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Understanding and Dealing with Anger

Anger is a powerful emotion – perhaps one of the most powerful emotions – and as a result, it can be difficult to control at times. 

When a number of stressful incidents or situations pile one on top of another, even the best of us can be driven to anger and to actions we soon regret. That’s why it’s important to understand what fuels anger, what escalates anger, and what defuses anger.

Anger creates a dual response in the body, causing both short-term and long-term effects. When a person is angered, there is both an immediate surge of emotion and a lasting physiological response. When angry feelings are triggered, the brain sends a rush of energy throughout the body. This surge lasts several minutes while the brain assesses the situation.

Meanwhile, the nervous system is put on general alert – a state of readiness that lasts for hours or even days. This persistent state of arousal explains why people get angry more quickly if they have already been provoked. The nervous system remains ready for any subsequent threats. Thus, anger builds on anger.

There are three types of intervention that can lessen or eliminate anger. These are:

1. Challenge thoughts – One way to defuse anger is to challenge the thoughts that spark it. This is most effective when undertaken at early or moderate levels of anger. Once enraged, a person is no longer capable of rational thought – only of revenge and reprisal.

2. Distraction – Distraction can be useful for diminishing an angry mood. TV, movies, or reading can take a person’s mind off the hostile thoughts. However, shopping or eating may worsen anger by allowing the person to dwell on the triggering situation.

3. Cooling off – You can deflate anger by engaging in a physical activity, especially by yourself. Deep breathing and relaxation exercises are also effective.

Anger causes people to behave in ways they later regret. By understanding the body’s response to anger, you can curb anger in yourself and in others. In addition, keep in mind that there are three techniques you can use to defuse anger.

Of course, the best way to handle anger is to curb it before it gets out of control. Learn to recognize the signs of anger, and strive to catch it in its earliest stages. This is an important step in improving your overall emotional health.