Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – this is not easy.
(Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, cited in Goleman, 1996)
Anger is a normal, natural and useful human emotion, which most people can relate to feeling at some stage. It is an emotional state that can be quite varied from a mild irritation to a more powerful, intense rage. Often people will experience anger in situations where they may be made to feel powerless, mistreated or believe they have been mistreated, feel embarrassed or are fearful of a situation.
There are times when anger can be a very useful emotion in that it helps people complete a task or solve a problem. There are many other ways that anger can be a helpful, human emotion:
- Provides motivation to achieve goals
- Pushes people beyond their boundaries
- Causes people to face difficult issues that may have otherwise been ignored
- Encourages people to deal with feared situations
- Prompts communication
- Enables acceptance or to pursue major changes in behaviour, priorities, or lifestyle.
There are times, however, when anger is misplaced or lacks direction and focus. At these times it has the potential to cause harm. Anger becomes problematic when:
- It is “bottled up” or “covered up”
- Grows in intensity
- Becomes a more frequent and common response
- Becomes more thoughtless and impulsive
- Overshadows a person’s whole behaviour and personality
- Becomes explosive, violent or destructive.
Similar to other emotions, anger can be accompanied by physical and emotional changes and when this frequently occurs it can lead to serious physical health concerns such as high-blood pressure, suppressed immune disorder, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and strokes. Anger (in either its expressed or repressed form) may also contribute to other emotional health problems such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia,
Treatment and Anger Management Strategies
Anger can be used and managed more effectively if it is not let to build up to the point where it becomes explosive and misdirected. It is important to be able to recognise and moderate anger so that there is opportunity to consider what needs to be resolved and how. Some helpful hints for managing anger include:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Stress Management
If you still feel that your anger is problem, then consultation with a therapist may be helpful. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of psychotherapy – or talking therapy – in the treatment of anger.
Authored By: Vision Psychology and Ainsley Salsbury
- Ashfield, J. (2014). Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family: A Resource Book for Good Mental Health. Peacock Publications: Adelaide
- Faupel, A., Herrick, E., Sharp, P., & ebrary, I. (2011). Anger management: A practical guide (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.
- Goleman, D. (1996). Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter more than IQ. London: Bloomsbury