Following on from my article the ‘Joker: Mental Health Review‘, I thought I’d create a couple of helpful advice articles which were inspired by it. The first of these was ‘17 Ways To Manage Stress‘. This makes 24 Ways To Manage Anger the second and last one in this little series.
Anger is a pretty important emotion to learn to manage when you have borderline personality disorder (BPD). Because having this means you’ll feel all your emotions much more strongly than other people.
According to Fernandez and Johnson (2016), anger is currently a key criterion in five diagnoses within DSM-5, one of which is BPD, a condition that I have. The other four are intermittent explosive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, disruptive mood dysregulation disorder, and bipolar disorder.
Although, just because anger is a part of the criterion for a disorder, that doesn’t mean the person with that condition is going to be angry and violent. I know I may feel anger and rage inside me, but I’ve never allowed it to be shown. If anything, they’re more likely to hurt themselves in order to deal with their anger.
What Is Anger?
According to Hewstone, Fincham, and Foster (2005), there are five fundamental emotions, of which anger is one. The other four are fear/anxiety, sadness, disgust, and happiness. There are, of course, other emotions, but these are the five that are considered fundamental.
Happiness is the only fundamental emotion most people would consider to be a positive emotion. But really, all our emotions have their uses, and as such, none of them is really negative. What makes an emotion negative is if you can’t control the emotion.
Thus, anger isn’t really a negative emotion, per se, because anger can be useful. It is the basis of our fight or flight response. Meaning this emotion has evolved to help us survive. But it can also help in other ways too. For example, if you experience physical and/or emotional distress, then anger can help motivate you to do something about it (Good Therapy).
Why Is It Important To Manage Your Anger?
Sometimes anger can be a justified response to a situation, other times it won’t be. But in either situation, it’s the appropriate management of that anger that matters. In today’s society, anger is more likely to get a negative response from the people that see you get angry. Making it more important to be able to manage your anger effectively.
Anger can also impair our judgements, which means we’re more likely to make rash decisions and do or say something we would never say or do normally. Thus, if you don’t control your anger, you’ll find it’ll have a detrimental effect on your relationships with others, and in more extreme cases, it’ll affect your job and get you in trouble with the law.
As I’ve already stated, anger is only a problem if you can’t control it and it starts to overwhelm you. Thus, to avoid that, you should be aware of the anger warning signs. Because no one loses control of their anger without any warning signs.
- Your heart beats faster.
- You’re breathing more quickly.
- You have tension in your shoulders.
- You clench your jaw.
- Feet start tapping.
- You feel full of pent up energy.
- Knots in your stomach.
- Having trouble concentrating.
- You clench your fists (if you become aware of this sign, you need to find a way to leave the situation so you can calm down, especially if you have a history of losing control of your anger).
Signs Your Anger Is An Indicator Of A Deeper Problem
Can you compromise?
If for one reason or another, you feel: that compromising is a sign of failure; and/or that the easiest way to get your way is to intimidate others through the expression of anger. Then you might have had an upbringing where you saw this happen growing up. In which case, working on this underlying experience will help you control your anger in the future.
Can you accept people holding different opinions to you?
For most people, having a difference of opinion is no big deal. But for a few, their opinion is the only right opinion. As such, they might see someone who is openly stating a different opinion as a challenge to their authority. For these kinds of people, they have a strong need to be in control and/or a fragile sense of self and self-esteem.
Thus, working on building your sense of self and self-esteem up will help you with managing your anger. Plus, working on your need to feel in control would also help.
Do you have trouble expressing emotions (other than anger)?
There’s an outdated notion that to be a man is to “man up”, and by that they mean to hide all your emotions, that “boys don’t cry”. Furthermore, anger tends to be the only acceptable emotion to show as a man. If you can’t express other emotions, are uncomfortable with other emotions, or only know how to be angry, then you need to get back in touch with your feelings. Connecting with your other emotions will allow you to use them all more appropriately, as well as making you an emotionally healthier person.
