Myths and facts about anger

Myth: I shouldn’t 'hold in' my anger. It’s healthy to vent and let it out.

Fact: While it’s true that suppressing and ignoring anger is unhealthy, venting is no better. Anger is not something you have to 'let out' in an aggressive way in order to avoid blowing up. In fact, outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and reinforce your anger problem.

Myth: Anger, aggression, and intimidation help me earn respect and get what I want.

Fact: Respect doesn’t come from bullying others. People may be afraid of you, but they won’t respect you if you can’t control yourself or handle opposing viewpoints. Others will be more willing to listen to you and accommodate your needs if you communicate in a respectful way.

Myth: I can’t help myself. Anger isn’t something you can control.

Fact: You can’t always control the situation you’re in or how it makes you feel, but you can control how you express your anger. And you can express your anger without being verbally or physically abusive. Even if someone is pushing your buttons, you always have a choice about how to respond.

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Be aware of your anger warning signs and triggers

While you might feel that you just explode into anger without warning, in fact, there are physical warning signs in your body. Anger is a normal physical response. It fuels the 'fight or flight' system of the body, and the angrier you get, the more your body goes into overdrive. Becoming aware of your own personal signs that your temper is starting to boil allows you to take steps to manage your anger before it gets out of control.

Pay attention to the way anger feels in your body

  • Knots in your stomach
  • Clenching your hands or jaw
  • Feeling clammy or flushed
  • Breathing faster
  • Headaches
  • Pacing or needing to walk around
  • 'Seeing red'
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Pounding heart
  • Tensing your shoulders

Identify the negative thought patterns that trigger your temper

You may think that external things (such as the insensitive actions of other people) or frustrating situations are what cause your anger. But anger problems have less to do with what happens to you than how you interpret and think about what happened. Common negative thinking patterns that trigger and fuel anger include:

Avoid people, places, and situations that bring out your worst

Stressful events don’t excuse anger, but understanding how these events affect you can help you take control of your environment and avoid unnecessary aggravation. Look at your regular routine and try to identify activities, times of day, people, places, or situations that trigger irritable or angry feelings. Maybe you get into a fight every time you go out for drinks with a certain group of friends. Or maybe the traffic on your daily commute drives you crazy. Then think about ways to avoid these triggers or view the situation differently so it doesn’t make your blood boil.