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Anger is a basic and healthy human emotion. It is humans’ natural reaction to situations that threaten their physical, emotional or mental well-being. Compared to fear, which is the other natural emotional response to threat and danger, getting angry has long played an evolutionary role in mobilizing tremendous mental and psychological energies to combat perceived and real threats to our safety.

Dangers of Anger

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While anger is natural and normal to the extent that its complete absence in an individual can result in dysfunctional emotional and psychological behavior, getting angry and acting on anger in certain ways can lead to behavioral, mental and physiological problems, as well.

As anger is an extremely strong emotion, an episode of extreme anger can overwrite rational thoughts and reasoning capabilities in the angry individual. This may result in irrational and unjustified reactions that can cause great harm to the angry person and their relationships.

The powerful emotional energies of anger have physiological consequences, such as increased heart rate and spikes in blood pressure. Frequent and uncontrolled episodes of rage can have negative long-term health impacts.

Finally, the genetically wired instinctive actions triggered by anger such as aggression and retaliation are often unacceptable within the social, cultural and emotional contexts of human relationships. Other patterns of reactions to anger such as revenge or constant dissatisfaction, sometimes aimed at avoiding direct confrontation or resulting from an attempted, but unsuccessful suppression of anger can be damaging to the individual’s personality

Working with Anger

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Psychologists describe three basic response strategies: expression, suppression, and calming down. Expressing anger can be healthy and acceptable in many situations. However, highly aggressive and combative, angry reactions are neither appropriate nor helpful in resolving the situation triggering anger. Suppression has been shown to result in long-term damage to the person’s mental health, as unexpressed anger turns into constant frustration and chronic discontent that can poison these individuals and their loved ones’ lives.

Calming Anger: Strategies and Techniques

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Calming anger is not simply suppressing the outward expression of anger but controlling and properly channeling the internal psychological responses to the situation triggering anger. It aims at taming the potentially harmful energies of angry emotions by filtering them through rational evaluation and directing them into acceptable actions that can address or mitigate the offending situation.

Calming and anger management techniques can be used to address the source of anger and redirect energies into more constructive behaviors and reactions addressing the situation.

Avoiding and Controlling Exposure to Triggers

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The most basic strategies aim at avoiding anger triggers. An individual can spare himself or herself the distress of an angry reaction by avoiding frequently occurring situations they are frustrated. This could be as simple as closing the door on an always messy kids’ room or not getting involved in a dispute that is not expected to be resolved but will create stress and frustration.

Changing patterns of activities may sometimes be possible to avoid triggers. If shopping in crowded stores at peak retail times results in anger, the individual can find alternative solutions to take care of their shopping, such as online shopping needs to avoid the circumstances leading to angry behavior.

When a person finds themselves in a situation that has already triggered anger, choosing to walk away and change the environment can control the growth of anger and the angry reactions.

Controlling Internal Reactions To Anger

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Avoiding or limiting exposure to situations triggering anger is not always possible. Once anger arises, the focus of management techniques should be on controlling the internal behavior, helping the individual to approach anger rationally, to avoid unnecessary escalation and to find strategies to resolve its causes to eliminate the internal tension and stress of anger.

Relaxation

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Relaxation can keep anger in check and help create an internal state of mind where the source of anger and possible reactions can be evaluated more calmly and rationally. Breathing slowly and deeply from the diaphragm, repeating calming, relaxing words in one’s head, and refocusing one’s imagination on peaceful images and ideas can help the angry person to restore a calmer and more peaceful emotional state.

Exercise

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Those with more serious and recurring anger management issues can benefit from conscious relaxation training to be prepared to fall back on these techniques in emotionally disruptive situations. In the long run, regular relaxation training alone can reduce the occurrence of extreme anger as individuals can achieve generally more relaxed dispositions.

Using Humor

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Humor is a human’s unique gift. Used with anger, it is a special survival tool. By using humor in distressing situations, people can diffuse tension and create the basis for finding the best possible resolution to the problem. Laughing your problems off’ can be a useful anger management technique as long as it does not simply suppress anger but helps individuals experience the source of anger as less serious or significant than anger makes them believe. By highlighting the sometimes ridiculously large gap between the real and perceived significance of events, humor relieves tension and anger

Cognitive Restructuring

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Anger is such a powerful emotion that it creates and consumes huge amounts of energy. It focuses the angry person’s attention on one and only one event that can take enormous proportions in his or her mind. Subconsciously, angry people continue to feed the fire of anger by exaggerating the incident. Cognitive restructuring or a disciplined, forced rational evaluation of these exaggerated images can ease anger. Avoiding to think in extreme terms, such as never’, always’ and applying cold logic can defeat blind and excessive anger.

Improving Communication Skills

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Situations causing minor friction sometimes explode into major episodes of anger due to poor communication. Anger’s tendency to exaggerate can negatively impact the communication skills of even otherwise excellent communicators. In general, a continuous focus on improving communication skills should be helpful in avoiding such escalations of mostly harmless conflicts. In particular, individuals getting angry in a specific situation should make a conscious effort to avoid certain expressions, refrain from patterns of accusation, and exercise constraints in not saying the first things that come to mind.

Re-channeling Energies into Problem-Solving

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The energies of raging emotions will become destructive and self-destructive if the person cannot find a constructive way to channel them into addressing the incident triggering them. Getting angry is natural and healthy, but only if the feeling of anger triggers behaviors that truly protect us from the perceived danger or threat. Acting angry and raging rarely eliminates the real problems that cause the emotion.

Finding a solution to address or mitigate the problem, working out the conflict with the other person involved in it, or sometimes accepting the situation as unavoidable are all legitimate and useful ways of problem-solving. All will result in reducing the level of frustration and limit the harmful excesses of angry feelings.

Therapy

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Coping with anger is easier for some individuals, while others struggle with it most of their lives. Successful anger management techniques can be learned by anyone. Some people may benefit from anger management therapy, providing more structured and organized education to help internalize the various strategies and understand how and when to apply them in real life situations. The better an individual is at getting angry and acting on anger, the healthier and the more successful they will be in their personal, professional, and social lives.

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