sanctions and codes of conduct which restrict and define how anger can be deemed an appropriate response to events and situations.
Uncontrolled anger has both a social and a BodyMind outcome on those who are struggling with their anger, and those who are impacted or witness these uncontrolled anger outbursts.
An inappropriate use of anger can lead to BodyMind health issues, criminal charges, difficulties in relationships, in the workplace and in other areas of our lives. Uncontrolled anger can also create trauma, stress, and BodyMind health issues for those around us.
An inappropriate use of anger can lead to BodyMind health issues due to the nature of the chemicals released by the brain in the "fight or flight" response. A person who is angry much of the time, or who relies on anger as their default expression when dealing with their environment, releases high levels of "fight" preparation mood chemicals such as adrenaline and Cortisol.
These chemicals lead to increase in the heart rate and blood pressure, and a range of symptoms in the body such as a felt sense of jumpiness, alertness, fear, tension in muscles, fatigue without sleepiness, sweaty or clammy hands, shaking, twitching, nervous tics, frequent urination, dry mouth or throat, dizziness, shallow breathing, stomach complaints, impulses to move and be busy or some form of hyperactivity.
Neuroscience researcher Francisco Varelas, has documented in her book, Healing Emotions, the following public study findings and relationships between uncontrolled anger and health outcomes:
- A chronically angry person was one-and-a-half times more likely to die over a 25 year period than one who was not always angry.
Anger was the most commonly experienced emotion two hours before a major heart attack.
Those who had hearts attacks and also easily roused to anger were two or three times more likely than other heart attack patients, to die of a major heart attack in the 10 years following their first heart attack.
- Anger is not only linked to an increase in heart attack risk, but it could harden your arteries, and also the act of remembering the angry incident 7 days later could increase blood pressure and heart rate to high levels.
- Anger can trigger or create distorted thinking and perceptions, which in turn lead to incorrect or inappropriate responses and actions to the situation.
- Long term anger issues can create an onset of Anxiety and Depression.
Impact of Anger on Others
Spouses, family, friends and co-workers of anger prone persons are liable to suffer a long term consequence of association with the person's angry outbursts and presence. Studies have shown that anger intimidates others around us, creating our own "fight or flight" response in many people. Associates of angry people report symptoms of anxiety and even Depression over time as the angry person takes a toll on the wellbeing of others in their proximity.
People who are unable to withdraw from association to an angry person often attempt to caretake them so they will not become angry, and so tend to become hyper-vigilant and walk around "on egg shells" in order to keep the peace. The effects on others is felt as both mental and emotional tension and illness, whilst in the body are muscular tensions, migraines, raised blood pressure and heartbeat, and an increase in bodily illnesses such as colds and flus, as the person's immune system gets depleted by their constant state of tension.
Some on-lookers will suffer trauma at the hands of an angry co-worker or supervisor if left to cope alone in an organisation with such a personality. Their defences and coping mechanisms may collapse over time and they will experience a form of shock, shaking, inability to function, crying, terror, and other symptoms of the trauma from the emotional abuse inflicted upon them by being a recipient of inappropriate anger.
Organisations often only wake up to the presence of an angry personality issue when they notice high absenteeism, sick leave or staff turnover statistics in one area of their operation. Organisations incur a high cost in not acting on this type of issue due to the cost of absent staff, low productivity, replacement advertising, recruitment and training costs, as well as any legal action that may occur by victims of bullying or anger prone co-workers and supervisors.
Dealing with Anger
We all deal with anger in different ways and some people experience anger more frequently and intensely than others. Our expression of anger relates to how we have been conditioned to see anger, and our sense of "permission" to express anger, both of which are normally related to how as children we had anger mirrored and modelled to us by the adults and parents around us.
Some people learn to feel their anger, gain awareness of the situation that is triggering them, then take the few moments to think about an appropriate response to the situation. Others learn to feel and express the anger impulsively and without boundaries and restraint, whilst others in doing this, notice they gain power and control over others and situations by the use of intense anger and rage at people and events.
Some people have a demand on life to conform to the way they believe life and others should be, or should treat them. This narcissistic stance towards life and others has been coined "Musturbators", and typically involves younger men who often explode in a fit of rage due to a low level of tolerance and a rigid narcissistic way of thinking.
These people expect others to behave as they believe they should and ought to, spend a lot of time expressing idealised demands of others as "shoulds" and "musts" in life. When others do not conform they get angry, demanding and critical, leaving them frustrated and liable to end up in incidents such as road rage, fights at the pub, and hostility from others.
Other people learn to fear anger, shut down around their own and others anger, and perhaps even experience deep fear or trauma around the expression of anger. Others learnt it was wrong to have anger, and instead suppress their anger and become blaming, passive-aggressive, grumpy, miserable people who others struggle to be around. We all have anger and it can be disowned but never removed from your BodyMind. It exists until expressed, even when suppressed in you by others, or repressed in you by yourself.
