The management of emotions is one of the difficulties most often faced by society today. In addition to anxiety or sadness, anger is one of the most instinctive and universal emotions that interfere most with personal well-being.

Let’s see how dismantling a set of beliefs about anger management can allow the individual to cope more effectively with situations that may lead to such reactions.

Harmful consequences of anger

The expression of anger in an uncontrolled way can cause us significant damage in different areas of our personal lives.

1. Deterioration of interpersonal relationships

It seems that we show more instinctive reactions of anger towards the people in our closest environment (family, friends and colleagues), that is, that the most significant personal relationships are usually the most damaged .

2. Aggravation of conflict

Usually, when trying to dialogue with another person when the level of anger is intense, the exchanges are not constructive since at that moment it is the emotional part of the brain that is dominating the individual’s response (to the detriment of the more rational brain).

3. Facilitating violent functioning of the person

The responses manifested from anger are often associated with the expression of violent behaviour and aggression (verbal or physical) towards the other. Thus, when anger dominates the psychological state of the subject the instinctive desire to hit, shout, threaten , break objects, etc. is greater.

4. Predisposition and higher proportion in the appearance of diseases

Since the research in the area of health psychology, the so-called Type A personality (hostile, irritable and high stress functioning) is associated with a high propensity to suffer cardiovascular accidents .

5. Personal emotional instability

A marked difficulty in anger management can lead to dysfunctional psychological states such as depression, anxiety disorders or feelings of insecurity, guilt, low self-esteem, low tolerance to frustration, etc.

Myths about anger management

Here are some misconceptions about anger management:

1. Anger decreases if it manifests itself openly

It is true that anger must be channelled in some way because, otherwise, its unlimited accumulation and maintenance over time can lead the person to the appearance of the consequences set out in the previous section.

However, this channeling should not be through its active expression , since it has already been observed that a functioning based on this emotion leads to an internalized attitude of responding in this way to any situation, regardless of whether it is irrelevant or very transcendent for the individual.

2. Running away or avoiding the problematic situation lowers the level of anger

Being a strategy usually known as “time out”, sometimes it is recommended that the person not be exposed to situations that can trigger this type of reaction.

It is true that, as stated above, attempting to have an assertive conversation to facilitate conflict resolution when one is very upset is usually neither effective nor helpful. Therefore, at first, the person may postpone facing the situation for a limited time, as long as once the reflection process has been carried out (which allows a more rational, empathic and comprehensive analysis) he/she returns to resolve the pending issue in a calm and assertive way.

3. Anger makes it possible to achieve the desired goal

This idea is not only false, but also very dangerous since it transmits the message to the people around (even more so in the case of minors) that this is the methodology to be followed as a way to obtain what one intends: imposition, generation of fear of the other, non-dialogue, and in short, contempt for the dissenting party.

All these values do not bring about any emotional well-being of their own at all. On the other hand, it is false because usually, taking into account the different styles of communicational and behavioural functioning (aggressive, passive and assertive style), the person who uses anger (aggressive profile) may encounter an oppositional response to his or her behaviour (if faced with another aggressive person – dysfunctional opposition – or assertive – functional opposition -).

4. Analysis of past personal history combats anger

Studying a person’s individual psychological development can be helpful in understanding the factors that have led to the current functioning and attitudinal style of the individual in question.

Even so, under the point of view of one of the psychological currents with more empirical support, the cognitive-behavioral current, it is the elements of the present (personal, environmental and their interaction) that mainly determine the behavior of the human being.

The so-called “functional analysis” of the individual and of the responses that he emits in the face of certain situations will be much more useful to know which aspects are precipitating, maintaining or aggravating the angry behaviour. The latter are those that can be influenced to achieve a real modification of behavior.

5. External events are the sole cause of individual anger

According to the previous point, the external elements that appear in situations where the person expresses reactions of anger must be taken into account in the same way that internal or personal factors must be considered. The TREC, or Rational Emotional Behavioural Therapy by Albert Ellis, defends the deep analysis and questioning of a series of nuclear beliefs that the person possesses with respect to himself, the environment and the world in general (irrational beliefs) that are preventing the application of a more logical, rational and realistic interpretation of the situations to which the individual is exposed.

Therefore, a fundamental element in the level of emotional affectation produced by everything that happens to the person on a daily basis is given by the cognitive interpretation of the situation, and not of the situation itself.

In short, it is understood that in the face of unpleasant events, the person can work and modify his or her own perspective on such events, the result of which will have repercussions on the appearance of a more adaptive state of mind.

Learning to manage emotions

As it has been observed, it seems that an adequate management of anger is fundamental to prevent a series of consequences that can compromise both our physical and psychological health.

From the argument about the erroneousness of the five premises set out on the management of anger maintained over time, a more extensive knowledge can be reached about what the alternative forms of management of this type of disabling emotion might be.

Bibliographic references:

  • Ellis, A. (1999). Control your anger before it controls you . Paidós: Barcelona.