24 Anger Management Strategies
Count to 10
A classic strategy to use is to count to 10. The idea is that by the time you’ve counted to 10, you should have cooled down and become more clear-headed. Thus, stopping you from acting on impulse.
Breathe deeply from your diaphragm, picturing your breath coming up from your gut.
Breathe out for longer than you breathe in and focus on each breath as you take it.
Take a timeout
Remove yourself from the situation so that you can calm down.
Use your senses
Ground yourself in your environment and focus on your sight, smell, hearing, and touch in order to focus on your body’s senses rather than focusing on your anger itself.
Repeat a calm word
Find a calm word that works for you, and repeat it to yourself when you get angry.
Picture a relaxing experience to focus on, or even try to picture a stop sign. Picturing a stop sign in a visual way to remind yourself to stop.
Work off your anger by working out. Much like I said in my previous post, 17 Ways To Manage Stress, exercise is a cliché for a reason.
Expend your energy safely
Although not ideal, using your energy in other ways to avoid you hurting someone is a better option. For example, you could try hitting a pillow. Although I would advise to do this on your own, otherwise this could still intimidate the surrounding people.
Rehearse your response
Sit down and work out ways to manage your anger. Then, practice using them, so that when you do become angry, engaging in these new responses will be more second nature.
Talk about how you feel
Talk about your anger with someone so you can work through it, or just so you can unburden yourself of the causes of your anger.
Try to let go of your angry thoughts, so that you don’t say something that’ll inflame the situation.
Distract yourself as best you can. Maybe put on some music or do something with your hands.
Journalling is good for writing down your experiences with anger so you can work through the emotions. At the same time, it’ll help you to figure out how to better manage your anger in the future.
The more you get used to seeing things from other people’s perspective, the easier you’ll be able to manage your anger.
Learn to problem-solve more. By working to actively solve the cause of your anger, you’ll be able to resolve the cause of your anger.
Learn your triggers
Learn what situations trigger your anger and then work out ways to manage or avoid those situations.
Ask yourself why you’re angry and if it is really worth being angry over.
Learning to communicate better might help avoid getting into situations where you might become angry. It should also help you with resolving a situation that caused you to get angry.
Furthermore, it’s natural to get defensive when you’re criticised. I watched that happen during my experiential group at university. But don’t let receiving criticism be an angry experience. Listen to the underlying message. They may be trying to help you, but don’t know how to deliver this help appropriately (for advice on giving criticism, check out my article The Hard Truth About Eating The Criticism Sandwich).
Being willing to forgive is an important part of being able to resolve a conflict situation. Therefore, work on being able to forgive.
Managing your stress levels will help avoid you getting angry. Check out my previous post ‘17 Ways To Manage Stress‘ for advice on how to manage your stress.
Avoid alcohol and drugs
Drinking and taking drugs will lower your inhibitions, which means you’ll be more likely to become angry and lash out because of it.
Humour is my go-to for most of my coping strategies. How can you be angry if you’re laughing at something like a comedy film or just doing something fun and childish?
Lastly, if your anger is too much for you to try to control on your own, then seek professional help. Your GP should be able to make a referral for you. You could also look for anger management classes.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of anger and how best to manage it in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic abuse, such as violence or threatening behaviour, there are places that offer help and support. Or, if you’re a target of domestic abuse, there are also places you can go. Please reach out and seek help.
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Fernandez, E. & Johnson, S. L. (2016). Anger in psychological disorders: Prevalence, presentation, etiology and prognostic implications. Clinical Psychology Review, 46, 124-135. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2016.04.012 and https://pages.uncc.edu/richard-mcanulty/wp-content/uploads/sites/268/2013/09/Anger-in-psychological-disorders-Prevalence-presentation-etiology-and-prognostic-implications-.pdf.
Hewstone, M., Fincham, F. D., & Foster, J. (2005). Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.