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Expressing Anger: The Fundamentals And The Best Ways To Act For Positive Results

Anger bubbles up in us all, a primal response to a world that sometimes infringes upon our most cherished beliefs and personal safety. It’s a flare, shooting up to alert us of a problem, an intrusion against what we hold dear. The secret to expressing anger is to harness it and use its intensity to our advantage. In this article, I’ll peel back the layers of anger, pinpointing what sets it off, and navigating through its vast expanse – “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. By grasping the reins of our own outrage, we can steer it towards becoming an engine for constructive transformation and a journey of personal growth.

What Is Anger?

expressing anger

Anger is a complex emotion that can range from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. What’s more, it’s an emotional state that varies in intensity and is typically triggered by an external or internal event perceived as a threat, injustice, or frustration. While anger is a natural response to challenges, it can also be accompanied by physiological and biological changes. For instance, this can include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline. For a comprehensive definition of anger, see below:

“an emotion characterized by tension and hostility arising from frustration, real or imagined injury by another, or perceived injustice. It can manifest itself in behaviors designed to remove the object of the anger (e.g., determined action) or behaviors designed merely to express the emotion (e.g., swearing). Anger is distinct from, but a significant activator of, aggression …”

American Psychological Association (APA)

What Are Reasons Behind Us Expressing Anger?

So, the reasons behind expressing anger are as varied as the individuals who experience it. For instance, it can be provoked by personal grievances, such as feeling disrespected, betrayed, or treated unfairly. Also, external circumstances like traffic jams, work-related stress, financial worries, or societal injustices can ignite the flame of anger. In many cases, anger is a response to a perceived loss of control or a threat to one’s self-esteem or sense of order. Ultimately, anger often signals a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. For example, it may be a problem to solve or an underlying emotional need to be fulfilled. Below are 12 reasons that can cause us to express anger.

12 Reasons For Expressing Anger
  1. Feeling Threatened or Attacked. Anger often arises as a protective response when we perceive a threat to our well-being.
  2. Unmet Expectations and Frustration. Frustration brews into anger when our expectations are not met, whether in personal relationships or professional endeavors.
  3. Pain and Discomfort. Physical or emotional pain can trigger anger. Hence, our angry emotions serve as an outlet for the discomfort we’re enduring.
  4. Injustice or Unfair Treatment. Encountering injustice or discrimination can incite anger as a reaction against perceived unfair treatment.
  5. Uncertainty and Stressful Events. Stressful situations, such as tight deadlines or financial woes, can accumulate and explode into episodes of anger.
  6. Past Trauma Triggering Defense Mechanisms. Anger can be a defense mechanism that surfaces in response to triggers that remind us of past traumas.
  7. Poor Physical or Mental Health. Chronic physical ailments or mental health struggles can lower our threshold for anger as we cope with ongoing challenges.
  8. Feeling Disrespected or Unvalued. Disrespect or the sense that our contributions are undervalued can lead to feelings of anger and resentment.
  9. Physical or Emotional Exhaustion. When we are physically or emotionally depleted, our patience diminishes, often resulting in a shorter temper.
  10. Perceived Lack of Control. A perceived lack of control over personal circumstances can lead to anger as we struggle to regain autonomy.
  11. Power Struggles and Conflicts. Competing interests and power dynamics within relationships or workplaces can give rise to anger as parties vie for control.
  12. Bad Habits or Mindset. Persistent negative thinking or unhealthy behavior patterns can foster a predisposition to anger in the face of even minor adverse situations.

For more on why we get angry, see Mind’s Anger and Psychology Today’s Anger.

Ways Of Expressing Anger: “The Bad and The Ugly”.

Anger can be classified into three primary styles: passive, aggressive, and assertive. The passive method involves the internalization of anger, the aggressive style is marked by outright hostility and damaging behaviors, while the assertive style is defined by honest and calm communication of feelings and setting of boundaries. Often, both passive and aggressive forms of anger are counterproductive, causing more problems than solutions. Indeed, these “bad” and “ugly” types of anger can lead to adverse health outcomes and exacerbate situations for everyone concerned. Below are nine instances in which expressing anger may be unhelpful or detrimental.

The Bad and The Ugly” Ways of Expressing Anger

1. Verbally Abusing Others.

This type of expression of anger can result in cutting remarks that leave deep emotional scars on the recipients.

