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Controlling Anger
Posted: March 11, 2009
Last Updated: March 11, 2009

Everyone has been angry. Anger is a completely normal human emotion. But when anger gets out of control and causes destructive problems with your life, it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion. Taking control of your anger is an important step as an adult.

Instinctively, the natural way to express anger is respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats and allows us to fight and defend ourselves when we are attacked.  A certain amount of anger is necessary to our survival.

On the other hand, we can’t physically lash out at every person, event and object that irritates or annoys us.

There are three main approaches for how people deal with anger: expressing, suppressing and calming.

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive – not aggressive – manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met without hurting others. Being assertive isn’t a license to hurt others.

Suppressing anger and then converting it or redirecting it can be done. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop and think about it, and focus it on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and covert it into more positive constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if the anger isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward – on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. 

Calming your anger means not just controlling your outward behavior, but controlling your internal responses as well. Take steps to control your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.

Relaxation is essential to calming yourself when angry:

·         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” or “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.

·         Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.

·         Nonstrenuous, slow exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.

Also, try cognitive restructure. This means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms. When you are angry, your thinking can get very exaggerated and dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, and that it won’t make you feel better.

Sometimes anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. The best attitude to take in some situations is not to focus on a solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem. Problem solving can help you deal with problems that don’t always have a cut and dry solution to them. Make a plan and check your progress along the way. Resolve to give it your best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer doesn’t come right away.

If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and the important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. A psychologist or licensed mental health professional can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and behavior.

When talking to a prospective therapist, tell him or her that you have problems with anger that you want to work on, and ask about their approach to anger management. Consider contacting Boarder Area Mental Health Services. Border Area Mental Health Services offers caring professional counselors ready to help you with anger management or any other problems you are experiencing. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649 for referral; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.




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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.