How to Reduce People’s Anger

How-to-Reduce-People-Anger

How to Reduce People’s Anger – Any time I see people having angry altercations, I perk up my ears and observe intently. I watch their displays, not in a sadistic or feeling superior kind of way, but fascinated with how it unfolds: “Will it work for them? Are they going to get what they want with this approach”?

I have practically never seen it work, not during my observations in therapy or in personal life. Even on rare occasions where it seems to work in the moment, yielding some win-loss resolution, it never works sustainably. Peace can never be found on a shaky and fake foundation of emotional tyranny. As humorist Kin Hubbard said, “nobody ever forgets where he buried a hatchet.”

Here are some strategies for dealing with difficult people, organized around the main psychological premises driving their anger: fear and need for control.

Disengage and don’t take it personally.
People are energy-conserving creatures. Just as most animals attack out of self-defense, hunger or other biological needs, human anger also is goal-driven. Most people, even most violent individuals, don’t walk around the majority of the day attacking and abusing others. They lash out in spurts.

Behind their violent shield, a threatening individual is feeling threatened — maybe not by you, but by something or someone. Their anger is related to you only in a way in which some action or expressed feeling of yours has triggered some discomforting emotion within them.

Threatening individuals commonly are overwhelmed and scared. Big bullies have deeply hurt and vulnerable cores. They are expending their toxic energy to produce their angry display as a distorted way to pursue some goal related to their personal sense of safety and significance. Even though the content may be channeled at you, the driving force behind it is related to their personality, upbringing, and prior experiences. Most of their accusations are based on subjective opinions and are very loosely, or not at all, related to you personally.

Avoid ego battles and rides to the past.
When it comes to aggression, an unfortunate point of difference between humans and less evolved mammals is the ego. Some people are willing to put their life on the line and injure another person physically or emotionally to protect their ego and restore their injured self-esteem. Inflated egos are most vulnerable to the slightest pokes and scratches, which is a common infliction of defensive and confrontational people.

Remember that ego injuries are always the deeds of the past. This is why the great focus of most angry people, when they are arguing, will be buried in the past. Therefore, at all costs, avoid accompanying them on their voyage there. Drain them by letting them give a monologue about their expired accusations. Avoid discussing with them about who did what, when and why, and how it made them feel, but repeatedly ask how they propose solving this problem now.

Remember also that most angry people have a victim mentality. They perpetually feel the world owes them something and other people must fulfill their preferences or needs. What angry people say is almost never factual but emotional in content, related to their fears, frustrations, and bruised ego. Attempting to talk with them almost always fails, as raging people are narrowly focused, entitled, and prone to listening only to themselves.

Choose calm and sanity.
An angry person is looking for a fight. Through their escalation and unfair accusations, they are asking you to engage. As Eric Hoffer said, “rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength.”

So, what is needed in the presence of a hot-headed person? A cool-headed person. The constructive response is not to indulge them in any action. When they shout, you keep silent or speak softly. When they come close, you increase the distance. When they say a lot, you say nothing or very little. Some people decide to respond, thinking that ignoring a provocation makes them lose and a bully to win. This is contrary to what actually happens. You win by disengaging. You become untouchable and gain control by increasing emotional and physical space.

Imagine this situation: You are on a road and the driver in front of you drives dangerously and erratically, swaying wildly sideways, speeding up and pressing the brakes, honking randomly. Should you catch up, open up your window and attempt a discussion on proper driving? Of course not. You shift lanes and drive away, quietly demonstrating your intelligence and preference for safety. De-escalate the angry person in a similar manner, by exiting the scene emotionally or physically, not participating in their drama.

Remember also that basic defenses of angry, self-justifying people are projection and denial. You tell them that they are scaring you with their shouting, they say you are the one yelling. You tell them their words are hurtful, they tell you that you told them things ten times worse, plus you are the one who made them angry to begin with. So, what are the ways to negotiate with reality distorters? The short answer is “there are none,” and the longer answer is, “There are none, don’t even try.”

Give out an imaginary cupcake.
Cupcakes are sweet , peaceful, calming and smile-inducing. Raging people often are in dire need of an imaginary cupcake. A big part of their anger is driven by their belief or feeling that they never get any or someone stole or damaged their cupcakes. So, generously give them one or even a couple, even when they seem to be undeserving of any sweetness.

