Do you sometimes find yourself feeling angry, but you are not sure why? Do you feel that you become irritated by others at the drop of a hat? Often people become so distracted by their daily lives, that they do not pay close attention to what exactly is going on inside themselves.
Sources of Anger
Anger is often caused by either feeling frustrated, or feeling threatened. You feel frustrated when you have a need or want that isn’t being met. When you feel threatened, you feel you have a chance to lose your power. When your needs are not being met, and/or you feel you are losing our power, you may begin to feel helpless, hurt, and/or anxious. This anxiety is what leads to anger. You feel uncomfortable, no one wants to feel stressed out, so you find ways to release this anger and anxiety in different ways
Turning our anger outwards
When you turn our anger outward, you are displacing it to something else. You may feel angry that your boss did not give you the raise you wanted, so you come home and express your anger on your spouse, friends, or anyone else who may be around. People in this situation may begin blaming other people for things happening to them. Common thoughts associated with this anger style include:
“Oh, I didn’t get the raise because my boss just doesn’t like me”
“Well, if you would have gotten up early enough and ironed my shirt, I wouldn’t have been late and been written up”
In addition to blaming others around us, you may begin to nag them as well. You may start criticizing everything the other person does so the focus is on how bad they are, instead of how bad you feel you are.
Turning our anger inward
Instead of letting out your frustrations and anger on others, this person would take it out on themselves. You may begin to feel that you did not actually deserve that raise after all. You may starting believing you are actually a bad employee and feel guilt for thinking you could have had that raise in the first place. You become angry at yourself, and start blaming yourself for things that actually are not your fault or that you don’t have control over. This eventually becomes a never-ending cycle of blame and guilt until you are able to find a way to regain your personal power and accept that some things are out of your control.
Problem solve and Resolve
This is the healthy way of handling anger. Remember, anger is not necessarily a bad thing, sometimes we need to feel angry. What’s important, is what you do with that anger. If you are in situation that you can express how we are feeling, and problem solve to come to resolution, the anger often dissipates. You may go up to your boss and explain how you felt you deserved this raise, and were quite shocked when you did not get it. Your boss may explain why you did not get the raise, so that you know what you need to improve on. On the other hand, your boss may realize that you did deserve it after listening to you express yourself. It’s not healthy to let anger explode, or to hold it in.
If this is the route you take (which I highly suggest), it is more beneficial to you if you express your frustrations with the person most directly associated with the source of anger. If you’re angry at your boss for not giving you a raise, don’t just tell the secretary in your office that you are upset, go straight to your boss. If you are upset with your spouse for not helping you with chores, or about how they never pick up their clothes, tell your spouse… don’t just complain to friend about it. Obviously, talking directly to the source of your anger may not always be possible; but, the closer you get to the source, the quicker you will most likely feel your anger eases.
Styles of expressing anger: What they look like to us…
There are 6 different styles of express our anger, which all consist of either turning anger outwards, or turning it inward.
(1) Bottle and Blast
This happens when we hold our anger in for so long, that we finally explode. Often, when we explode, we end up much more angry than if we had expressed the anger in the beginning. Think of a pressure cooker with the lid left on. If the pressure just keeps rising and rising, eventually the lid will explode off. However, if you took the lid off when you were supposed to, the explosion never has a chance to occur.
(2) Bottle and Cap
This happens when we just bottle it up and screw that lid on tight. When we hold in anger and frustration, it often comes out in some form, often as a physical symptom. It could be an increased chance of a heart attack, constantly feeling as if your stomach is in knots, etc. These people are often tense, because they have so much frustration to release, but just hold it in.
This is someone with a short fuse. They explode at the drop of a hat. Everything that happens to hem makes them angry, and they may not even know why they become so frustrated.
(4) Cold Shoulder/Iceberg
This person usually uses the “cold shoulder” and ignores the other person. This is a passive aggressive way of handling anger. The person eventually gets the point that you are mad, but you never express your anger verbally.
(5) Nag and Carp
This is when you nag and point out how everyone else is doing something wrong or poorly to distract yourself from something you think you are doing wrong or poorly. This could be the guy who gets a bad review at work, then turns to his coworker to nag them on how they aren’t doing their job correctly even if it does not affect your work.
(6) Kick the Dog
This is when we direct our anger towards an other person. It’s similar to nag and carp, in that you are taking your anger out on someone else.
If you are interested in keeping track of your anger to learn more about your personal style, you can use an anger tracking sheet.
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact usto learn more or to book an appointment.