Transforming Anger

What Is Anger?

Anger, like other emotions (e.g., sadness), is not a problem in itself. But how we express it can lead to problems that harm various aspects of our lives, including work and relationships.

Emotions convey information about what is important to us, and how we experience the world.  In social situations, anger often serves as a signal that we are experiencing something threatening, hurtful, and/or upsetting.  For example, when we feel disrespected, ignored, or mistreated by a loved one, it can result in us feeling angry.

How Do We Transform Anger?

Completely squashing your angry is unhealthy.  But so is giving it unbridled expression.  When your anger creates recurring problems for you and escalates conflicts in your circle of relationships, it is time to do something about it.  The mere fact that arguing whether “your anger is an issue” can ignite an hour-long argument–while other long-standing issues that originally start the argument remain unattended to–often leaves both sides feeling extremely frustrated, exhausted, and helpless.

Quick ways to calming yourself down include breathing relaxation, counting numbers, exercising, or imagining a relaxing place (e.g., a beach).

However, if you feel out of control with your anger, it is a signal to you that something bigger is going on.  You will need to dig a little deeper to find out what is fueling your anger.

How the Masculinity Paradox Can Exacerbate Anger

Because of how men are raised in society, they are more prone to burying their softer feelings (e.g., because “soft” means weak). Also, because of their traditional roles as the protector and provider, men are often socialized into thinking that their needs aren’t important, which could breed underlying resentment. When anger and frustrations are the only feelings “acceptable” to men, anger might be the only feeling a man feels he is allowed to express.

What Could Be Behind Your Anger

This list is not exhaustive, but provides some examples of what might be lurking behind one’s anger.

  • Feeling insecure about a partner, or your place in society
  • Feeling disrespected or looked down on by others (e.g., family and friends)
  • Feeling abandoned or unappreciated
  • Feeling jealous of others
  • Feeling unfairly treated

Early Influences

If you were susceptible to these early influences, your anger will likely be more challenging to manage.

  • Did you grow up in a household where care-givers were angry a lot, and you witnessed on-going verbal or physical fights?
  • Were you sent the message, overtly or covertly, that anger and bullying behavior was a sure way to get your way?
  • Were you discouraged from expressing emotions other than anger? In other words, was anger the only emotion you and those around you were allowed to express?

When To Seek Help

Visit the Test Kit page for an Anger Self-Assessment.

When professional help is indicated:

  • People around you have repeatedly indicated they feel threatened by your anger
  • It has been brought to your attention that your anger is harming your kids and destroying your marriage
  • You have gotten into trouble with the law (for hurting others or damaging properties)
  • Your anger has caused problems for you at work or school (e.g., warning letters, suspension, etc)
  • Your anger has created other problems for you (e.g., substance use, physical violence against self or others, jail, loss of jobs and relationships, etc)
  • Police has been called more than once, by family or neighbors, in response to your outbursts
  • You have, more than once, worried whether you would be able to control your anger in certain situations
  • You feel your anger is controlling you–and not the other way around

The kind of anger management that works!

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