One of the best things you can do if you think you have an anger problem is to keep track of your angry feelings. At the end of each day, write down the times you got angry, what caused it, what types of thoughts you had, and what you did with your anger. A journal like this, sometimes called a mood log, can shed some light on the types of situations that make you angry and help you find ways to deal with those situations.
I’ve made quite a few updates to the blog over the last few weeks. Take a look!
- Photo Galleries: Where I share some photo-facts about anger and violence, highlight some interesting quotes about anger, and show off some UWGB psychology student work.
- Updated Resources Page: More links to reputable websites and new books, including a section specifically for kids.
- Internet Anger Q and A: Where I share some facts about Internet Anger, as I have done for Anger Basics and Road Rage.
- Happy: In the last couple of years, the Psychology program at UWGB has made two “Happy” videos, one full of psychology references (and another with VH1-Inspired “Pop-ups” to point out all those references). I’ve included a page with links to both.
Most of my work looks at how we can understand and manage our own experiences with anger. However, there’s another side to this, since we all have to talk to, or work with, angry people all the time. Those interactions can be challenging—so here are 5 ways to deal with angry people.
In a previous post, I wrote about why people get angry. There’s a fairly predictable pattern based on your mood, the provocation, and your interpretation of that provocation (which is influenced by your mood). What follows all that is the anger response which can look a lot of different ways (anything from suppression to appropriate assertion to violence).
Anger gets a bit of a bad rap. People talk about anger as though we should never feel it and we certainly should never act on it. Neither of those are true. There are times when it’s not only reasonable to feel angry, it’s right to feel angry. If you’ve been wronged, treated unfairly, or provoked, you should get angry. In fact, would worry more about someone who didn’t feel angry in those circumstances.
That said, we all know that anger can get out of hand. How you handle it is different from whether or not you feel it. Again, it’s ok to act on anger too. It’s just that, usually, it’s best to be polite, assertive rather than aggressive, and calm when you act on it.
One of the worst things that can happen when someone gets angry is for them to say something they regret. It happens all the time. They become overwhelmed with anger and their desire for revenge overtakes everything else. Boom, they say something cruel or hurtful that can’t be taken back.
It’s a difficult thing to do but people need to find a way to stop, think through how they are feeling and how the other person is feeling, and then decide if and how they want to respond. Learning to do that can be the difference between letting your anger get the best of you and using your anger in a positive way.
Like any emotional problem, sometimes learning to deal with unwanted anger requires professional help. If you feel frustrated or angry often and nothing you’ve tried seems to help or if your anger has caused you problems at work, school, or in your personal life, you might want to meet with a professional therapist.
I’m not encouraging you to go to bed angry. You’ve probably heard not to do that and that’s actually pretty good advice. However, getting regular, healthy sleep is an important part of managing anger.
A lack of sleep diminished activity in the area of the brain- the frontal lobe- associated with impulse control. Consequently, sleep deprivation makes it harder to control your angry impulses and you’re more likely to do something you regret when you get angry.
The “Catharsis Myth” is the idea that venting anger is good for you. The idea is that by acting aggressively, viewing aggressive content, etc. we release our anger in a way that is healthy and safe.
The problem, of course, is that catharsis doesn’t work. In fact, the research on catharsis shows that it increases anger rather than decreases it. According to Bushman and colleagues (1999), it increases cardiovascular disease risk and increases the likelihood you will become aggressive toward those around you (including innocent bystanders).
To learn more about the “Catharsis Myth,” see Four Questions on the Catharsis Myth with Dr. Brad Bushman.
Learning to relax is obviously a useful strategy for dealing with unwanted anger. There are lots of ways to relax, however (see here for examples of mediation, deep breathing, and taking timeouts). One of the best is to use visual imagery where you visualize a relaxing experience from your memory or your imagination (a trip the the beach, a hike in the woods, etc.).
In fact, if you’re not good at coming up with visualizations on your own, you can even find a few websites with free visualization scrips for you to practice with (see here for an example).