The repression and suppression of anger will be seen in both the mind and personality as passive aggressive behaviour, whilst in the body as psycho-somatic illness, bruxism (grinding of teeth), migraines, tight neck and back muscles, stomach and irritable bowel disorders, and other complaints. This BodyMind outcome can cause us to act out our anger indirectly. Manipulation, Criticism, and sarcasm are some ways in which anger can be indirectly expressed.
Suppressed anger can also result in self blame. This can lead to loss of confidence, low self esteem and sometimes self harm.
Expressing and Working with Anger
There are some common and recommended ways to deal with anger. We all deal with anger in different ways and some people experience anger more frequently and intensely than others. Some of us express anger in violent outbursts while others suppress their anger and become grumpy, miserable people who others struggle to be around. These include:
- Learn controlled breathing. Breathe in fully and breathe in for 4 seconds and then out for 6 seconds.
- Check your body posture and the way you are holding your body in tension. Relax the knees, drop your shoulders, open and rotate the jaw in your mouth socket, blink and fully open your eyes, unclench your fists.
- Walk away from the triggering environment or situation. Pride could lead to regretted actions after the angry event whilst humility leads to the chance to disengage from the stress and anger, then to optionally re-engage with the situation from a calm place and mind.
- Work on your self-talk and self-perceptions. Create positive self-talk and do not activate victim mentalities but instead set an intention to not get angry, and instead to use active listening to try and understand the other person's point of view.
- Learn the Buddhist technique of "Taking on Defeat and giving victory to your opponent". Read a good book on compassion and the mind for dealing with your own self grasping nature that might see you wanting to win in all situations.
- Eat a healthy diet that promotes wellness. "Fast food" diets and excessive fat, salt and alcohol diets affect the liver and gall bladder, both organs linked to the emotions of anger and rage.
- Get involved with physical exercise to "run off" anger, and work out the tensions held in the body so you are left with a relaxed Parasympathetic state of the Autonomic Nervous System, which releases feel-good mood chemicals that are a natural buffer and resilience to anger formation.
- Learn relaxation techniques, learn meditation, or get a regular massage.
- Find a "time-out" buddy, someone with whom you can catch up and talk with about life and its frustrations. Do not spend this time drinking alcohol as part of that experience. Use a counsellor if you have no-one socially who can play this role.
- If you are aware that you sometimes get triggered into an intense emotional response, including anger or rage, start to keep a diary where you document the triggering event or situation, how you responded and what you felt or thought afterwards. Once you have documented a number of incidents then approach a Counsellor or therapist and get their objective assessment and guidance of what patterns and triggers they see in your behaviour. You may have an issue that requires assistance before you can overcome it.
- Learn to feel and then express our feelings without needing to act them out. This may require a counsellor or therapist for us to be able to achieve this.
- Learn to communicate positively and with empathy rather than just assertively. Assertive communication is a common head/ego technique that often becomes a mask or passive-aggressive overlay for angry persons to feel justified in expressing "their truth". This is a narcissistic and "new age" notion has helped society in becoming more entrenched in the "I/me" culture and which moves away from the win-win notion of "us/we". It is widely espoused psychobabble "truth" but Corporate Energetics see this trend as a major cause of dissatisfaction and assertive aggression that now dogs our society.
- See a BodyMind psychotherapist who can teach you how to work with and release your anger in therapy. Much inappropriate expression of anger and rage occurs in present time dynamics, because the person is sitting on a lot of emotional baggage from their past that intrudes when a person gets angry again. This toxic and negative emotional baggage simply recycles in the person and is never resolved.
Talk therapies cannot directly work with feelings and emotions, only talk about them. Many people have a backlog of unexpressed rage and anger that may go as far back as childhood. By doing analytical work on unresolved wounds and traumas, then expressing the deep anger and rage where that exists, the past is resolved, the person learns how to relate appropriately with their anger, and is able to move on healthier, happier, and more fully their original self.
Once we have regained some immediate control of a potentially angry situation, we can start to explore the real issues as we shift from a reactive stance of defensiveness and who's right or wrong. We will be able to examine with more interest and curiosity the dynamics and triggers that caused us to get angry, put these aside, and then truly start to receive the other person and what communication they may have for us.
Learning to deal with our anger more effectively may take some time depending on our past, our triggers, and our value systems around anger. In order to manage our anger in the long term we must gain an understanding of the reasons we get angry beyond what is healthy and normal. We may still be in dispute or disagreement with that person, but we will be able to calmly deal with the situation from an adult, grounded and objective place.
Contact us for assistance with anger issues you may have or if you are a victim of another's unreasonable anger.