Understanding Anger/Curbing Contention

Anger is a powerful emotion that everyone feels at one time or another. We are all human and can become upset in intense moments when people or circumstances come up in which we are in conflict. According to anger scholar Charles Spielberger, anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage.” Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Thus, when we begin to sense that we are becoming mildly irritated, we know that the emotion of anger is brewing.

Recognizing signs of anger

It is very beneficial for us to understand the signs of anger, and to realize when we are in danger of expressing it in an otherwise unhealthy way. We generally express anger in three different ways: physiological (our body), cognitive (our thoughts), and behavioral (our actions). Here are a few ways to recognize when you are becoming angry:

  • Physiological (our body). Do you feel hot or flushed? Does your heart pound? Do you breathe more rapidly? Do your neck muscles tense up? 
  • Cognitive (our thoughts). Notice the thoughts you have and what you do or want to do when you feel anger. Examples of angry thoughts include feelings of unfairness or that a person is “out to get me.” You may also feel a desire to order, threaten, hit or slap, scream, or punish severely. Also, notice signs of suppressed anger, such as sarcasm, feelings of frustration, or a desire to get even. 
  • Behavioral (Our actions). Some destructive expressions of anger include yelling, hitting, put-downs, smashing or destroying something, storming out of the house, or feeling like hurting another or yourself.

Strategies for Bridling Anger 
Anger is an emotion we all feel, but it is up to each of us individually to decide how we will react to our feelings. It is healthy to express anger, but it should be done in an appropriate way so we can release the tension we build up inside. Here are a few excellent rules to follow when dealing with anger and in finding which type strategies for bridling anger might work for you.

  • Realize that anger is a personal choice.
  • Calm yourself first.
  • See another viewpoint.
  • Establish ground rules for the expression of anger.
  • Build positive connections away from issues.
  • Express concerns constructively.
  • Make a plan for bridling anger and contention.