Survival Kit for Stress – Tool # 6

Manage Your Anger

“Anger is the most seductive of the negative emotions; the self-righteous inner monologue that propels it along, fills the mind with the most convincing arguments for venting rage. Unlike sadness, anger is energising, even exhilarating.” - Daniel Goleman

Of all the negative emotions that people want to escape, rage seems to be the most intransigent. Diane Tice, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University, found anger to be the mood people are worst at controlling.

In fact, many don’t even feel the need to control it; they feel self-righteous about their anger. Indeed, anger does have a positive side to it, as it can also motivate us to be proactive and take the necessary action to get out of certain undesirable situations.

Unfortunately, it’s when people do not know how to manage their anger well, that they do harm, not only to others, but to their own health and happiness. Some keep their anger bottled up, thus giving rise to health problems like heart attacks, hypertension and strokes. On the other hand, many believe that catharsis – giving vent to anger – is an effective way to handle anger. University of Alabama psychologist Dolf Zillmann, after a lengthy series of experiments, found this to be not necessarily true.

Tice agrees, and concludes that ventilating anger is one of the worst ways to cool down – angry outbursts typically pumps up the emotional brain’s arousal, leaving people feeling more angry, not less. When people took their rage out on the person who provoked it, the net effect was to prolong the mood rather than end it. Far more effective, says Tice, is to first cool down and then, in a more constructive or assertive manner, confronted the person to settle the dispute.

There’s a story told of an old farmer who had suffered a lifetime of afflictions and injustices, but has kept his sense of homour. When asked, “How have you managed to keep so happy and serene?” he answered, “It isn’t hard; I’ve just learned to cooperate with the inevitable.”

Don’t let anger rob you of your own happiness and peace of mind. Learn to reframe events in a more positive light. Tell yourself, “I’m in control. I chose not to be enraged.” Deep breathing also helps. Only when you have calmed down, then you are better able to think things through and find the best way to resolve the conflict.

Anger can only strip the music from life if you allow it to.

Look out for Tool #7 in the next segment of Health Coach International’s Survival Kit for Stress.

Find out more about the stress management workshop organised by Health Coach International.