Anger management: Useful methods

It is fascinating to watch an annoyed cobra with its hood raised and tongue lashing out. Nevertheless, it’s also a classical display of a powerful, exciting and overpowering emotion – “anger”.

How we define anger
Anger is a natural response to threat, often with aggressive overtones, which allows us to fight and defend ourselves when attacked. Psychologists term it as one of the first and strongest emotions that evolve in humans. As we grow up, anger combines with other emotions to produce outrage, frustration, irritability, grouchiness and annoyance.

Anger causes as well as accompanies distress. It is the catalyst emotion that fires reactions, small and big. Recent news has cited stories of men throwing acid on their female friends after rejection, domestic help murdering their employers, and children displaying violence in school grounds.

Although anger is a motivating emotion, chronic anger can be unhealthy for people who react aggressively at the slightest provocation. Research indicates that heart attack, diabetes, cholesterol and high blood pressure are some of the ill-effects of poor anger control.

Dr Anagha Barve, a Washington-based counselor who conducts anger management workshops says, “Angry people usually don’t appreciate support given to them, and have unrealistically high expectations. Chronic anger on a continued basis can be extremely harmful for them.”

It is important to learn how to manage and control anger. A useful method is the Triple A (A-A-A) Technique which outlines some basic ground rules for managing anger in a more healthy and productive manner.

A- Awareness
The first step requires a person to acknowledge the presence of anger and be aware of it. Self-admittance is necessary, if disclosing it to anyone else is not possible. For instance, “That criticism of my work really got me upset” or “When my kids don’t listen to me I feel like hitting them”. One must realize that anger is a healthy, natural human feeling so it must not be repressed or avoided. When suppressed, it can backfire in the form of aches, pains or other health conditions. So, admitting to anger and accepting it is the first sign of healthy emotional and inner control.

A- Action
In some situations, the anger calls for an action. You can either decide to express it or keep it to yourself. In either case, the best thing to do is to deal with the provocation immediately. Healthy anger is expressed in moderation, so if the situation calls for you to express your anger, do so assertively. Assertive anger is used to protect oneself, and to get what we want without hurting others. Some language expressions could be, “I would like to talk to you about…” or “I don’t want to leave this matter without…”

A- Alternatives
When the anger cannot be expressed we need to have ways of responding to provocation. Experts say it takes about 20 minutes to bring your body to a neutral level from the state of physiological arousal of anger. During this heightened state, you can do disastrous things such as attack someone, subjecting it onto unsuspecting colleagues, writing nasty emails, or eating calorie rich food to overcome the low feeling. So when it’s not possible to really release the anger immediately, other alternatives are necessary.

‘Relaxation’ is one option. Some people find it useful to take a few deep breaths. Others may use a stress ball, take a walk, leave the room, listen to music or read a joke.

Another alternative is ‘Paradigm Shift’, which means seeing things from another viewpoint. For instance, you have been waiting for long in a bus queue and are brushed aside by someone who rushes to board the bus. You seethe but the very moment you overhear someone, “Thank god Suresh caught his bus on time, he just got a call that his wife has met with an accident”, your anger dissolves. Not always would you come to know a possible cause for an abrupt behavior; so it’s best to imagine there is a reason behind such behavior, and keep yourself calm.

As Dr Anagha says, “Anger is like a silent assassin. Kill it before it kills you.”

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Also read: Coping with stress

Image: Flickr/creativecommons blakeemrys

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