The 5 most common BUT WRONG advice on managing anger

The latest Global State of Emotions Report found that people around the world are getting angrier.

Anger is one of the most difficult emotions to manage because it is so physical. It tends to trigger the “fight or flight” response in our body which effectively shuts down less essential parts of your system, including clear thinking.

Besides, anger in one person will often trigger a “flight” response in others, which also shuts down their clear thinking. This is one of the reasons why some people are very uncomfortable when others around them get angry, even if the anger is not directed towards them.

In other words, anger tends to shut down people’s ability to think clearly, both for those who experience it and those who witness it.

Anger tends to shut down people’s ability to think clearly, both for those who experience it and those who witness it.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions and outright wrong ideas about anger and how it can - and should - be managed.

I’ve listed some of the most common misconceptions:

#1 “Anger is a problem”

The brain works so fast that we often feel anger is an immediate reaction to a situation. It is not.

Anger is an emotional - and therefore physical - reaction to a specific thought. That thought is your mind’s interpretation of what is going on at a certain place and time. Anger does not exist independently of thoughts and therefore is not the issue at hand - the thought that generated the emotional reaction is. This thought process is where our focus and “management” needs to be, not on the emotion itself.

And anger is not always an issue. On the contrary, it can be a useful call to action. First, it brings your attention to something that needs solving. Second, the adrenaline and cortisol levels released in the system boost our energy level which is conducive for action and can even boost athletic performance.

The absence of anger, meanwhile, is an issue. One of the roles of anger is to act as an alarm bell when someone crosses your boundaries. If you’re very uncomfortable with the emotion there is a high likelihood that you have poor boundaries, that you will always put what the others think above your own needs.

>>>Anger is not a problem, it’s a signal pointing to a problem

>>>If handled the right way, anger can be an engine for effective action

>>>Fear of anger often leads to poor boundaries

#2 “It’s normal for men to vent their anger, not so much for women”

While anger is often associated with men, some studies suggest that women tend to be angrier than men but that men will act out on it more. Some cultures tolerate the expression of anger in men much better than in women, seeing it as a sign of masculinity. Actually, in some (many) cultures, anger is the ONLY emotion that is considered manly and therefore a default emotion for men who have not been taught - or allowed - to express other emotions.

On the other hand, repressed anger turns into aggression, as well as what is often called passive-aggressive behaviour. This affects both men and women.

>>>Anger can become a default emotion for men to express other emotions

>>>Anger that is not expressed, whether in women or men, usually comes out another way, often through a form of aggression

#3 “When you get angry, take a break and come back once you’ve calmed down”

This approach will work insofar as it will allow the adrenaline and cortisol levels to fall and help us think clearly again but it’s also a very efficient way of brushing the emotion under the carpet and allows us not to deal with it. But it will come out again later and probably stronger.

>>>Taking a “break” can act as a form of emotional repression

#4 “You need to let it out”

While repressing emotions makes them stronger, simply letting anger out, unchecked and without agency not only causes tremendous damage but will also NOT solve the issue. Unlike what is commonly thought and advised, simply expressing emotions will not help us get rid of that emotion. If that were the case, you wouldn’t have anger management issues in the first place.

Besides, telling people they need to let emotions out for the sake of it takes away their responsibility to own and manage their emotions and the effect it can have on others. It doesn’t mean you should never vent anger, but it means that there are ways to do it that work, and ways that don’t.

The key lies in being able to express your anger as it arises but without shouting, or displaying behaviours that make others uncomfortable and without shutting communication down.

>>>There are good - and bad - ways to let an emotion out

#5 “People with anger issues need help”

People with so-called anger issues are often surrounded by loved ones who have done all they could to help them manage their anger. Usually, by doing everything to make sure that this anger doesn’t erupt, and when it does, to do whatever it takes to make it go away. In other words, their whole environment has unconsciously - and with the best intentions in the world - made his/her anger their problem and taken away the responsibility from him/her to solve the issue at hand. So, when you try to manage someone else's anger issues you often inadvertently allow them to continue having it.

Looking at it from the other side, people who avoid conflicts, and are very uncomfortable with anger, usually (unconsciously) take on the responsibility for the situation at hand.

>>>People with anger issues need to take ownership of their emotions and cannot rely on their environment to fix the problem for them. They need to fix it themselves.

>>>People’s fear of conflict can enable someone’s anger issue. On the other hand, your ability to handle someone else’s anger will help them be accountable for it.

Now what?

It’s time to stop treating anger like something bad. Instead, we need to learn how to use it as a tool and a signal that we can choose to act on or not - depending on what we decide.

We need to learn how to use anger as a tool and a signal that we can choose to act on or not - depending on what we decide.

Think of it in terms of a dog growling when there is a danger, and going back to playing or sleeping as soon as that moment has passed. Anger is something we can use, not something that takes over us or that we must run away from.

If you would like to learn more about this, you can join my Webinar on Wednesday October 7.

Are you prone to bursts of anger that you regret later?

Do you avoid conflicts at all costs?

Are you very uncomfortable when others get angry, even when it’s not directed at you?

Do you have a tendency to “shut down” when anger takes over, or when someone gets angry at you?

Do you wish you could express yourself clearly even with you are angry, or when the person you are talking to is angry?

Do you feel misunderstood as a result of your anger bursts?

Do you feel like you have to hold yourself back because you are always worried about the consequences that could arise if you, or someone else, got angry?

How different would your relationships be if you could control your relationship to anger?

How different would your relationships be if you could express yourself without the fear of anger taking over and without triggering anger in others?

Do you want to be able to express yourself clearly and trust in your ability to manage your, or other people’s anger?

Anger is a double-edged sword that affects both those prone to it and those who avoid it.

But like a sword, it can also become a powerful weapon when you know how to control it - and not let it control you.

In this webinar we will look at:

-How to assess in a clear and objective way your relationship to anger, and the relationship it has with you

-How to identify patterns and triggers when it comes to dealing (or not dealing) with anger

-How to put together an effective action plan so that you have a tool kit for the next time you have to deal with anger


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