Psychology

Healthy Ways to Express Anger



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Your blood is boiling, your mind is reeling, your heart beat is increasing rapidly and you look like you might go postal any second. You're angry! What do you do with all that anger? How do you find a healthy way to express all that anger?

According to the American Psychological Association, "Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion." It becomes a problem "when it gets out of control and turns destructive."(1)

Do you find some acceptable way of getting that anger out of your system, or do you just bite your tongue, not express how you're feeling, and push all those angry feelings down inside of you?

The APA states that suppressing your anger can mean that "if it isn't allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward-on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression."(1) That kind of reaction can then create further mental and physical health problems. The APA further states that, "Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile." (1)

For me, my anger has often been a way of telling me that a situation is not good for me. My anger has often been the force that gets me moving away from or out of those kinds of situations.

I probably tend to suppress my anger at times, where I'm not always easily able to verbally express what I'm feeling right at that moment. There have been other things that have worked for me as far as being a way of releasing some of the angry feelings I have inside.

At times, I've thrown darts at a dartboard. Sometimes I've even put up a picture of the person I was angry with in the center of the dartboard. This didn't physically hurt the person at all, but only put a few dart holes in the picture, which can easily be replaced. Of course, sometimes, even the picture wasn't adversely affected. Probably the angrier I was, the worse my aim was, so my dart throwing release of my anger, may not have even gotten anywhere near that picture to do any damage to it.

On one occasion I started tearing up the person's shirt. I probably should have settled on tearing up paper into shreds at that time, but that just didn't seem quite satisfying enough to me. It turned out he walked in while I was busy tearing up his shirt, and my anger quickly turned to guilt. But since he didn't end up getting angry at me for ruining his shirt, in fact he started laughing at what I was doing, my anger soon very quickly went away, as I also saw the humor in the situation myself.

Taking a good fast brisk walk I've also found to be very helpful for me when I'm in the throes of angry emotions. The fresh air helps clear my head. My fast paced clip physically helps remove some of my angry tension, as I'm literally pounding the pavement, walking hard and fast on the sidewalk.

I've often needed to physically remove myself from the person or situation I was angry at, especially when my anger seems to be at a very intense level in that moment. I was probably too afraid of what I would say, or even that I might have been very close to acting on my anger in a physical way towards that person. Walking away gave me the time I needed to try and calm down, without saying something that I would probably later regret, or that might have just escalated things even further. It also immediately removes me from the source of my anger.

Sometimes people say things that make me angry, simply because they know how to push my buttons. Almost as if they're just testing me to see what kind of reaction they might get back from me. Removing myself from the situation in that case, no longer gives them a target for this activity, and I no longer have to be part of that type of baiting activity.

This usually occurs when I feel any verbal response I would try to give would be basically pointless and fall on deaf ears. If I were to respond with the anger I'm feeling, they would then turn it around, to make me look like I was the one totally out of control for feeling angry in the first place. They would make it seem like I'm the one totally at fault, while they are totally innocent. As much as the person would like to think they are totally innocent and would like me to believe that as well, this is not something I easily accept. There's at least two sides to every story, and sometimes even more then that.

This tends to happen more from people who rarely admit that they ever feel angry about anything, or else they internalize their anger, and can't understand why others sometimes have an angry reaction to things.

Another way I've recently found that helps me release some of my angry feelings, is actually typing out my angry response. There is something about my fingers moving rapidly over the keyboard in forming my words that I find very helpful. As well as the fact that I'm actually typing out the response I'd like to give, right at the moment I want to give it.

With the other ways I've mentioned to release my angry feelings, I'm not always able to verbally communicate what I'm feeling at that moment, so while I may find other ways to get a physical release, for myself, my anger still ends up often going unexpressed by me. Typing my response, I don't have to wait until I calm down. I don't have to walk away, in order to avoid further confrontation or even the possible temptation I might at times feel of wanting to actually do physical harm to someone.

I can type my response without the use of swear words, without name-calling or putting the other person down, and still manage to get my points across, and actually communicate some of what I'm feeling in that moment. I also have the option of immediately getting those angry words communicated, but I don't necessarily have to send it to the person I might be angry with.

I've believed for a long time that anger is a valid human emotion, just as sadness, and happiness are. While people unwisely at times, may tell others not to feel sad, you rarely hear someone tell another person, that they shouldn't feel happy. If someone tells me I shouldn't feel angry or even at times when someone else has told me to calm down, that can sometimes make the situation worse, or even intensify my anger. Because in telling me that, it makes me feel like my feelings of anger, are invalid, or not real for me, and I'm not supposed to be having them. It's also an indirect way of saying I should feel the way the other person feels, who isn't feeling angry and can't understand why I am feeling that way.

As the APA states "Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often it's a healthy, natural response to these difficulties."(1) Finding healthy ways to express my anger not only gives me permission to have those feeling from time to time, but also allows me a way of getting it out of my system, and eventually I'm able to let go of my anger. That for me, is a much better choice, then to internalize those feelings, or deny that they exist. Once I have found some way of expressing or releasing my anger, I soon find myself, no longer feeling that way, and once again become an easier person to be around.

(1)"Controlling Anger - Before It Controls You", American Psychological Association, APA Online, http://www.apa.org/topics/controlanger.html

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