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Anger can be a powerful emotion. Sometimes you may know why you are angry and other times you may have no idea. Sometimes it builds up, and other times it feels like an explosion from out of nowhere.

Anger is not a “bad” emotion.  Although it doesn’t really feel great to be angry, it is an emotion that can help you express your feelings, protect yourself from something that is unappealing to you and alert others to the fact that you are not okay.

It’s helpful to accept anger as a part of the emotional spectrum, but it’s also important to manage your anger. Managing anger includes recognizing triggers for your anger (things that make you upset), being able to express it in a way that is safe for you and those around you, and in many cases getting to the root cause of your anger, so that you don’t feel angry all the time.

Are you struggling with your anger? Get a grip on it!

Potential Causes of Anger

Changes in hormones happen during adolescence and they can cause some serious mood swings- leaving you prone to angry outbursts.

Other feelings
Did you know that anger can be the expressed result of some other feelings you could be having? People often respond in an angry way when they are feelings hurt, afraid, or ashamed.

People who have had traumatic experiences in the past can get “stuck”, which means that they live with that past experience almost as if it were still happening. This can make people “hypervigilant” meaning that that are constantly in a state of increased sensitivity and fear, leaving the potential to experience excessive anger or irritability.

When you are under pressure you can experience increased sensitivity and irritability, making something that would not have bothered under normal circumstances become a really big deal.

Physical and mental illness can be another underlying cause of anger. Serious and chronic illness can be exhausting; it can also make you feel as though life is very unfair- leading to anger. 

We learn from what we see and you may have learned to manage your own anger in the way you have seen others close to you (like parents, caregivers, or siblings) manage their own anger in the past.

What Do I Do About It?

Respect the emotion for what it is
When you feel angry, remember that it is a normal feeling within the range of healthy emotion. Although it’s unpleasant, it’s important to accept the fact that you are angry. Don’t judge yourself for being angry or try to ignore it- that will just create a build-up! Once you’ve accepted it, you can do something about it.

Know your triggers
If you think about it, you could probably come up with a list of a few things that always make you angry. These things are called triggers and it’s important to be aware of your own. If you know what will make you angry, you can plan to manage it in a better way.

Be more emotionally aware
How many times in a day do you consciously ask yourself how you’re feeling? For most people, it’s infrequently (if it happens at all). Check in with yourself occasionally to see how you’re feeling- if you know that you are already feeling stressed or irritated, there may be ways that you can help yourself before you have a full blown moment of rage.

Know the signs and symptoms that things are getting worse
Along with practicing emotional awareness, you may also want to get to know some physical and mental indicators that happen to you when you are starting to become angry. For example, an increased heart rate, starting to sweat, feeling afraid or sad, or having negative thoughts (like “this always happens” or I’m sick of this”) can all be indicators that you are getting really upset. If you are able to recognize your signs and symptoms, you can create a plan to calm yourself down before you are out of control. 

Think about any underlying feelings you are having
Remember that anger usually stems from feelings of hurt or fear. It’s helpful to manage the anger that you have, but it’s even better to figure out exactly where your anger is coming from. Maybe you are having unresolved feelings of hurt, or fear. Understanding what’s really going on (and dealing with it) can help you eliminate your anger.

Channel it in a positive way
It may be possible for you to take some of your harmful or destructive anger impulses and express them in a more positive and acceptable way. Expressing a less than desirable emotion (like anger) in a more healthy way is called sublimation. If you’re angry, think about how you can get those feelings out safely- things like exercising, listening to music or creating art are examples of satisfying (and more positive) ways to channel your feelings.

Get some support
Sometimes your anger is too overwhelming and you can’t safely help yourself. It’s completely okay to ask for some help. Consider talking to a safe and trusted adult to get some support with managing your anger in a safe way. Unmanaged anger can make you impulsive and lead you to making some unsafe and unhealthy decisions. Get some support before you do something that you might regret.

Communicate your feelings in a healthy way
If you are feeling angry about something, expressing your feelings can help make things better. It’s important to remember that the people around you may not know how you are feeling or what’s causing you to feel that way. Expressing your thoughts and feelings will clue them in. Don’t wait until you are so angry that you “explode” (yell, scream, cry, break things, threaten) – there are better ways to get your point across.

What is it?

Assertive communication is a way of communicating which allows us to be open and honest but also respectful to others. Using assertive communication can be challenging. Sometimes people are too passive or too aggressive in their communication.

Passive Communicators

  • lack confidence in themselves or the value of their opinions.
  • worry about pleasing others/being liked.
  • worry whether others will disagree with or reject their ideas/opinions.
  • feel sensitive to criticism or hurt by past experiences when their ideas were ignored or rejected.
  • lack the skills of being assertive.

Passive communicators often don’t speak up to voice their opinion or state what they want. Instead, they will remain quiet. However, this can cause some problems. It may lead them to feel regret, frustration or harbor resentment or hurt feelings. It also prevents others from understanding the person and what they might want. At times being too passive can even lead to an excess of feelings which can cause people to explode at a later point and tell others how they feel in a way that is overemotional and disrespectful.

Aggressive Communicators

  • are overconfident about their opinions.
  • focus too much on getting their needs met and their opinions across.
  • do not respect or consider other people’s views or needs.
  • do not listen to others or ask for input from others.

Aggressive communicators are very willing to speak up and voice their opinion. However, this form of communication can also create issues. Individuals who communicate too aggressively can cause hurt feelings or intimidation in others. They may dominate conversations, causing others to have difficulty relating to them. Sometimes they are not respectful of the thoughts and feelings of others in their communication.

Assertive Communicators

  • are self-confident.
  • believe their opinions count, their ideas and feelings matter, and they have the right to express themselves.
  • are resilient- able to deal with criticism, rejection and setbacks.
  • respect the preferences and needs of others.
  • have role models for assertiveness.
  • know their ideas were welcomed or assertiveness rewarded in the past.

Assertive communicators find the right balance. They are comfortable speaking up or giving their opinion, however they are mindful of the thoughts and feelings of others. They achieve communication that is give and take, with all members participating.

How to use assertive communication

  • Use eye contact
  • Be open and honest in your communication with others
  • Make sure that you are respectful of the thoughts and feelings of others
  • Don’t be afraid to give your opinion in a respectful way
  • Allow people an opportunity to give you feedback
  • Try to take feedback in a constructive way, instead of becoming defensive or seeing it as rejection
  • If others are not respectful in their communication to you, openly and calmly let them know that it isn’t okay