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anger

ANGER PROTECTS us AND HELPS us SET BOUNDARIES

Anger is a normal emotion that everyone feels sometimes. Anger is an important emotion because it protects you and helps you defend yourself from harm, helps you set healthy boundaries, and also gives you the energy to act when necessary. Anger can manifest itself in many different ways and intensities, which is also reflected in the many different words that can be used to describe upset and anger:

  • irritated, grumpy, irate
  • frustrated, bored, pissed off
  • furious, angry, cross
  • hurt, bitter
  • annoyed, upset
  • indifferent, cynical
  • defiant, rebellious
  • vindictive

It is important to find constructive ways to express your anger. If anger is not expressed, it can easily turn inwards. If it does, it can cause depression, anxiety, and bad moods. When you express your anger in a healthy way, you will feel better.

Repressed anger can cause, for instance:

  • anxietyand depression
  • psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and stomach pain
  • self-criticism
  • passive-aggressive behaviour (e.g., helplessness, stubbornness, putting off tasks or leaving them to the last minute, jealousy or resentment, procrastination, lateness)

ANGER IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO ACCEPT AND EXPRESS

The environment in which we grow up influences whether we give ourselves permission to be angry. If you have learned as a child that it is not appropriate to express anger, expressing anger is often difficult as an adult. A person’s individual temperament influences whether they express their emotions quietly or loudly, how quick they are to forgive, and how easily they get angry.

In our culture, it is not always acceptable to openly show that we’re angry or upset. In many other cultures, it is more acceptable to express emotions openly and strongly. In Finland, it is sometimes considered inappropriate even to speak loudly or to express factual criticism. Many people have learned to suppress their anger.

The background may include

  • an exaggerated need to please other people
  • a fear of losing important relationships
  • a childhood belief that expressing anger is bad behaviour
  • an over-emphasised need for control – because anger is the least rational of our emotions, it is the least controllable

TIPS FOR DEALING WITH ANGER

Learning to express our anger is a process that can take a lifetime. At first, it may surprise you how strong the anger inside you is. Don’t be afraid of your feelings – explore them courageously and trust them. Giving ourselves permission to express anger in a constructive way usually eases and relieves our feelings of anger. If you’re used to keeping your anger inside, change will not happen overnight.

  • Learn to accept your angry side as part of you.
  • Give yourself permission to be angry and upset when someone violates your wishes, needs, or boundaries.
  • Remember that all feelings are always right and justified. You have the right to be angry.
  • Being angry does not automatically lead to aggressive behaviour.

Dealing with and expressing anger will become easier when you look at anger through your own experiences:

  • What kinds of people, situations, or events make you angry?
  • Do you give yourself permission to get angry?
  • How does it feel to be angry?
  • Where in the body do you feel your anger?
  • How do your loved ones feel about your anger?
  • How do you express your anger?
  • What did your parents say to you as a child when you were angry?
  • Is anger a foreign, distant, or scary feeling for you?

VENT YOUR ANGER CONSTRUCTIVELY

  • Learn to clearly and constructively state what makes you angry and why, e.g., “I’m angry because…”
  • Learn to defend yourself in a clear and fact-based way.
  • Argue constructively. Take responsibility for your feelings and express yourself firmly. Learn to apologise when necessary.
  • Learn to listen to yourself and your needs. Ignoring important needs often stirs up feelings of anger.
  • You can write e.g., in your diary about things that make you angry. Set a time limit like 15 minutes. Do not return to change or correct your text. Stop writing when the allotted time has expired. If you wish, you can return to your text later.

ANGER CAN ALSO BE VENTED PHYSICALLY:

  • leave the room
  • get outside
  • go to the gym or jogging
  • beat a large cushion or punching bag
  • scream into a pillow or outside
  • chop wood, clean up, or do some other physical exercise

GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT

If your anger turns into uncontrollable aggression or you want to hurt other people or yourself, you should seek help. Expressing anger can be practised safely with a professional. You can contact a nurse or doctor, a psychologist or psychotherapist, a university chaplain, or a peer support group.