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.
Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. They differ entirely in one central dimension - control.
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.
Most people assume they should manage their anger, but trying to control their anger only makes it stronger. When they fail:
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.
"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.
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.