The Anger Process
Anger is a two-step process:
First there is the pain. It might be emotional, like a feeling of loneliness, loss, or rejection. Or it might be physical, like a headache or a pain in your stomach. This is the fuel of anger. It’s like a can of gasoline sitting there.
The second part of anger is the trigger, the match that sets the can of gasoline on fire.
Then there is the anger itself, which has three parts. (Remember the dimensions of anger that we referred to earlier.) Our physical reactions might include:
- Our heart beats faster
- Our pupils dilate
- We breathe faster
- Our face may redden
- Our legs might turn to jelly
All of this is because our body is preparing for fight or flight. Our emotional reactions, in addition to the anger, may include:
These emotional and physical reactions influence our behaviour when we are angry (both how we act and how we express our anger). This might involve:
- Yelling/speaking loudly
- Talking faster
- Smashing things
- Calling people names
This, of course, affects the remaining dimension: the way that we experience the world and the treatment that we receive from others.
How Does Anger Affect Our Thinking?
Sometimes we find ourselves responding to particular events with anger, and because we always respond with anger, we begin to think it is the event itself that is making you angry. However, the culprit isn’t the event. It’s how you interpret the event that makes you angry. We cannot physically respond to every person or event with anger: the law, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far we can let our anger go.
As well, anger affects your thinking. Memory, creativity, and concentration weaken. Your thoughts become accusatory, exaggerated, and rigid. You treat assumptions as facts; you may become irrational.
To help you determine whether anger is your best response, ask yourself: Is my anger helping me or hurting me?
If the answer is “hurting,” it’s a message that your anger is needless; it is making the situation worse. In these instances it’s time to respond differently.
The art of anger management (being able to transform anger from a negative experience into a positive one) is learning how to use your thoughts and feelings and behaviours so they work for you, not against you.