Despite the obnoxious behavior, loud shouting, screeching voices, clenching fists, pointing fingers, red faces and all, most angry people have a sad message. Most likely they are trying to tell you that they are feeling hurt, ignored, disrespected, unappreciated and unloved.

Listening and responding to these needs calmly and emphatically can serve as the key to getting more cooperation from emotionally agitated people. Just say “I think I understand what is going on here, but feel free to correct me, my friend” and so on. Then offer some reflective listening, validating their concerns to an extent. Tell them something nice and peaceful. Agree with them in theory. Do not assign any blame or argue. Establish a basic premise for peace by appealing in some way to the dormant, healthy side of their personality by extending to them some sense of grace, validation, and acceptance.

Deal With Emotions That Are Difficult To Get Rid Of

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Deal With Emotions That Are Difficult To Get Rid Of  – Emotions (feelings) are a normal and important part of our lives. Some emotions are positive. Think of happiness, joy, interest, curiosity, excitement, gratitude, love, and contentment. These positive emotions feel good. Negative emotions — like sadness, anger, loneliness, jealousy, self-criticism, fear, or rejection — can be difficult, even painful at times.

That’s especially true when we feel a negative emotion too often, too strongly, or we dwell on it too long.

Negative emotions are impossible to avoid, though. Everyone feels them from time to time. They may be difficult, but we can learn to handle them.

Here are three steps that can help you handle negative emotions.

Step 1: Identify the Emotion
Learning to notice and identify your feelings takes practice. In addition to focusing on your feelings, check in with your body, too. You may feel body sensations with certain emotions — perhaps your face gets hot, for example, or your muscles tense.

Be aware of how you feel. When you have a negative emotion, such as anger, try to name what you’re feeling.
For example:

  • That guy Ian in my study group makes me so mad!
  • I get so jealous when I see that girl/guy with my ex.
  • I feel afraid whenever I have to walk past those bullies.

Don’t hide how you feel from yourself. You might not want to broadcast your feelings to other people (like your ex, for example, or that guy in your study group who is making you mad). But don’t suppress your feelings entirely. Simply naming the feeling is a lot better than pretending not to have it — or exploding without thinking.

Know why you feel the way you do. Figure out what happened that got you feeling the way you do.

For example:

Whenever we do group projects, Ian finds a way to take all the credit for other people’s work.
Our teacher thinks Ian’s the star of the team, even though he never has his own ideas.
When I see my ex flirting with other people, it reminds me that I still have feelings for him/her.
Even though the bullies don’t pick on me, I see what they do to other people and it worries me.

Don’t blame. Being able to recognize and explain your emotions isn’t the same as blaming someone or something for the way you feel. Your ex probably isn’t seeing someone new as a way to get back at you, and the guy who takes credit for your work might not even realize what he is doing. How you feel when these things happen comes from inside you. Your feelings are there for a reason — to help you make sense of what’s going on.

Accept all your emotions as natural and understandable. Don’t judge yourself for the emotions you feel. It’s normal to feel them. Acknowledging how you feel can help you move on, so don’t be hard on yourself.

Step 2: Take Action
Once you’ve processed what you’re feeling, you can decide if you need to express your emotion. Sometimes it’s enough to just realize how you feel, but other times you’ll want to do something to feel better.

Think about the best way to express your emotion. Is this a time when you need to gently confront someone else? Talk over what you’re feeling with a friend? Or work off the feeling by going for a run?

For example:

It won’t solve anything to show my anger to Ian — it may even make him feel more superior! But my feelings tell me that I need to avoid getting in another situation where he takes control over a project.
I’ll hold my head high around my ex, then I’ll put on some sad songs and have a good cry in my room to help me release my feelings and eventually let go.
My fear of being around those bullies is a sign that they have gone too far. Perhaps I should talk about what’s going on with a school counselor.

Learn how to change your mood. At a certain point, you’ll want to shift from a negative mood into a positive one. Otherwise your thinking may get stuck on how bad things are, and that can drag you down into feeling worse. Try doing things that make you happy, even if you don’t feel like it at the time. For example, you might not be in the mood to go out after a breakup, but going for a walk or watching a funny movie with friends can lift you out of that negative space.

