The Secret Life of Anger - Deepstash
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Dealing with your anger

Dealing with your anger

Anger leads us to poor decisions, regrettable behavior, or hurt feelings. However, some anger leads to more significant consequences, like strained relationships or legal trouble.

The key to dealing with your anger more effectively is to understand how it works.

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Anger ≠ aggression

Anger ≠ aggression

Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. They differ entirely in one central dimension - control.

  • You can't control your emotions directly. In the legal system, nobody gets sent to prison for how they felt, regardless of how angry they were. They get punished for what they do.
  • You can influence your emotions indirectly by how you think and behave. For example, when you focus on how terrible all the drivers in your town are, your anger will likely increase. But, if you listen to music and think about how grateful you are, your anger will probably subside.

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Expressing anger

While you can't control your emotions of anger directly, you have control over your aggression, which is a decision to express your anger.

Aggression does not only involve acts of violence. Being overly-critical or judgmental of someone in your mind is an act of aggression, as is replying sarcastically or rolling your eyes at someone.

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Controlling your aggression

Controlling your aggression

Most people assume they should manage their anger, but trying to control their anger only makes it stronger. When they fail:

  • they will feel angry and disappointed with themselves.
  • They will waste psychological resources that they could have spent by managing their aggression.

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Trying to control your anger

This actually makes it harder to control your aggression.

The solution is to turn the relationship around. Acknowledge and accept your anger for what it is. Then, direct your efforts at control toward your aggression.

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Expressing anger

"You have to express your anger to release it" is a myth. Research shows that expressing your anger only makes it stronger. Turning away from it by doing nothing or distracting yourself leads to less intense anger.

Try to address the source of the anger, not the anger itself. For instance, if you're frustrated with your co-worker for being late again with their monthly report, have a respectful and honest conversation to solve the situation.

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Anger as an emotion

Anger as an emotion

It is misleading to think of anger as a negative emotion. A hot pan on the stove isn’t bad or negative just because it leads to you feeling pain when you accidentally rest your thumb on it. It is a good thing because it alerts your body to a dangerous situation.

We think of anger as a negative emotion because it often precedes a negative behavior. Because the behavior is bad or negative doesn't mean the feeling that came before it is.

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Anger feels good

  • Anger makes you feel morally superior. Every time you criticize someone, the implication is that you're better. He’s such an idiot… (but I’m pretty smart).
  • Anger makes you feel in control. It gives you the illusion of control, like you're doing something and making a difference.
  • Anger distracts you temporarily from more painful emotions. This is especially true of men in most cultures for whom anger is a reasonable emotion while fear, sadness, or guilt are not. 

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The Flavors of Anger

  • Impatience. We become impatient when we have a specific timeline in mind for something that others disregard
  • Passive-aggressive communication. When we want to make someone feel bad but want to appear good at the same time. Like sarcasm - an insult dressed up as a joke
  • Irritability. Chronic irritability is often a sign of unaddressed anger where you find yourself short with people, overly sensitive to criticism or just agitated
  • Resentment. Resentment is like irritability but directed at another person. Address it with assertiveness
  • Frustration. When we have a goal but are thwarted in reaching it

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