Anger, at best, has a checkered reputation. Keeping it bottled up is bad for your health. Venting it without a certain degree of restraint is destructive, both literally and figuratively. Rumination or obsessing over a perceived transgression will make your anger even worse. Cathartic release by dropping a 50lb bowling ball through your ex’s windshield or punching pillows may not, contrary to popular belief, make you feel much better – it may actually fuel your aggression.
It’s not that getting angry is wrong. Unless you’ve reached the transcendent restraint of, say, the Dalai Lama, there’s a good chance that something, at some point, will irritate you. The question is, how do you express that anger? This is where the “good” or “bad” concept of anger comes from. So how do people generally deal with their anger? Data collected from over 700 test-takers at Queendom reveals that on a scale from 0 to 100, the average score for feelings of anger was 56, indicating that most people experience anger to a moderate degree. Gender differences were few and minor, although women did experience slightly more anger than men, and were also slightly more likely to dwell on situations that upset them. Age differences revealed that younger age groups experienced higher levels of anger than older age groups (average of 60 for those under 18 years of age, 55 for those older than 25). In addition, test-takers who experienced higher levels of anger and who were more likely to dwell on anger-inducing situations were also less satisfied with their job and, not surprisingly, had poorer performance reviews.
In addition to scores on anger levels, Queendom’s Anger Management Test also provided test-takers with an anger “type”, which also revealed interesting differences in how people with diverse anger styles dealt with their emotions. For example, the difference between people with an “Attacker” anger style (physically aggressive) vs. a “Transcender” anger style (striving to rise above the anger-inducing situation), wasn’t that the Transcenders never got angry – it just depended on the situation. Given extreme, emotionally-charged circumstances, they did get angry. The difference with the Attackers, however, was how. Take the following anger scenarios covered in Queendom’s Anger Management Test, and the different reactions of Attackers and Transcenders:
- When a mover, recommended by a family member, drops a priceless heirloom, the top response for Attackers (45%) was to yell at the mover for being so irresponsible. The top response for Transcenders (45%) was to call the family member who recommended the mover, and suggest that they not refer him to anyone, anymore.
- When finding their car boxed-in between two other cars in the street outside their gym, the top response for Attackers (48%) was to wait for the owners and tell them off when they returned. The top response for Transcenders (30%) was to leave a note on each windshield, and wait for the owners in a cafe.
- When their sibling is a victim of medical malpractice, 69% of Attackers and 73% of Transcenders stated they would sue the doctor. However, 28% Attackers also stated that they would physically harm the doctor, compared to 7% of Transcenders.
- Suspecting their partner of infidelity after seeing them walking arm-in-arm with someone else, 39% of Attackers would scream at their partner and accuse them of infidelity when they returned home, 37% would calmly ask for an explanation, and 22% might physically attack their partner. 64% of Transcenders would calmly ask for explanation, 21% would scream and accuse their partners, and 6% might physically attack them.
The key to anger management it seems, is to step back and put the situation in perspective. Acting rather than reacting. Easier said than done, of course, but here are some tips that might help:
- Communicate your anger. If people would sit down more and talk things out with each other, many disagreements can either be prevented, or settled with as little damage as possible. But there are some communication rules to follow:
- Make sure to really listen to others.
- Try not to become defensive when they are having their say, even when you feel you are being criticized.
- Speak clearly and concisely. Let others know why you are feeling angry and how you want to resolve the issue. Do this in a constructive manner, however. Don’t launch an all-out verbal attack.
- Realize that swearing, insults, criticism or ultimatums are not only hurtful and counterproductive, but you may just end up saying something that you’ll regret.
- Change the way you think. Our thoughts and reactions are reprogrammable, if we just put in the time and effort to work on them. This is called “cognitive restructuring.” For example, try to see an anger-inducing situation from different perspectives. Ask yourself, for example, if it will matter to you in a month, 6 months, or a year. You can also try to find that “silver lining.” No matter how frustrating a situation may be, chances are that a good lesson can be learned from it.
- Relax. If a situation has really upset you, take a moment to cool off a bit before dealing with the issue. Let a clearer head prevail. Relaxation is physiologically incompatible with anger – when you relax, the anger will subside. Take deep breaths, go outside and get some fresh air, or do a task that you find soothing, like mowing the lawn, meditating, or sweating the anger away at the gym. Once you’re in a better state of mind, move on to resolution.
- Don’t shy away from or underestimate the benefits of professional help. If you find that your anger tends to get out of hand, it may be a good idea to consider therapy. Anger management classes or even just talking to a therapist can help you understand your anger tendencies and help you find better ways to express yourself. If you don’t want to do it for others, then consider the benefits it could provide to your emotional, mental, and physical health.
- Leave revenge to movie superheroes. Your partner dumped you, so you hawked his/her most prized possession at a pawn shop. Your arch enemy at work got the promotion you wanted, so you spread a nasty rumor about him or her. Some people may think that expressing anger in an indirect manner is harmless, but it’s just as bad as direct aggression. Manipulation, guilt-tripping, sabotage or payback are petty – and the emotions or thoughts that provoked them in the first place can really eat away at your peace of mind. Let it go, let it go, let it go.
Got some good anger management tips? Share them below!
Join me for next week’s discussion on gender roles!