Build positive emotions. Positive feelings create a sense of happiness and well being. Make it a habit to notice and focus on what’s good in your life — even the little things, like the praise your dad gave you for fixing his bookshelves or how great the salad you made for lunch tastes. Noticing the good things even when you’re feeling bad can help you shift the emotional balance from negative to positive.

Seek support. Talk about how you’re feeling with a parent, trusted adult, or a friend. They can help you explore your emotions and give you a fresh way of thinking about things. And nothing helps you feel more understood and cared for than the support of someone who loves you for who you are.

Exercise. Physical activity helps the brain produce natural chemicals that promote a positive mood. Exercise also can release stress buildup and help you from staying stuck on negative feelings.

Step 3: Get Help With Difficult Emotions

Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can’t shake a tough emotion. If you find yourself stuck in feelings of sadness or worry for more than a couple of weeks, or if you feel so upset that you think you might hurt yourself or other people, you may need extra help.

Talk to a school counselor, parent, trusted adult, or therapist. Counselors and therapists are trained to teach people how to break out of negative emotions. They can provide lots of tips and ideas that will help you feel better.

Several Things Will Happen When You Save Your Emotions

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The world has been telling you to bottle up your emotions your entire life. There’s no crying in baseball after all, right? But even though suppressing your emotions may spare others the discomfort of having to deal with your feelings, keeping it all on the inside can cause a hell of a lot of harm. Men, in particular, run the risk of exploding in rages as they finally unleash their pent-up emotions, and suffering long-term physical and psychological damage for failing to manage stress in a healthy way.

Here’s what happens when you suppress your emotions:

Your Stomach Twists Itself Into Knots

The chronic stress that comes from unresolved emotions can trigger your sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response, according to research from Harvard Medical School. This slows digestion, resulting in gas, bloating, constipation, vomiting, and, occasionally, ulcers.

Your Neck And Shoulders Scream From Stress

Head and neck pain are one of the most common symptoms of bottled up emotions, largely because the stress of holding back causes muscles in the jaw to tighten, Lawrence explains. Although there’s some debate among experts about how knots, or myofascial trigger points, are formed (or if they even exist), they are thought to be formed in part by overuse of muscles—perhaps from clenching your jaw.

You May Experience Headaches And Migraines

The corrugator muscles in the forehead and brow tighten in response to emotional stress, producing a frown, and a tight corrugator muscle is often a good indicator of stress throughout the entire body, psychologist Daniel Goleman told the New York Times. And when these muscles tighten, you may experience reduced blood flow to the brain — the perfect recipe for a splitting headache.

Stress Might Mess With Your Heart

When more complicated feelings of sadness and shame are buried they can explode in the form of one of the most primitive and destructive emotions of all — anger. This may put you at an increased risk of heart disease. This rage causes a rush of stress hormones that increase energy. But this burst of energy causes blood vessels to tighten as blood pressure increases, which can wear on artery walls over time, according to Web MD. In one study, the risk of heart attack was 8.5 times higher up to two hours after an extreme episode of anger and 9.5 times higher two hours after extreme anxiety. People prone to anger are nearly three times more likely to have heart attacks than those with lower anger, other data shows.

The problem with anger is that it’s a powerful emotion that tends to take over when other emotions are held in, Lawrence says. When it gets to that extreme people often mistakenly release it in aggressive ways that make them angrier and put their hearts in greater jeopardy.

“There are many ways to express our emotions that will make things worse such as yelling, throwing things, becoming physical, slamming doors,” she says. “Learning how to express emotions in a healthy manner is key.”

Control My Anger And Get Rid Of Anger

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Control My Anger And Get Rid Of Anger – Anger tells us we need to take action to put something right. It gives us strength and energy, and motivates us to act. But for some people, anger can get out of control and cause problems with relationships, work and even the law.

Long-term, unresolved anger is linked to health conditions such as high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and heart disease. It’s important to deal with anger in a healthy way that doesn’t harm you or anyone else.

How common are anger problems?

