So Much to Be Angry About: What to Do With Your Anger
In the midst of growing societal anger, learn to calm yours.
Posted Oct 12, 2020
With fears of COVID-19, high levels of political unrest, and economic struggles, society has been exploding with anger. You can see it in public demonstrations, personal interactions, and social media. Unfortunately, each flare-up often ignites further anger.
This is taking a serious toll on individuals and society as a whole. The reports of a skyrocketing increase in mental health issues are evidence of this, supporting what you have likely already noticed just by looking around you. While you cannot personally change the tide of this rising anger and anxiety, you can make a difference in your own life and the lives of those around you by learning to manage your anger.
It is tempting to rant and lambaste others—especially when you feel justified in your feelings. You might even think that it’s a good thing to do, purging yourself of anger by venting it out. However, this tends to turn up your inner heat, increasing your anger. Research has clearly shown that angry behaviors, such as blasting your car horn or shouting obscenities (or madly typing them into social media), make people angrier. While exerting the energy to do these things might feel good, any relief from this is generally undermined by stirring up more anger.
A serious problem with extreme anger is that it interferes with clear thinking. Someone overtaken by rage might hurt a loved one or destroy their own property. These inclinations are well expressed in the centuries-old admonition not to “cut off your nose to spite your face.” For this reason, it is important to keep your anger in check.
This does not mean that anger is a “bad” emotion that should be eliminated. On the contrary, it is a signal that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. It is frequently a reaction to fear, a way of countering the vulnerability with a show of force. Recent frequent triggers of fear—and subsequently anger—are issues related to COVID-19 and the current political unrest. Importantly, for anger to be constructive rather than destructive, you must harness the energy to correct wrongs or take proactive steps to fix a problem.
To manage your anger and use it in a healthy way, consider doing the following:
Be attuned to your feelings: When you are conscious of your anger—especially at the lower levels of intensity—you can consciously choose how to proceed. Otherwise, you might just get caught up in its powerful current.
Exercise: Exercising can help to burn off some of your anger’s intense energy. You might jog, take a kickboxing class, or lift weights. Your anger will still be there afterward, but the intensity might be reduced enough to think through your actions more clearly.
Relax your body: Find an activity that relaxes you. Some options are learning meditation, relaxation exercises, or calming visualizations. You might also find it relaxing to take a hot shower or bath, go for a stroll, listen to music, or get a massage.
Attend to your anger: Once you are calm enough to think clearly, think about what is making you angry. Challenge yourself to take a more objective view of the situation. You might find it helpful to journal or talk with a trusted friend.
Take action: By understanding your anger better, you can decide how best to proceed to address the problem. If the issue relates to someone being offensive, you might address it with them by talking in a direct, non-aggressive way. With this approach, they will be more likely to listen to your concerns and maybe even work with you to resolve the conflict. If the issue is more about a larger situation, such as injustice, you might decide to be proactive in the cause or get support and validation from others.
By managing your anger effectively, you will choose to act in more constructive ways, feel more capable in navigating life, and maybe even make a positive difference in the world by helping calm the anger so often infused in public discourse.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, check out this brief video:
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