Anger-related problems are a frequent reason for consulting psychology professionals.

There are even therapists who specialize only in anger management and aggression , which tells us that this is something that affects many people. How do you manage your anger? This is precisely what patients ask themselves, as it is often difficult to manage the tendency to be aggressive or angry without outside help.

Today we address the problem of anger and aggression, and offer some tips on how to control it.

What exactly is anger?

Anger is an emotion characterized by a rapid increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood levels of noradrenaline and adrenaline. It is also common for the person who feels anger to become red, sweaty, tense, breathe faster, and have increased energy in the body.

Being an emotion related to the aggressive impulse, some experts point out that anger is the manifestation of the response that our brain emits to attack or flee from danger. On the other hand, the state of mind characteristic of moments of anger makes us instinctive and diminishes our ability to reason.

The causes of anger

Anger can arise from a state of insecurity, envy, fear, etc. Anger can also appear when we are unable to face a specific situation , and we can be hurt or disturbed by the way people around us act.

In short, anger or aggressiveness often appear in situations that we perceive as a threat. Therefore, anger is based on feelings such as fear, frustration or even tiredness.

When we feel frustrated about something, we can react in several ways. For the case at hand, one of the possible reactions to frustration is anger. Aggressiveness, on the other hand, is the outward manifestation of the anger we feel.

Anger appears automatically in some situations that hinder us from achieving goals or objectives. The emotions we feel are not produced without reason, but each one has a specific function. In the case of anger, the brain causes this state to prepare us to make a greater effort to overcome the difficulty that has been presented to us.

Types of anger

Anger has different facets and takes different forms:

1. Aggressive behaviour and violence can appear as a way to achieve different objectives when we have not been able to achieve them without using violence. In this case, we could talk about instrumental anger, because we use it as a means to obtain something. Therapists associate this behaviour with poor communication skills or self-control, but it is always possible to improve these aspects.

2. Anger can appear as an explosion , because of having put up with an unfair or disturbing situation for a long time. Thus, the small daily frustrations accumulate and, by not expressing our discomfort, we end up exploding at one point or another. The solution to this kind of vicious circle is to manage anger properly, and not to build it up until it explodes.

3. Anger as a defence arises when we perceive that we are being attacked or are facing a difficulty. Normally, we tend to react negatively more out of intuition than objective facts, which can lead to our anger being poorly justified objectively.

How to control anger? Some tips for managing it

Becoming aware of the causes that lead us to a state of anger is a big step towards good anger management. Learning to control anger involves learning to rationalize some emotions and irrational impulses and to relativize the reactions produced by some events in our lives.

Otherwise, aggressiveness and anger can lead us to a permanent state of alert that can generate bad personal experiences. Therefore, one of the key factors in anger management is self-control , but the following dynamics should also be highlighted in order to develop anger prevention:

1. Not to accumulate anger but to manage it properly

When something unjust happens and we don’t react, we accumulate anger and rage. Sooner or later, all this anger that we are storing up will explode and can lead to an episode of verbal and/or physical violence . Therefore, it is important to face the problems with assertiveness and control, so as not to let the anger ball grow by moments.

2. Avoiding the winner/loser mentality

On many occasions, we get angry as a reaction to the frustration of not having achieved some objectives we had set ourselves, or when something has not turned out as we expected. In these cases, empathy is the distinguishing feature among those who know how to manage frustration, control anger and accept setbacks with sportiness. We should avoid approaching interpersonal relationships as a game in which one wins or loses.

3. Reflect on the causes and consequences of our irascibility

Think about it and analyse whether our emotional reaction is really justified can help us. Many times we don’t think about why we burst into a fit of anger, for example when we drive a car and react instantly by insulting or gesturing at other drivers when they do something wrong.

At that point it would be vital to meditate on why we react this way: have you thought about the possible consequences of having an angry episode while you are driving? Seen in this light, perhaps it is worth taking these situations in another light.

4. Get enough rest

When we are physically or mentally exhausted, our anger reactions and aggressive impulses are more frequent and we have fewer tools to manage them. For this reason it is necessary to rest and sleep the necessary hours: both quantitatively (minimum 8 hours of sleep) and qualitatively (good rest).

In addition, there are several times of the day when we are most vulnerable to outbursts of anger, and that varies from person to person. We are able to control anger when we are rested, because we can better analyze situations.

5. Relaxation, meditation, self-control…

Relaxation is the best way to prevent attacks of anger. There are different ways of relaxing: practicing sports, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, taking a hot bath, or any method that distracts the mind and brings us to a state of positivity.

In fact, at the specific moments when we detect that we may have an angry reaction, it is a good idea to try to take slow, deep breaths for at least twenty seconds: this will cause our body to detoxify from the negativity and irascibility we feel.

6. Avoiding irritating situations and people

We must avoid finding ourselves in situations where we know they can increase our anger or lead us into a negative state. You are also likely to meet certain people who are especially irritating to you (the feared toxic people).

As far as possible, we should try to avoid contexts in which we know that we can explode , and as for the people who irritate us, sometimes it will be impossible not to have any contact (bosses, some family member in particular), therefore, as far as possible, we should try to talk to that person so that the interactions are not so irritating.

7. Therapy with a psychologist

The help of a professional and accredited psychotherapist can decisively help to manage this type of emotional reactions, especially when it has reached a point where aggressive behaviour resulting from poor anger management is frequent.

Psychological therapy for these cases is aimed at modifying attitudes that generate angry situations, and allows for cognitive restructuring so that the patient can manage and control his or her anger. Some emotional control techniques are also used to control anger and thus manage aggression.

Bibliographic references:

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  • Crespo, M. and Larroy, C. (1998). Behavior modification techniques. Madrid: Dykinson
  • Caballo, V. (comp.) (1991). Manual of behavior modification and therapy techniques. Madrid: Siglo XXI.
  • Froján, M.X. (1998).Behavioral consultancy. Brief psychological therapy. Madrid: Pirámide.
  • Izquierdo, A. (1988). Employment of methods and techniques in behavior therapy.Valencia: Promolibro.
  • Payne, R.A. (2005). Relaxation techniques. Practical guide. Badalona: Paidotribo.
  • Vallejo, M.A., Fernández-Abascal, E.G. and Labrador, F.J. (1990). Behavior modification: case analysis. Madrid: TEA.