In a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 32% of people said they had a close friend or family member who had trouble controlling their anger and 28% of people said they worry about how angry they sometimes feel.

Even though anger problems can have such a harmful effect on our family, work and social lives, most people who have them don’t ask for help. In the same survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 58% of people said they didn’t know where to seek help.

Sometimes people don’t recognise that their anger is a problem for themselves and for other people. They may see other people or things as the problem instead.

What makes people angry?

Anger is different for everyone. Things that make some people angry don’t bother others at all. But there are things that make lots of us feel angry, including:

  • being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to do anything about it
  • feeling threatened or attacked
  • other people not respecting your authority, feelings or property
  • being interrupted when you are trying to achieve a goal
  • stressful day to day things such as paying bills or rush hour traffic

Anger can also be a part of grief. If you are struggling to come to terms with losing someone close to you, the charity Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland can help.

How we react to anger

How you react to feeling angry depends on lots of things, including:

  • the situation you are in at the moment – if you’re dealing with lots of problems or stress in your life, you may find it harder to control your anger
  • your family history – you may have learned unhelpful ways of dealing with anger from the adults around you when you were a child
  • events in your past – if you have experienced events that made you angry but felt you couldn’t express your anger, you may still be coping with those angry feelings

Some people express anger verbally, by shouting. Sometimes this can be aggressive, involving swearing, threats or name-calling.

Some people react violently and lash out physically, hitting other people, pushing them or breaking things. This can be particularly damaging and frightening for other people.

Some of us show anger is passive ways, for example, by ignoring people or sulking.

Other people may hide their anger or turn it against themselves. They can be very angry on the inside but feel unable to let it out.

People who tend to turn anger inwards may harm themselves as a way of coping with the intense feelings they have. Young people are most likely to self harm.

The difference between anger and aggression

Some people see anger and aggression as the same thing. In fact, anger is an emotion that we feel while aggression is how some of us behave when we feel angry.

Not everyone who feels angry is aggressive, and not everyone who acts aggressively is angry. Sometimes people behave aggressively because they feel afraid or threatened.

Read more about anxiety, fear and controlling your anger.

Alcohol and some illegal drugs can make people act more aggressively.

If uncontrolled anger leads to domestic violence, or threatening behaviour within your home, talk to your GP or contact a domestic violence organisation such as Refuge, Scottish Women’s Aid, Abused Men in Scotland, The LGBT Domestic Abuse Project or Survivor Scotland.

How can I handle my anger better?
For more advice on dealing with anger, you can:

read about how to control your anger
download the Mental Health Foundation’s Cool Down: anger and how to deal with it leaflet
visit Mind’s website for tips from the charity on dealing with anger in a healthy way

What Our Anger Hides

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What Our Anger Hides – If Anger Helps You Feel in Control, No Wonder You Can’t Control Your Anger! The heading above (which, half-seriously, I’ve contemplated submitting to various quotation dictionaries) aptly sums up my professional experience working with this so very problematic emotion.

In the past 20+ years I’ve taught well over a hundred classes and workshops on anger management and delivered many professional presentations on the subject.

When I first became interested in exploring this typically destructive emotion, the clinical literature devoted to it was curiously scant. But times have changed dramatically since then. With the increasing occurrence of such phenomena as road rage, drive-by shootings, high school and post office killing sprees—in short, with the prevalence of violence in America today—the attention given to acting-out, out-of-control anger may never have been greater. Probably no fewer than 50 books on anger geared toward the layperson have emerged in the past 15 years or so. And in 1995 a much overdue professionally-oriented book, entitled Anger Disorders: Definition, Diagnosis, and Treatment (ed. Howard Kassinove), finally proposed a comprehensive set of diagnostic categories to deal with anger as itself a clinical syndrome—rather than an emotion linked to other mental disorders.

As a psychologist, however, what I’ve learned about anger has come as much from my efforts as a therapist to better understand its dynamics in my clients as from examining the various writings focused on it. In what follows, I’ll try to highlight some of the insights I’ve gained from trying to make coherent sense of the self-defeating behaviors I’ve seen in scores of challenging cases.

