Anger is an emotion . It is a signal linked to a set of physiological changes that take place in our body, and that try to warn us that something is happening in our outer or inner world that is not in line with us; something we do not agree with; something we do not like; something that, in our view, we cannot allow.
Our anger, rage, rage (you can call it what you like), is nothing more than a defense mechanism that helps us to fight an upset. It appears when in a situation we are far away from our needs.
What kinds of anger are there?
We could simplify and give a classification of the emotions depending on whether or not our needs are covered, this way we would have
- When our needs are met and we feel good … we have positive emotions .
- When our needs are not met and we feel bad … we have so-called negative emotions .
It’s a lot of simplification but sometimes simplicity is the key.
Good and not so good emotions
Within the needs mentioned in the classification we could find from basic needs, of subsistence and well-being (food, hydration, rest, tranquility…) to identity needs (self-affirmation, respect, integrity…), relational needs (attention, love, listening…), needs of sense, security, freedom, recreation, participation, realization and celebration.
Any kind of need we have, if not covered, generates discomfort .
From negative emotions to anger
But let’s get back to our anger.
Synthesizing what we have seen so far… if we get angry it is because at that moment a need of ours is not being satisfied . Then, our body responds with a series of physiological reactions to warn us that we have to act. Our wise body cannot allow our need not to be met.
But what happens?… that we focus so much on ourselves, and on our needs, that we don’t realize that the other person, also has his.
We usually only look at what we need and focus on the other person’s words, attitude, and gestures and that we cannot allow them to talk to us like that or treat us like that.
When we get angry, we tend to overreact
What’s the worst of it?
For in the vast majority of cases we lose sight of the real reason for our anger . We end up being angry with ourselves, or with third parties, and in many occasions leaving our original need unmet, and even giving rise to the creation of new needs, due to the anger itself.
Perhaps your anger has appeared because you were tired or needed to have your work recognized or simply because you needed a little peace and quiet and there is a terrible racket…
The reasons may be infinite but, many times, we focus so much on the attitude of the other person that our anger ends up not achieving its true purpose , which is that your need is covered or, at least, validated.
Trying to prevent anger
Ideally, when we find ourselves in a state of anger, we should dig a little deeper.
What are you missing? What need is not covered? Why is your body reacting like this?
Okay, we’ve seen your anger… now we’re going to the other side:
“What’s wrong with the other person?!”… “Can’t you see what you need?!”… “How can you be so selfish?!”
That’s what we usually think and sometimes even say without realizing that the other person also has his or her needs. So now, let’s try to manage in a correct way the moments of anger that we all have at some point.
Step-by-step management of anger
1. Analyze why you get angry
Close your eyes for a few moments and think about an argument or an anger you recently had with someone (your partner, a co-worker, your child)… What happened?
Surely you had some totally valid reason to feel bad and that’s why your anger was triggered to come to your defense . But there are several things you should keep in mind. Let’s continue. Close your eyes again but now focus on the real need you had when your anger appeared, you needed silence, you needed fun, love, recognition, what was your real need?
And, now, let’s change our role.
What reason could your partner, co-worker or child have had to act as he or she did? What unmet need was behind it?
Imagine you’re the other person… What need do you think you might have? You need to replenish your energy, respect, play…
How do you see the argument now? Do you still see it from your self?
Have you been able to empathize with the other person and see or feel their other need? From this place, would you have acted differently?
Personally I believe that none of us seeks a discussion voluntarily , however many times we find two unsatisfied needs totally opposite (ours and the other person’s), to which neither of us know how to put a name or communicate properly and this unintentionally turns into a conflict.
2. Take a breath and think about your needs
The next time you detect that your anger automatic is triggered… Stand up and ask yourself:
What need of mine is not being met? And then ask yourself , what possible need of the other person is not being met?
If in a discussion we try to cover both needs, from humility, from tranquility, from the perspective that no need is more important than the other, but that they are different and valid needs, at that moment and in both people, then the discussion is over.
3. Re-interpret conflicts and give them a positive outcome
Turn your conflicts into a search for solutions , trying to cover both needs as much as possible, and validating both needs as legitimate and equally important.
Sometimes we will not be able to cover both needs at the same time, but we can always solve the conflict by validating both needs as important and looking for a possible solution even if one is delayed, a little longer.
I propose that in your next discussion you start by asking yourself:
What do I need… And the other person, what do you need?
What are the needs that are not being met?
You’ll see how automatically your anger will diminish.