Trying to work, and the system is down… your phone is linked up to your emails, and it hasn’t stopped beeping, and there is nothing that you can do about it; suddenly people start sending you work on your phone because they have woken up late, the deadlines are piling up, your boss walks in and starts demanding things… and everything begins to build.. Yes you know what’s building – Anger.

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We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage. This is a completely normal and usually healthy human emotion, until it gets out of control and turns destructive, leading to problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.

Do you sometimes feel as though you’re at the mercy of this unpredictable and powerful emotion?

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Like other emotions, anger is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a cancelled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events that happened in the past can also trigger angry feelings at the most unpredictable of times.

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Thanks to human evolution, our instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviours, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival, but too much can be detrimental.

In everyday life, we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far our anger should take us.

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People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive—not aggressive—manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, bottle it up, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The danger in this type of response is that if it isn’t allowed outward expression, your anger can turn inward—on yourself.

Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behaviour (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to constructively express their anger. Not surprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.

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You can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behaviour, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside. (Take a deep breath and count to ten ringing any bells?)

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If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counselling to learn how to handle it better.

You have help dealing with anger or any other suppressed emotion right here at LifelineSA. Our dedicated team is here to help you navigate your way through life, so that you can build yourself back up, we give you the coping tools to help you through your issues.

Contact us on any of the following:

Phone: (+27 11) 715-2000

Mobile: 082-231-0805

Fax: (+27 11) 715-2001

Email: safetalking@lifeline.org.za