All about anger

We are all born with an innate loving instinct, argued Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, but anger and hostility arise when the individuals need for love is unmet, frustrated, or hindered. That view has been tempered by modern understanding of the human genome that reveals there are specific genes that increase the risk of socially harmful behavior such as aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, suicide and drug abuse. Today, most psychologists agree that a combination of nature and nurture is involved in the manifestation of anger.

A person with good emotional health has the ability to express all emotions appropriately, and to maintain a balance of emotions so that negative emotions such as depression, stress, anxiety, fear and anger are not dominant.

A person with good emotional health has the ability to express all emotions appropriately, and to maintain a balance of emotions so that negative emotions such as depression, stress, anxiety, fear and anger are not dominant.

We all feel the complete range of emotions throughout our lives, depending on what is happening around us and to us. Our ability to feel emotions, yet not be overwhelmed or controlled by them, is what allows us to cope with stress, loss, loneliness, and anger.

Anger is a a physiological and psychological response to external pressures stresses and frustration. Anger can make us snappy, irritable or argumentative. We all get angry now and then, but for some people anger can become a problem, spiralling out of control and getting in the way of normal life.

 

When does anger becomes a problem? When it:

  • Occurs too often
  • Becomes severe and intense
  • Lasts for long periods
  • Affects relationships and/or work
  • Leads to violence or aggression

When anger is a “passive” emotion, it is characterized by silent sulking, passive-aggressive hostility and tension. The use of drugs can make anger more likely, as can hormonal changes associated with PMS and the menopause.

When we get angry, our bodies undergo physical changes. The body’s muscles tense up and inside the brain, chemicals are released, causing an increase in energy that generally lasts up to several minutes.

When we get angry, our bodies undergo physical changes. The body’s muscles tense up and inside the brain, chemicals are released, causing an increase in energy that generally lasts up to several minutes.

Simultaneously, heart rate increases, the blood pressure rises as does the rate of breathing. The face may flush as increased blood flow enters the limbs and extremities in preparation for physical action. In quick succession, additional brain neurotransmitters and the hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released which trigger a lasting state of arousal. The emotional progression to rage is usually mitigated by the reason and logical response of the left prefrontal cortex which can switch off the emotions, thus serving to keep the situation under control.

Dealing with anger:

In order to defuse your anger before it gets out of control, you’ll want to develop an anger plan listing out things you can do to calm yourself down. For example, part of your plan might be to take a ‘time-out’ when you start getting upset; to temporarily remove yourself from the situation that is provoking you so as to provide yourself with a space in which to calm down. Another way to defuse anger might be to move the conversation away from what is bothering you and towards a more neutral topic. There are lots of things you can do to defuse an angry situation once you start thinking about it.

Relaxation:

Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books and courses that can teach you relaxation techniques, and once you learn the techniques, you can call upon them in any situation. If you are involved in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both of you to learn these techniques.

Some simple steps you can try:

Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your “gut.” Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as “relax,” “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply. Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination. Non strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.

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