Anger is a primal emotion. It is useful – and necessary – in many situations.
Sadly though, poorly expressed or unexpressed anger can also cause people a lot of problems…
This means that figuring out how to manage anger is a vital skill for many individuals to learn.
But instead of jumping right into the question, let’s take a step back:
Instead, let’s have a think about what causes anger and where it comes from.
What is anger?
Anger is regarded by psychiatric professionals as a natural, primary emotion. This means that it is a part of how humans have evolved to reach this point, serving an actual purpose in the battle for survival.
It follows then that anger is neither good nor bad in and of itself. It is a normal biological response to a situation in which you feel threatened in some way.
Its purpose is to give you the physical and mental boost you need to survive a dangerous situation or when you feel your boundaries have been violated. This is why the emotion is usually accompanied by physiological changes, including:
- Increased heart rate
- Rising blood pressure
- Releases of hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline
What part of the brain controls anger?
One of the first steps in working out how to control anger outbursts is to think about what is actually happening to cause the responses you experience.
Let’s start with some science:
The part of the brain which controls anger is called the amygdala. This is your brain’s emotion center – it’s also responsible for the fight or flight response and controlling fear.
When your amygdala receives signals that you are under threat, it starts releasing hormones to make sure you are ready to survive…
What causes anger?
This means the sense that you are under threat is key to understanding what triggers anger.
Some of the most common causes of anger include:
- Having a basic need endangered (like food, shelter, sleep or, sometimes, sexual partnerships)
- Any time you feel you have been mistreated
- Remembering a past time when you experienced any of the above
How people respond to anger
There are three ways in which humans can respond to anger:
- 1. Expressing your anger
- 2. Suppressing your anger
- 3. Calming down
Given the situation you are facing, any of these might be the more appropriate response.
For instance, if you are physically threatened by someone, expressing your anger is probably the correct thing to do.
Anger only becomes a problem when a person starts to continually respond to it in a way which is harmful to either themselves or others around them.
These are the times when it can be useful to know a little about anger management or how to help someone with an anger issue.
Especially if that someone is you…
How to tell if you have an anger problem
Common signs that you may have an anger problem include:
- Feeling ashamed or depressed about your anger after the emotion has subsided
- Feeling as if you are not in control of your anger, or your emotions in general
- Feeling impatient, irritated or argumentative on a very regular basis
- Feeling like you cannot compromise on any issue
- Feeling like another person’s opinion is a personal challenge aimed at you
- Thinking that emotions like fear or shame are signs of weakness and should be resisted
- Thinking about physically expressing your anger as violence
You may end up feeling angry when the situation does not call for it. Or you may end up with a feeling of anger you feel you can’t control – or which is completely out of scope given the situation.
How to control anger
Lots of people use the phrase anger management in daily conversation.
What they really mean are strategies which enable them to express, suppress or calm their anger to make sure it occurs at the right time and at levels which are appropriate for the situation.
You might try:
1) Take a few simple steps for real calm
There are some straightforward relaxation tactics to help you keep calm:
1. Breathe very deeply – from below your chest level to really use your diaphragm
2. Say your calming phrase – while breathing deeply, slowly repeat a simple phrase to yourself. Something like “relax” should be good enough.
3. Go to your happy place – then picture yourself in a calming place, real or imagined (“go to your happy place” might be a bit of joke or trope, but it genuinely helps many people!)
2) Get some exercise
Many people recommend tai chi or yoga as being both meditative as well as good exercise. But really, any sort of exercise is a good way of keeping your anger in control.
Go for a walk. Go for a run. Take up swimming. Play football on the weekend.
Whatever you do, get a little exercise in your life and you will almost certainly notice a reduction in the amount of anger you feel on a regular basis.
3) Take a breath – then talk more
Most people are less willing to listen to reason when they are angry. They also tend to be much more likely to jump to all-or-nothing conclusions.
That’s why it’s so important to:
- 1. Take a deep breath
- 2. Slow down
- 3. Think about what you are actually saying
- 4. Consider what the other person is actually saying
- 5. Do not say the first thing which comes into your head. Take the time to really think about your response.
4) Get out of there
Changing your environment can be a major component in your system for how to calm down from anger.
This is only logical – after all, it’s usually something in your immediate surroundings which is causing the problem!
If it seems like your whole life is making you angry, getting out of there might mean taking a few personal minutes each day. It’s helpful to be open about this with close friends and family. Tell them that you need 15 minutes to yourself to face everything on an even keel.
Then again, it might mean you need a longer break. Lots of people take a vacation – it’s also one of the reasons people visit us at the Spirit Vine Ayahuasca Retreats Center.
Ayahuasca has long been used to help people assess and address their emotional equilibrium.
Of course, getting away from it all in a stunningly beautiful part of the world is no bad place to start.