There is a lot of focus on dealing with other people’s anger. In this post, we will explore dealing with one’s own anger.
Anger is one of the ‘difficult’ emotions because we all have stories about dealing with an angry spouse, friend, coworker and even strangers who have unloaded their anger on you, just because you were there.
The experience of anger can be confusing because very often the reaction does not match the event. The intensity of one’s anger is related to the origins of that anger. What this means is that when ‘that thing’ happened at work, it trips a switch that was holding back years of anger from childhood, or the long ago past. There was something similar in the recent event that unleashed that stored up emotion.
Anger can be unpredictable.
And this can make it one of those emotions that people prefer to avoid. Unfortunately that is not healthy! Emotions, even anger, are designed to flow. This means they are supposed to show up based on what is happening and then get released, so you can move on to the next emotion. But in everyday life, there are hassles, frustration, uncertainty and disruption. And this can cause any emotion to get stuck, if you are not aware of what is happening internally.
When anger gets stuck it becomes chronic cynicism, rage and even depression. Regardless of who or what caused the anger, it is our individual responsibility to deal with it which includes knowing how one expresses their anger. This is the essence of emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is the only way you can do something about it.
The Value of Emotions
Emotions are part of our survival kit and are necessary and important. All emotions conveys information that, when captured, we can make the most of the environment and the people around us.
The problem with anger is that it can quickly turn into hostility and can become an emotional “go-to,” because it can feel empowering.
There are times when expressing anger can make one feel powerful. Have you ever told the story about how you ‘let them have it’ and experienced a new found confidence?
Anger can also be a motivator and propel you into action. This is the inherent message of anger – to set boundaries and limits so you can stay in charge of yourself.
Anger does not have to be destructive in its expression. It is when you ignore your anger or you rely on it to power you up with bravado and false confidence that it becomes a problem.
The Health Risk of Chronic Anger
Studies have found that anger that is stored up and expressed (this is more like rage and hostility) for 6 minutes, it creates over 6 hours of immune suppression, an increase in blood fats and in blood pressure. This is a link to chronic inflammation and heart disease. Your health, physically and emotionally, depends on your ability to find healthy ways to express anger.
Most people think about the angry outbursts, but what about the anger that gets held in and suppressed. Holding in anger can lead to anxiety and depression which clouds judgement, compromises decision making, problem solving and communication. It also impacts your physical health perhaps more so than in those who express their anger.
Anger can destroy one’s immune system, overall health as well as relationships. As a leader, anger that is ignored and not leveraged will limit your effectiveness as a leader. When you over-react in anger you lose the trust of those your work with; you also lose perspective and the ability to solve problems, communicate clearly and focus. Learn to acknowledge anger and understand what it is trying to tell you.
Leverage the Energy in Anger
A lever is used to lift a heavy object or make moving something big, easier. Leveraging your anger starts when you recognize how you experience anger internally. Do you lash out or hold it in and seethe?
Keep in mind that anger is often triggered by the primitive survival instinct which cause the fight or flight response. Think abut how you typically respond when angry, do you fight (lash out) or flee (hold it in and seethe)?
There is energy in anger, whether one sees your reaction or not; it is up to you to leverage it. Here are a few questions to consider next time you get angry:
- Is this situation going to matter next week? If not let it go.
- Have I given the person the benefit of the doubt? Or, have I jumped to conclusions?
- Is this anger old?
- What would a productive response look like in this situation that advances the best outcome for all concerned?
Anger is an emotion, one of many. If you find it has become a habit, it is essential you take steps to change that.
Click the image below to access a quiz and free course providing more detail on managing stress and anger. This is a great resource.