Anger Management 101: How to deal with your anger in a healthy manner

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Everyone has those days where every little thing in the world just pisses the crap out of you and you can’t help but drag those around you with that bad temper. Somebody annoys the shit out of you and you just wanna yell at ‘em, tell ‘em to back off, or even hit them.

But that’s never a good way to deal with people and your anger. You shouldn’t let go of words you can’t take back because your temper couldn’t handle the argument.

Instead, think. There’s always a good way on dealing with your anger.

Anger Management 101

1. Suppressing your anger is never a good idea

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“I’m fine,” says the passive aggressive Ross from Friends even though you can tell he clearly is not.

The good thing is that it momentarily works, go bottle up all those feelings and try not to look mad AF. But pretty soon, you’ll explode with all the feelings. You think you’re bottling it up but you’re only making it stronger.

According to The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking:

…when experimental subjects are told of an unhappy event, but then instructed to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than people who are informed of the event, but given no instructions about how to feel. In another study, when patients who were suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks with no explicitly ‘relaxing’ content. Bereaved people who make the most effort to avoid feeling grief, research suggests, take the longest to recover from their loss.

Stress only gets the better of you while your ability to have positive feelings goes down. The amygdala, aka the part of the brain that works with emotions, works OT.

According to Handbook of Emotion Regulation:

…experimental studies have shown that suppression leads to decreased positive but not negative emotion experience (Gross, 1998a; Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997; Stepper & Strack, 1993; Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988), increased sympathetic nervous system responses (Demaree et al., 2006; Gross, 1998a; Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997; Harris, 2001; Richards & Gross, 2000), and greater activation in emotion-generative brain regions such as the amygdala (Goldin, McRae, Ramel, & Gross, 2008).

It leads to crummy relationships with people.

Socially, experimental studies have reported that suppression leads to less liking from social interaction partners, and to an increase in partners’ blood pressure levels (Butler et al., 2003). Correlational studies support these laboratory findings. Individuals who typically use suppression report avoiding close relationships and having less positive relations with others; this dovetails with peers’ reports that suppressors have relationships with others that are less emotionally close (English, John, & Gross, 2013; Gross & John, 2003; Srivastava, Tamir, McGonigal, John, & Gross, 2009).

And suppressing your feelings eats up most of your willpower, which means you have less control over things and it therefore makes you more likely to do things you’ll regret when you’re mad:

…bad moods foster risk taking by impairing self-regulation instead of by altering subjective utilities. Studies 5 and 6 showed that the risky tendencies are limited to unpleasant moods accompanied by high arousal; neither sadness nor neutral arousal resulted in destructive risk taking.

2. Don’t rant.

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We’ve all been guilty of this. We’d rather talk to a friend about something your special someone did, you rant about everything that happened because you think this is a healthy way of letting it out, and you want someone else to solve your problems instead of dealing with it yourself.

Well venting doesn’t reduce your anger, it intensifies it.

Another excerpt from the Handbook of Emotion Regulation mentions:

…focusing on a negative emotion will likely intensify the experience of that emotion further and thus make down-regulation more difficult, leading to lower adjustment and well-being.

Sharing your feelings with others is a good idea, as long as it’s constructive. Otherwise, you’re just digging a hole bigger for your anger.

Research advises that distraction is key, it’ll give you less brainpower to dwell in your hole:

Research suggests it is because both cognitive tasks and emotional responses make use of the same limited mental resources (Baddeley, 2007; Siemer, 2005; Van Dillen & Koole, 2007)… That is, the resources that are used to perform a cognitive task are no longer available for emotional processes. Accordingly, people can rid themselves from unwanted feelings by engaging in a cognitive activity, such as doing math equations (Van Dillen & Koole, 2007), playing a game of Tetris ( Holmes, James, Coode-Bate, & Deeprose , 2008)…

Yeah it’s kind of hard to distract yourself when there’s someone all up in your face and you just wanna scream profanity in rebuttal, but there is a way thanks to neuroscience.

3. Reappraisal.

You don’t get frustrated because of events, you get frustrated because of your beliefs,

researcher Albert Ellis says.

So reimagine the situation again: Someone’s all up in your face screaming, and you want to return the favor and scream right back.

But what if their dog died the other day? Or their grandfather? What if they just got kicked out of school because they’ve no money to pay for tuition?

You won’t feel that anger anymore, you might even just give sympathetic response for them.

Research says that the best way to reappraise the situation and avoid getting mad is having it in your mindset that it’s not you, they just may be having a bad day.

 

One of the neuroscientists stated:

“If you’re trained with reappraisal, and you know your boss is frequently in a bad mood, you can prepare yourself to go into a meeting,” Blechert suggested. “He can scream and yell and shout but there’ll be nothing.”

Time mentions that your brain changes the emotions you feel when you change your beliefs about a certain situation:

As Ochsner explains, “Our emotional responses ultimately flow out of our appraisals of the world, and if we can shift those appraisals, we shift our emotional responses.

And instead of bottling your feelings up, when you just tell yourself that they’re having a bad day, you drive your angry feelings away and good feelings surge.

By contrast, experimental studies have shown that reappraisal leads to decreased levels of negative emotion experience and increased positive emotion experience (Gross, 1998a; Feinberg, Willer, Antonenko, & John, 2012; Lieberman, Inagaki, Tabibnia, & Crockett, 2011; Ray, McRae, Ochsner, & Gross, 2010; Szasz, Szentagotai, & Hofmann, 2011; Wolgast, Lundh, & Viborg, 2011).

Reappraisal can also increase willpower and it can help you behave better after intense instants.

And the last step to finally saying goodbye to all of that anger? Forgive.

Forgiving someone makes you a lot less angry and a lot healthier:

Trait forgiveness was significantly associated with fewer medications and less alcohol use, lower blood pressure and rate pressure product; state forgiveness was significantly associated with lower heart rate and fewer physical symptoms. Neither of these sets of findings were the result of decreased levels of anger-out being associated with forgiveness. These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness–health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger.

So don’t suppress your anger, communicate, not vent, and reappraise. Forgiveness is always a plus!

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