According to the American Psychological Association (APA), there are three ways that you can avoid your anger outbursts and control your bouts.
1. Expressing Anger in an Assertive Manner
While the natural response is to express anger aggressively, it may cause a lot of harm and even hurt. An alternative way is to make your point by being more assertive rather than aggressive. By being assertive, you can successfully convey your message and at the same time avoid any possible conflict and the resulting harm to others and even yourself.
Anger is a response. It is a response to the feeling that you have been treated unfairly and unjustly. You want to make a point about the unfair treatment. Anger comes in to register your response. Making your point by being aggressive does no good and can further aggravate the situation. Instead you can effectively make your point by being assertive.
Anger is a feeling. When you feel, you lose your reason for a while. As your feelings overwhelm your reason, your rational thinking disappears in the powerful and strong smoke of feelings. So, when you are angry you don’t think rationally. You just feel. You feel you are right. You want to make your point without any other consideration. This is how you become aggressive.
You must understand how to control your feelings. You need to mix it with reason and thinking. If your anger is a response towards injustice, you can still make your point simply being assertive.
By being assertive, you are trying to process anger. Once the anger is processed, you eliminate it totally without leaving any trailing and negative impact.
In other words, you response can be either appropriate or inappropriate. An appropriate response is the one in which you communicate you feeling to others and hence make your point. An inappropriate response is make things worse for yourself and others involved.
2. Calming Yourself Down
This means to take some steps immediately to lower your anger and let it subside. You may have to learn and practice some techniques to master the art of calming yourself down.
The biggest technique is to understand that you need to change the way you respond. This is the hardest part and needs a significant amount of effort, practice and time. All other anger management techniques are as easy as eating a pie.
The moment you are angry, just remind yourself that you need to think. Bring reason to the forefront. Simply get off the beast of anger and ride on the wings of reason.
Once you are angry, start analysing your anger. Note down the triggers, your response and how you could react differently. This will not only bring your outbursts under control, it will tremendously help you to understand the real reasons behind your anger.
In the beginning it is not easy. Once you start trying it, only practice will make perfect.
In the first few days, you will start realising how you have been angry and shown an inappropriate or aggressive response. Once you calm down, you will remember aha, I should have got down off that animal. The more you think about it, the more you will be able to bring your thinking to the forefront.
You may tie your finger or put a special ring etc. as reminder to you to act calmly and replace your feelings with reason.
You may also just press your thumb once you are angry as a reminder to think rationally before you give your emotions any free vent. The moment you start thinking, the angry feelings will vanish away.
Although, calming yourself down by taking some anger management technique is useful, it is however not the real and permanent solution. The anger is still not processed.
3. Suppressing Anger – The Hidden Enemy
The popular opinion is that suppressing angers is unhealthy and can lead to many negative things. Dr Gregory L. Jantz (Ph.D) of Psychology Today argues that burying anger does not diffuse it. It tunnels it underground and overtime may re-surface in the form of even more aggressive behaviour.
According to Dr Ronal Mairuo of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, suppression of anger is a paradox. The more your try to avoid or suppress it, the more energy and time you need to spend on it.
Most experts believe that suppressing anger leads to pathological complications both mental and physical.
It is no doubt a great way to be assertive to make your point and calm yourself down by taking some steps, but calming yourself down should not be mistaken for suppression of anger.
What Happens When Anger is Suppressed?
Holding or suppressing anger is like a pressure cooker whose pressure regular, vent pipe and overpressure plug are blocked. When enough pressures builds inside, the next thing you hear is a big blast. Similarly, those who absorb anger inside are building a pressure. A time comes that anger manifests itself in many dangerous forms including physical and mental health problems.
Most people fail to be assertive or they fail to apply the anger management techniques and instead give it a free vent or suppress it which stays unprocessed in the unconscious part of the mind.
Sigmund Freud divided the human mind in to three parts: the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious.
The conscious is the part which contains all the processes and thinking that you are aware of. For example, if you are thirsty, you just get water and drink it. You are aware of the feeling of thirst. So, you consciously take steps to quench your thirst.
The subconscious is that part which is below the conscious and where thoughts and processes are temporarily buried. These thoughts can be retrieved whenever you want. For instance, you are not aware or conscious of your telephone number consistently. But when you need, you simply recall. So these thoughts and processes travels from the subconscious to the conscious part of mind.
The unconscious is the largest part of the mind. It is far beggar than the conscious part. It has been compared to an iceberg. The tip which you see above the surface of the water is like conscious mind and the huge part which is under water is like the unconscious mind. In between the two layers is the subconscious.
The unconscious mind contains all those thoughts and processes that you do not like. These are thoughts, ideas and processes which are not acceptable to the society. They are buried deep down in the mind to get rid of them, at least, consciously.
However, these processes have a significant effect on your lives. Although, you are not conscious of these, they have a huge impact in the form of pathological issues.
Such deep buried thoughts can result in to mental as well as physical complications.
When you bury deep your anger, it is just pushing it down to suppress it. It does not die. It will resurface sometimes in your lives even in a more dangerous form.
Such buried deep anger could come back in the form of more severe outbursts of rage, stress and even depression.
Psychologists agree that suppressed anger can re-surface itself in the form of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental issues. Recent research shows that this type of anger can even cause physical pain such as back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain etc.
Dr John E. Sarno wrote an amazing book calledHealing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection with an over one million copies sold. In that book Dr John E.Sarno suggests that, in fact, 90 percent of back pain problem comes from mental related issues as a result of suppressed anger over a long period of time. He believes that because suppressed anger is not processed but lies deep in the unconscious part of the mind, our brain simply sends the signal of pain to various parts of the body to divert our attention from it. Lower back is the most targeted part of such brain signals.
Dr John E. Sarno diagnosed thousands of patients suffering from back pain and concluded that their only cause of the pain was mental rather than physical. He even mentions cases where people supposedly had back surgery, slipped discs and even back injuries which had nothing to do with the continuous pain as it was not physical but emotional.
Anger is a response. Make it appropriate, and then it is ok to have this response. Make it inappropriate and myriads of issues are waiting for you.
Expressing it in the form of explosive outbursts and suppressing it deep down in the unconscious mind are both dangerous. The correct way is to process the anger by taking some calming down steps, analysing your angry feelings, and understanding the real reason behind triggering your angry response.