How do you deal with anger?

How do you deal with anger?

Do you really want to continue feeling this way? Why not handle your anger now? The good news is that dealing with your anger is a skill that you can learn!

Understanding your anger

Anger is a powerful emotion and serves as a mask for other feelings – feelings that we would rather not acknowledge or examine. Anger is often a secondary emotion. This means that it comes after we have felt an initial emotion. These initial emotions are often called primary emotions and some of these include shame, embarrassment, hurt, disappointment and feeling threatened.

It is suggested that anger is used as a mask for other feelings because these primary emotions are more difficult to convey. Therefore we cover them up with a display of anger (Pratt, 2014).

Relationship breakdown

An example of this could be what often happens during the breakdown of a relationship. One of the parties initially feels shocked that the other person is breaking up with them. However, to mask this feeling of shock, the individual soon turns to anger in order to cover up how they are really feeling. This is classic behaviour that is seen in many relationship breakdowns.

Learned behaviour

Anger can sometimes be a learned behaviour, one that we have developed in order to gain control and power over others. This could have developed in childhood, by learning angry behaviours from people that we looked up to.

A child growing up in a hostile household where one parent is more dominant and angry towards the other parent is more likely to recreate these behaviours later on in life, because from their perspective it is completely normal to them (Mills, 2018).

Pushing boundaries

If the people around us have given in to our angry behaviour in the past, we might use anger as a way to ensure that our needs and demands are met as soon as possible. This is because our angry behaviour has not yet been challenged enough by others and we have pushed boundaries too far. In quite frank terms, we have gotten away with too much and not been stood up to enough.

How can you deal with your anger?

If you are here to gain more insight into your anger and ways in which to change, then here are some tips to help you make a positive change:

1. Have a think

What really makes you angry? Examine whether your anger masks other feelings and if so, are you able to convey these feelings first?

2. Think before you speak

Try not to say anything in the heat of the moment – this can cause a lot of emotional damage. Instead, collect your thoughts and think about what you have to say about the situation.

3. What incidents or situations trigger your anger?

Identify precisely what you are feeling just before anger kicks in. In other words, what are your anger signals?

4. Time-out!

Count to ten before you say or do anything. Find other ways to express your feelings in that moment.

5. Plan in advance

Find out what would calm you down in such a situation and try to make a plan in advance.

6. Practise

Practice things that are known to calm you down. This could include exercise, deep breathing exercises or imagining yourself somewhere where you were once relaxed. And remember, it might take a lot of practice in order to master this.

7. Choose “I” over “you”

Instead of saying: “You are so unhelpful”, you could say: “I feel sad that you didn’t help me on this occasion”. This avoids placing blame and can diffuse an angry situation (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

8. Let it go!

Allowing anger and negative feelings to control you can cause bitterness and a sense of injustice. If you are able to forgive, then you are not letting the anger win and therefore not letting it control you.

You can change the patterns of your angry behaviour!

Observe, evaluate and reflect on these patterns to determine the underlying feelings and then work out a plan to change your reactions. Practising these things won’t be easy and there will probably be obstacles along the way, but with a bit of patience and persistence, you will get there. Sometimes, it is not easy to do this without support and in this case, counselling can be effective.

Vivian  Chiona


Vivian Chiona

Vivian Chiona is the founder and director of Expat Nest (, which provides emotional support to expats and their families through online counseling services. A bicultural, multilingual expat with family...

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