shows us many faces in our
day-to-day interactions. This
talks about five common ways in which people express or handle their
anger. These are
your options for managing anger. Understanding
these options for handling anger
gives you choices about how you want to manage feelings of anger when
some work, you can gain
control over your anger and make conscious choices about how to handle
the most intense and, for some, most troublesome emotion
YOUR FIVE ANGER REPONSE OPTIONS
Suppression is one of the
unhealthy ways to deal with anger.
who regularly suppress anger tend to be passive in relation to the
their world. As a
result, they can
frequently feel victimized or have the sense that they are not in
anger is not
effective in situations calling for assertiveness, and it can lead to
unexpected problems. I
will be discussing
the assertive option later in this article.
suppressed anger is
internalized anger. Other destructive emotions can grow out of
anger. These can be
feelings of failure
and inadequacy or feelings of anxiety or depression.
suppressing anger usually
increase one’s sense of frustration over not being able to resolve
issues in a
personally satisfying way. This
people to feel impotent in situations that might be changed with
anger can also transform
angry feelings into feelings of dislike or hatred for the person or
suppressed anger does not
always remain suppressed. Like
unattended pot, filled to the lid and left on the stove to boil,
anger may build-up to the point where it boils over. Sometimes, these
eruptions are triggered unexpectedly and misdirected at people for
do some people habitually
suppress anger? Many
experiences early in life that taught them “anger is not normal,” or
“bad,” or that expressing anger results in worse consequences, such as
who tend to suppress
anger sometimes have had a history of having their thoughts and ideas
invalidated by parents or other authority figures.
As a result, they tend to behave passively in
situations where they should be assertive.
to assert oneself after
many years of suppressing one’s anger can be a difficult task. It involves recognizing
the feeling of anger,
being able to differentiate between it and other emotions, and a lot of
learning and practicing
with a trained
professional is helpful in the process.
Aggression is another unhealthy way
to express anger. This is the form of expression that most people
with anger. People
often imagine anger
as an explosive outburst that might include rage, intimidation,
other unpleasant behaviors. There
also more subtle forms of aggression, including sarcasm, bickering,
is easily recognized
because it does not hide anger in the ways that suppression and
do. Aggression usually arises out of a focus on one’s personal needs to
exclusion of the feelings, needs, and rights of others. This Insensitivity to the
feelings, needs, and
rights of others is the trademark of angry, aggressive people.
of us have had angry
outbursts that could be interpreted as aggressive, especially by those
who are on
the receiving end. Of
course, the intensity
of the aggression largely determines the impact it has on the target of
aggression, usually another person. Angry words cannot be taken back,
aggressive behaviors are not easily atoned for with others.
that a person’s patterns
of expressing anger can be as important as the level of intensity. A person’s frequent and
consistent use of
aggression to express anger is a problem for others, and it presents
for the angry person, as well. Being
the receiving end of aggression is an unpleasant experience for others,
of its intensity.
does not enhance
relationships, and habitually aggressive individuals can lead lonely,
antisocial lives. Most
people don’t want
to be around people who are frequently angry or quickly become
chronically angry individuals do
not like being around other people.
is because others tend to agitate their anger and aggression. Angry-aggressive
individuals are easily
annoyed by other people; others are constantly “pissing them off.”
passive-aggressive after defining aggressive anger.
As the name implies, passive-aggressive anger
shares a common characteristic with straight-forward aggression: The
on one’s own needs and feelings to the exclusion and insensitivity to
needs and feelings.
behavior is perhaps
best described as cloaked aggression; it is a hidden, but conscious,
for some indiscretion or offense by another.
Passive aggressive behaviors can be deliberate
and consciously planned
for a specific event or be held in reserve, waiting for a good
passive-aggressive behavior takes place with little thought at all. This type of
passive-aggression often exists
on the fringes of consciousness, where the person makes little to no
between anger and his or her behavior.
behavior is a
subtle, but destructive, form of anger.
Whereas, straight-forward aggression is
observable and undeniable,
passive-aggression is not so clearly recognized and can be emphatically
when the behavior is confronted by others.
everyone has been the
victim of passive-aggression at one time or another.