2. Choosing Physical Aggression.

In this case, a person makes a calculated decision to inflict physical aggression. Now, in some instances, this may be in self-defense. Regardless, going forward with this type of anger often leads to harmful confrontations and can escalate conflicts to dangerous levels.

3. Spontaneous Physical Aggression.

For example, an individual can throw a punch in a heated moment. Again, this could be a case of self-defense, but in many cases it leads to regret. This is because it can have immediate and long-lasting repercussions on relationships and personal well-being.

4. Chronic, Irritable Disposition.

This is a form of anger where constant frustration bubbles beneath the surface. As a result, this type of anger sours daily interactions and quality of life.

5. Prone To Angry Outbursts.

In this case, this type of anger unleashes a torrent of rage seemingly without warning. Hence, this type of anger leaves others to tread carefully in their presence.

6. Sarcasm and Subtle Acts of Defiance.

This type of anger manifests itself in indirect ways, often signaling deep-seated resentment and a desire to undermine authority without open confrontation.

7. Self-Righteous Anger.

In some cases, righteous indignation certainly has its place, but it often veers into the territory of self-righteousness, cloaked in moral ambiguity. This is because a self-righteous person appoints themselves as both judge and jury, justifying their scorn towards others. Indeed, this attitude frequently erects a barrier to empathy and understanding.

8. Internalizing Anger In Self-Abusive, Destructive Behavior.

Here, individuals turn their fury inward, harming themselves both psychologically and physically.

9. Channeling Anger Toward a Physical Object.

For example, a person can channel their anger by punching a wall. Indeed, this may provide a temporary release but fails to address the underlying issues and can result in unintended damage or injury.

“The Good” Ways To Minimize And Make Our Anger Constructive.

In a world brimming with stressors and challenges, it’s not uncommon for anger to arise, yet it remains essential to handle it with poise and purpose. Further, exploring good ways to minimize and transform our anger into something constructive not only enhances our personal well-being but also positively impacts our relationships and communities. Indeed, anger does increase our motivation, can lead to self-improvement, and increases our self-awareness. 

So, by adopting strategies that allow us to express, dissect, and utilize our anger effectively, we can convert a potentially destructive force into a catalyst for growth and positive change. Consequently, let’s delve into some practical approaches that can help us navigate our anger and harness it in a way that is constructive or at least minimizes its bad effects.

The Good” Ways of Expressing Anger

1. Assertively and Respectfully Communicate Anger.

By calmly expressing how a situation makes us feel without assigning blame, we can articulate our anger and create an opportunity for understanding and resolution.

2. Channel Righteous Indignant Into Positives For Change.

In this case, channel the energy from anger sparked by injustice into advocating for change. As a result, this ensures that the indignation motivates rather than consumes us. At the same time, beware of this type of anger as it can easily become counterproductive. This is because it can turn into self-righteousness where anger turns punitive acting as both judge and jury.

3. Venting to Others And Talking It Out.

Sharing our frustrations with a trusted friend can provide a fresh perspective. Hence, this can relieve the emotional burden and help us navigate our feelings more effectively.

4. Taking a Time-Out.

Stepping away from a heated moment to breathe and reflect can allow you to approach the situation with a cooler head and a more balanced viewpoint. In some cases, the source of irritation could be just a lack of communication that is causing you to jump to conclusions. In other cases, just counting to 10 or just thinking through your response may help you to cool down and respond constructively. Finally, humor may help to defuse the situation as one or more parties is taking things too seriously.

5. Channeling Anger to a Constructive Activity.

Indeed, redirecting the intensity of our anger into physical exercise, creative pursuits, or problem-solving tasks can transform the energy into productive and rewarding outcomes. Further for those who express anger on a regular basis, this channeling is about forming new habits that redirect anger toward actions that are constructive versus destructive.

For more discussion and references on expressing anger, see APA’s Control anger before it controls you, BetterUp’s Purpose of the emotion anger: how anger can actually be helpful,  Dr. Carlos Todd’s How To Express Anger Constructively?,  CREducation’s Understanding Anger Expression, and Life Support’s 10 Types of Anger: What’s Your Anger Style?

For more from Unvarnished Facts, see the latest topics on Accountability, Fear, and Conflict.

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