ANGER: Learning To Control The Volcano Within

Anger can be described a consequential behavior of many causes such as cognitive, social/or behavioral models that we have learned from others, the lack of social skills and problem solving strategies, and several biological factors.


Sources of Anger:

Repeated incidents that are predictable but where people are insisting that something be different and that’s when they’re angry. When they’re expecting and demanding one thing and then they get something else.

Constant Pain and Discomfort is a common source of anger. Physical discomfort can make us more susceptible to getting angry and expressing anger when provoked. There is the tendency to be less tolerant or patient whenever we feel pain, for instance, when we are suffering from a headache or backache. It is difficult to feel good or kind when you are suffering from some physical pain. Nurses and doctors who work with patients suffering from pain are usually aware of this from experience.

Heat, noise and crowded conditions, which again increase our levels of discomfort, can provoke violent and angry behavior more easily. Drivers caught in a long traffic jam on a very hot day will probably find their anger rising more readily.

Likewise, a family that suffers from a lot of noise pollution may be more liable to have a quarrel. It is quite natural for us to feel angry when we think that we are being insulted, such as being called names.
When faced with obstacles which prevent us from getting what we want or need, it is natural for us to feel angry. People become angry when their expectations are not met. Research shows that when people are closer to getting what they want, they are more liable to get angry when frustrated. They may also be angered whenever obstacles are placed in their paths toward attaining or obtaining their goals or desires.

Thus, the main cause of anger is represented by our irrational perceptions and evaluations of situations when our rights and goals are apparently broken. Put in simpler terms, thoughts and perception are the underlying factor of anger.

Physical Symptoms Associated with Anger :

The heart rate changes, predominantly upwards, and the heartbeat seems louder. Breathing is labored and faster.
The hairs on the body often stand up, giving us “gooseflesh.”
The body, and especially the face, tend to feel hot, flushed, and we may redden. We may feel light-headed, or that our blood has collected in our heads. Our skin, especially the hands, can become clammy.
Our eyes may tear. We tend to get a light (and sometimes severe) stomach upset, often described as “a sinking feeling.” Our mouths and throats often seem dry, and our throats feel constricted.
Our muscles become tensed. This is often felt as a build-up of pressure, a feeling like we are about to explode. We may become “hyperactive,” pacing, touching and handling objects restlessly, grinding our teeth, clenching our fists, tapping our feet. Our speech tends to become louder and faster.


All this tension can make us tired, give us headaches, neck aches, backaches, and the like, especially if we are “holding it in.” But generally, we feel as if we have a great abundance of physical energy, as if we were stronger than usual.
Our focus is narrowed, like tunnel vision. The rest of the world “vanishes” or at least becomes insignificant. If the world – especially other people, even friends – forces itself on us, we address our anger at it as well. For example, if a friend tries to calm us down, we may push them away or tell them to shut up. We are not terribly tolerant. And we can’t seem to find pleasure in anything.
We lose our perspective – precisely what we need to regain control — and begin to see the world as a hostile place, and life as intrinsically unfair. We may become paranoid and interpret all things through the anger. We “see red,” see things as if they were too close, intruding on us.

Managing Anger:

Being aware of how you get angry is helpful. When you are aware of some recurrent situations in your life that tends to make you angry, you can avoid some of these situations or even remove them. You may not be able to do so with other situations. However, awareness of how you get angry helps you better understand the process. It is also very helpful to understand what happens to you when you get angry.


This is one common way of handling angry feelings, especially in societies where the public expression of angry feelings is considered to be socially undesirable or where overly assertive behavior is not acceptable. In such societies, when we feel angry, we suppress our anger. When one does this regularly, it is quite inevitable that one will begin to develop physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach ulcers, or even asthmatic wheezing. These are often termed psychosomatic symptoms. Psyche means mind or soul, and soma means body. In other words, it is true that the state of our emotions does affect our physical health.
Expressing anger is partly a natural bodily response as we have seen. However, you can learn some ways to manage anger, like:

  • Count up to ten– This allows us to avoid immediate aggressive expression of anger. When one gets angry, one is often tempted to let go by inflicting verbal or physical abuse. However, this method is often not helpful as it does not promote communication and the resolution of the underlying problems in situations and relationships. Instead, such responses aggravate the problem. Instead of talking and resolving their problems, people end up fighting.
  • Learning to communicate our feelings effectively and positively- Try to find a creative and constructive way of communicating and revealing your angry feelings besides just expressing or suppressing it. We must be able to say things like “Hey what you have just said has made me feel angry. I wonder why you said that.” We can learn to say things like that that promotes real communication, instead of a statement like “I’m angry”. Many people find that they feel better after communicating. If the other person communicates some understanding and acknowledgement, they are well on the road to resolving their problem. When expressing dissatisfaction, be gentle and stay away from absolutes like ‘you never’
  • Exercise the body and release the tension– There are two things we can do physically to manage this arousal of the body. Firstly, we can exercise the body and release the tension that has been built up in the body. The increased blood pressure and pulse rate is put to good use if you exercise your body. Moreover, physical exercise causes the human body to produce natural chemicals that make us feel emotionally well. The second thing we can do is to learn to physically relax when we feel angry. When we do so, the body’s arousal is reduced and we may not feel so angry. At the same time, we are reducing the physical damage that may occur as a result of the unexpressed arousal of the body caused by anger. Exercise and relaxation are two lifetime habits that are very useful for a healthy lifestyle.
  • Forgive and forget– It is important not to harbor within us unresolved anger. Such anger builds into resentment and hatred and affects us negatively. It will harm our emotional and physical health. To forgive is to accept that a wrong has been done and that it has made us angry. A decision is then made to bury the offence and not let it bother or even destroy our peace. The danger of keeping accounts of the offences of others is that it will build up within us and may one day erupt with the slightest provocation. It will make us feel miserable and disrupt our various relationships.

  • Developing a better perception of life- Forgiveness is possible when we can change or alter our perspective of the situation or the person. Sometimes, the situation might look different when we reconsider our perspective. What may have initially looked like a crucial issue may turn out to be relatively unimportant. We may therefore feel much less angry when we think in terms of our new perspective.
  • Self-Evaluation-Certain times, it is also helpful to go through the process which triggers your anger. The following are some self-review questions:1. Identify an instance in your life when you felt very angry. Can you remember what it was that made you angry? What happened?

    2. How do you normally respond when you feel angry?

    3. In what way do you usually communicate your anger?


When to Seek Help:

Anger is not always easily resolved. All of us have had some struggles with it from time to time. But some have more difficulty coping with their angry feelings. When does one seek help?

You need help if you feel you cannot cope with your anger. It may bother you in different ways. You may find yourself expressing your anger through violent and aggressive means. If you are physically abusing people, you need help. You may also find yourself losing your temper easily. This could be very disruptive to the way you function. You may find it very difficult to maintain healthy relationships because of this. You probably need help if this is the case.
Your anger may also show itself in the form of physical ailments. On the other hand, it may be turned inward in the form of depression. If you think that you have an underlying problem with anger that is causing physical or emotional problems, you may need help.

Who can you turn to for help? You may begin by speaking to a trusted and close friend and learn how to share your feelings. If you need further help, you may consult your doctor or seek help from a professional counselor.
Depending on our training, the strength of our anger, any temperamental inclinations we may have, the situation, etc., we may take a direct approach, perhaps involving aggression or at least verbal aggression, or we may attempt to suppress the anger (restoring normality by changing ourselves), or we may attempt to reassess the situation, i.e. make it non-violating and therefore not anger-producing. The effectiveness of any one of these varies greatly, and each has its advantages and drawbacks.


The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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