Anger is a perfectly normal feature of the human condition. It arises for a variety of reasons and we express it in a variety of ways. Many people turn their anger inwards. They bit their lip or become sullen, moody and withdrawn. At the extreme opposite end others simply let rip. They shout, swear and throw things around and may become intimidating, aggressive or violent. So how do we distinguish between ‘normal’ anger, or whether there’s a problem?
Anger is such a common emotion it hardly needs describing. It typically surfaces as a result of frustration, fatigue, stress, poor communications and misunderstandings. These are the typical triggers but anger only happens as a result of its relationship to particular emotions. Triggering emotions such as fear, shame, guilt or sadness can be sufficient to cause anger but so too can rudeness, or various insensitivities. Injuries can cause also anger in some people.
Anger also develops in different ways. Some people seem to simmer on the edge of anger all the time and fly into a rage at the least provocation. Others have much longer fuses; the oddest thing may seem to set them off – a classic case of the straw that broke the camel’s back. There are also combinations of simmering resentments coupled with short fuses. Despite all this your anger may not be problematic unless it really starts to affect your health or the wellbeing of others.
Health issues with anger include high blood pressure and heart disease. There is often an association between anger and alcohol-related issues. Mental health suffers too. Angry people often suffer low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.
So, the big question is do you have a problem with anger? If you agree with most or all of the following statements the chances are you do:
- You feel irritable and tense most of the time.
- You throw things around or break them.
- You sometimes feel your own anger is disproportionate.
- You take a long time to cool down.
- You worry. You feel anxious, frustrated and low in mood.
- You have problems with family and/or friends.
- You have a way of getting into fights or trouble with the law.
- You intimidate some people. Your anger has been commented on.
- You take our your frustration on soft targets.
- You are angrier than people around you.
Anger management is the next logical step. It doesn’t necessarily mean going to anger support groups (but this often helps) but it does mean working out the reasons why you’re so angry and then using strategies to reduce the problem. This is something I’ll be looking into in my next post.
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