We all have our own ways through which we express our anger. Some of us may react by raising our voices or getting defensive. While some of us may choose to walk away from the situation or just be by ourselves for a while.
So, what does research suggest you do when you're mad?
Don't react in the heat of anger. Let your body "cool down". Whatever the cause of your anger, background stress like heat or noise, or conflict with another person - take the time to relax. Giving yourself this time allows you to decide if you are "really" angry or just tired and tense. This is why we have been told for centuries to count to ten (or even a hundred!) or to just sleep on it.
Remember that you're feeling angry because you have perceived the situation in a certain way. Before you react, see if you can rethink the problem. If you are quick to feel angry, you probably tend to interpret other people's actions as intentionally offensive. If you are slow to anger, it's likely you are giving other people the benefit of the doubt. Try and find other reasons for the person's behaviour - it might not be intended to upset you deliberately. Also, separate the things you should be angry about from the things which are merely minor irritants.
If you've counted to a hundred, rethink the situation, and if you still feel that you must express anger (let's face it, that does happen!); make sure that by expressing yourself you are going to get the results that you want. Make sure that the person on the receiving end understands what you are complaining about. Or you will end up getting nowhere and feeling a lot worse. Learn how to express your anger so that the other person will be responsive. Try to achieve justice, restore your rights or improve a bad situation. Simply "letting off steam" might feel good for the moment, but it's probably just getting you a reputation for being hot-headed.
If you can't express anger when you need to?
Recognize that you have a right to feel angry and express it. Anger does not have to lead to violence or more anger. Your goal is to learn to deal with anger constructively, not to ignore it or repress it.
Don't rationalize your reluctance to express anger. Excuses like "I won't say anything because I'll hurt the other person's feelings" are ways of explaining to yourself why you don't do what you've never learned to do. Instead of dwelling on the reasons why you don't express anger, concentrate on learning how to do it.
If you react to your own and others' anger in unconstructive ways?
You need information about the constructive alternatives available to you and practice using some of them.
Remember, that your choice is not limited to expressing or not expressing anger. Sometimes you can use a supportive approach. For example, your supervisor yells at you to do something you consider completely unprofessional. Count to ten, and, say "Is there something wrong, Mr. Kumar? I know there must be, or you would never speak to me that way".
When appropriate, make the deliberate decision not to express anger. Initially, expressing anger may make you feel important. There are times though, when you cannot express your anger. For example, when a frail older person angers you, your angry response may endanger his or her health.
Constructive ways of expressing your anger.
Get rid of unnecessary tension with physical exercise (not competitive sports!). This works when you're not able to express anger. For instance, if the other person is out of town.
Hit your pillow for two minutes (privately!), and curse into the pillow. This is just one harmless physical way to release your anger.
Share your feelings with the person who has upset you. Try to communicate don't shut him or her out. Use "I" statements, they do help.
Be forthright about your anger and follow it through. Don't just tentatively mention that you're angry and then let it drop. Work at finding a solution to the problem or situation that caused the anger.
If you have trouble communicating with someone close to you, write down all the things that make you furious with that person. Ask him or her to do the same and regularly make appointments to get together. Make a vow to each other that you will listen and try to understand the other person's position on all the important subjects on the list. Take turns: one talks and the other listens; without interrupting.
Focus on the behaviour of the person causing the anger. Don't attack the person; the person's actions are what should concern you.
Determine ways you could have handled your anger better than you did at the time it occurred and rehearse the alternatives with someone you trust.
Express anger in moderation. There is a big difference between telling someone you are angry and screaming at him or her. People get defensive when you yell. Also, remember you are responsible for what you say or do, even when you are angry. Therefore, treat the other person with respect when expressing your emotions. This might even encourage them to reciprocate the respect, and an open conversation could ensue.
Finally, let the anger fade, so you can get on with your life. Hanging on to it for too long will not add to your happiness and peace of mind.
If you would like to discuss this further or need some help or support in this or any other area, our counsellors would be happy to help.