"If you are patient
in one moment of anger,
you will escape a hundred days of sorrow".
Whether it's a quick flash of temper or a longstanding
resentment, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of
dealing with anger. Managing anger in healthy ways is
important to our relationships, our daily lives, and
even our health.
People respond to anger in any of three ways: by expressing
their feelings, suppressing them, and/or calming and
detaching themselves from their emotions. Expressing
anger in ways that don't hurt you or others can be a
positive experience with lasting benefits. Ideally,
you can clearly and assertively express how you are
feeling, the reasons you feel that way, and what you
need. That is, you can try to work with the people involved
to address the problem causing your anger. This can
lead to a better understanding on both sides and perhaps
avoid conflict in the future.
In contrast, many people express their anger in the
form of aggression or emotional outburst, including
yelling, swearing, even destructive or violent behavior.
This uncontrolled reaction to anger is not healthy or
productive, often leaving the problem unresolved and
ready to flare up again in the future, leading potentially
to cycles of anger and abuse. In these cases, professional
help may be called for.
Sometimes, instead of expressing anger, people suppress
it, holding in their anger and attempting to focus on
something else. While suppressing anger can sometimes
help us avoid a confrontation, it is ultimately an unhealthy
response. Holding onto our anger often turns it inward,
harming us. This can lead to depression, resentment,
passive aggressive behavior, and self-sabotage, as well
as to physical symptoms including hypertension and high
One reason that people suppress anger is because they
are unwilling or unable to acknowledge the feelings
or situations that cause the anger. We live in a world
that is sometimes unpredictable, disappointing, and
painful. Not everything turns out the way we want or
plan. When we cannot accept frustration or allow ourselves
to feel vulnerable and hurt, our feelings often transform
into anger. If we continue to be unaware of the cause
of anger and/or unable to express our feelings, we may
react to anger in uncontrolled and harmful ways.
Finally, some people seek to calm themselves when they
are angry. They attempt to relax and slow their breathing
in addition to letting go of the thoughts and feelings
that are making them angry. This response can be a useful
strategy, but not if it keeps us from dealing with our
emotions and our situation in an honest, straightforward
manner. Sometimes it is important to express and confront
anger in a more direct and productive way.
How can I handle my anger in a healthy way?
- Cool down and relax. Take slow, deep breaths. Count
to ten before saying or doing anything. Take a few
moments for yourself away from the situation that
is upsetting. Use mental imagery to help you calm
down. For example, close your eyes and picture yourself
in a place where you feel safe and calm.
- Improve communication. Practice expressing your
feelings and needs in a clear, non-aggressive manner.
Use "I statements," to explain your feelings
and point of view. Avoid blame or accusation, such
as "It's your fault," or "You just
don't get it!" Listen to what the other person
has to say. If you are experiencing a lot of anger
in a relationship, set aside regular time to talk
before conflict erupts.
- Change your thinking. When something happens that
angers you, pay attention to your thoughts. Do you
repeat phrases like, "Why does this always happen
to me?" "She always does this to me!"
or "Everything is ruined?" Rather than magnifying
the problem by telling yourself how horrible it is,
use logic and calm thinking to put the situation in
perspective and consider your options. Efforts to
develop patience and a more positive attitude will
pay off over time.
- Avoid triggering situations. When you realize that
a particular person, place, or situation always makes
you angry, consider possible alternatives. It is not
healthy to shy away from conflict, but you do not
need to continually put yourself in situations that
will trigger your anger. When there is an alternative,
- Use humor. Find something funny about the situation
or about your own reaction. If you can recognize the
imperfections of yourself and others, and treat them
humorously, you can diffuse some of the anger. This
may help to ease the tension and open up honest discussion.
- Try to see the person's perspective. If you can
understand why another person did or said the things
that angered you, you may see that there is little
or no reason to be angry. They may not have intended
or were simply unaware of their words or action's
impact on you. Or, it may give you a starting point
to have an open conversation and work towards resolution.
At the very least, you will see that there are two
sides to every issue.
- Forgive. As the Buddha said, "Holding on to
anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent
of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who
gets burned." It is often difficult to forgive
people who have hurt or angered us. However, forgiveness
can release the burden of anger. If you have difficulty
letting go of the anger, talk with a trusted friend,
a clergyman, or a professional. Unresolved anger can
negatively affect your health.
- Consider seeking professional help. If your anger
is out of control and is affecting your daily life
and relationships, consider counseling. Working with
a licensed professional can help you develop a range
of strategies for dealing with your anger. Anger can
also be a symptom of a larger problem, such as depression.
Getting to the root of the issue can lead to appropriate
treatment and lasting positive change.