It occurs between spouses, between parents
and children, and often in work settings.
emotional reasoning behind
passive-aggression is “you made me mad! Now, I’m going to ‘pay you
back’ - and
you won’t even know it.”
usually subtle enough that one can deny any malicious intent if
about the behavior. In
passive-aggressive behavior might be overt enough to be recognized, but
has an element of innocence that makes difficult to prove it was
frequent, “I don’t know what you mean!
was just doing so-and-so” is a common plea of innocence a following
is a hostile
is not immediate,
like pure aggression. The
the person’s anger occurs much earlier than the passive-aggressive
planned-out, but often it is opportunistic – a situation arises where
angered person sees a chance for a stealthy strike-back at someone.
insidious. It can
become a behavior pattern
that is difficult to change. Passive-aggression
becomes a personality characteristic, over time, and it eventually
becomes an easily
recognized trait. Others
tend to avoid
people who display passive-aggressive behavior patterns.
is the jewel of
anger management. Assertive
of anger preserve one’s own convictions and rights, while considering
feelings, needs, and rights of others.
Assertive behavior maintains and bolsters
self- worth, while advocating
for your needs to be met.
is not meant to
harm another’s self-esteem or injure their feelings to obtain a
personal objective. Assertive
behavior is firm, yet
respectful. A good
assertive response usually
contains the following elements: (1.) What occurred and by whom, (2.)
occurrence affected your feelings or impacted your values, and (3.)
would like to happen in order to resolve the issue, now and in the
assertive statement between
spouses might go something like this, “You didn’t support me when I
(child). I felt
angry about you leaving
it up to me to set limits with (child).
I would like you to support me in front of
(child) in the future – it
will show we stand together about parenting issues.”
is fundamental in
preventing some of the detriments that occur from either suppressing
behaving in either aggressive or passive-aggressive ways.
training and the development
of assertive skills are topics far too complex to adequately cover in
article. There are many excellent books and articles to be found on
assertiveness and how to become more assertive in relationships with
Internet is a good resource
for books reviews, and there are free articles to be found there, as
well. For those
wanting a more practical approach
to learning assertiveness skills, I would recommend taking
classes. These are
often offered as
adult education classes through community colleges and universities, or
as groups facilitated by psychologists, therapists, and counselors.
5. Dropping the Issue
option for managing angry
feeling might seem contrary to the expressive and forthright assertive
as you will see,
dropping the issue is the best choice.
It is how you respond emotionally (and
behaviorally) to compromising
your values that is important. Dropping
the issue is really discarding your anger about the issue.
times when people must
make difficult choices about whether to be assertive in an anger
situation or to drop the issue. You
have appropriate convictions to communicate, but being assertive either
not work or it may even intensify the situation.
The best choice might be to acknowledge that
you have done your best and adapt to what is an imperfect solution,
standpoint, by dropping the issue.
cases, asserting yourself
may be to your detriment or even worsen the situation.
An extreme example might be if you were
confronted, alone on the street, and asked for your wallet. It may anger you, violate
conviction, or make you want to assert yourself, but safety is the best
– drop the issue and hand it over! Another example is asserting
yourself when a
boss’ behavior angers you. Depending
upon the boss, dropping the issue (and your anger) may be the best
you want a raise (or want to keep your job).
dropping the issue
isn’t the same as suppressing your anger.
When dropping the issue, you accept that you
can do nothing more than
let go of your anger in the situation.
harbor your anger or slide into passive-aggressive thinking. Drop the
drop your anger.
IT’S YOUR CHOICE
the importance of making conscious choices about how to manage anger in
options are healthy responses or in
options may be
detrimental to your wellbeing or the wellbeing of others who are
you. Being aware of
your options and
understanding them gives you choices in how to respond in anger
emotions happen very
quickly, and we respond to them just as quickly. Making a choice about
express your anger involves slowing down your response enough to make a
thoughtful decision about what to do next.
There is something
to be said in support of
the old adage, “Count to 10 when you’re angry (before you react).”
10 removes the automatic response and slows things down long enough to
good choice about how you want to manage your anger.
very important to remember
that our responses to feelings become automatic when they reoccur many
over. Years of
suppressing your anger, displaying
angry outbursts, or behaving with passive-aggressiveness requires that
you do a
lot of conscious work to form new habits.
Assertiveness training classes or a
professional therapist can help you
develop effective ways of managing your anger.
anger is not
uncontrollable, even though many times it is not controlled. Choose how you want to
express yourself and
how you want others to see you – at your worst or at your best.