Anger as Freud’s Forgotten Defense

If to Freud all defense mechanisms exist to protect the personality from an intolerable attack of anxiety when the ego is under siege, it’s strange that he never considered anger as serving this pivotal psychological function. But to regard an essential human emotion as mainly designed to safeguard an individual from another, much more distressful emotion, is hardly a line of reasoning Freud might have been expected to follow. Still, in my own clinical experience, anger is almost never a primary emotion in that even when anger seems like an instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction to provocation, there’s always some other feeling that gave rise to it. And this particular feeling is precisely what the anger has contrived to camouflage or control.

The simplest example of my admittedly unorthodox relegation of anger to secondary, “reactive” status might relate to the universally frustrating situation of being cut off while driving. Virtually everyone I’ve ever asked has responded emphatically that their immediate reaction to such an event is anger. But when I further inquire as to what being “cut off” typically involves—namely, the very real threat of an accident—they realize that in the fraction of a second before acting successfully to avert a collision, their emotion must certainly have been one of apprehension or fear. Cycling from the heightened arousal level of fear to equally intense anger happens with such breathtaking speed that almost no one can recollect that flash of trepidation preceding the anger—or even rage. (And rage itself seems mostly a more potent, or desperate, form of anger created to fend off an even more serious threat to one’s ego or sense of personal safety—whether that threat is mental, emotional, or physical.)

The internal dynamic depicted in this illustration is the same with a whole host of emotions that, as soon as they begin to surface, can be effectively masked, squelched, or preempted through the emergence of secondary anger. And just as other defenses hinder healthy psychological coping (by hiding the underlying reality of anxiety that needs to be dealt with), so does anger belie the fragility of the ego that must depend on it for shielding and support.

Anger as a Neurochemical Way of Self-Soothing

With very few exceptions, the angry people I’ve worked with have suffered from significant self-image deficits. Many have been quite successful in their careers but far less so in their relationships, where anger triggers abound. Regardless of their professional achievements, however, almost all of them have been afflicted by an “I’m not good enough” program (and some with an additional “I’m a fraud” script as well).

In Steven Stosny’s excellent book Treating Attachment Abuse (1995), which delineates a comprehensive model for therapeutically dealing with both physical and emotional violence in close relationships, the author offers a chemical explanation of how anger—in the moment at least—can act as a sort of “psychological salve.” One of the hormones the brain secretes during anger arousal is norepinephrine, experienced by the organism as an analgesic.

In effect, whether individuals are confronted with physical or psychological pain (or the threat of such pain), the internal activation of the anger response will precipitate the release of a chemical expressly designed to numb it. This is why I’ve long viewed anger as a double-edged sword: terribly detrimental to relationships but nonetheless crucial in enabling many vulnerable people to emotionally survive in them.

As Stosny describes it, symptomatic anger covers up the pain of our “core hurts.” These key distressful emotions include feeling ignored, unimportant, accused, guilty, untrustworthy, devalued, rejected, powerless, unlovable—or even unfit for human contact (cf. John Bradshaw’s “shame-based identity”). It is, therefore, only reasonable that if the self-elicitation of anger can successfully fend off such hurtful or unbearable feelings, one might eventually become dependent on the emotion to the point of addiction. The psychological concept of self-soothing is unquestionably relevant here. For we all need to find ways of comforting or reassuring ourselves when our self-esteem is endangered—whether through criticism, dismissal, or any other outside stimuli that feels invalidating and so revives old self-doubts. If we’re healthy psychologically, then we have the internal resources to self-validate: to admit to ourselves possible inadequacies without experiencing intolerable guilt or shame. But if, deep down, we still feel bad about who we are, our deficient sense of self simply won’t be able to withstand such external threats.

The remedy in this case? Paradoxical as it may seem, anger—even though it destroys any true peace of mind or sense of well-being—can yet help us to soothe ourselves. For our anger potently serves to invalidate whoever or whatever led us to feel invalidated. In adamantly disconfirming the legitimacy of the menacing external force, we self-righteously proclaim the superiority of our own viewpoint. Thus is our critical need for emotional/mental security restored.

Although we’re hardly left in a state of inner harmony—and may actually be experiencing substantial turmoil—our defensive anger still permits us to achieve a certain comfort. After all, we’re not wrong, or bad, or selfish, or inconsiderate; it’s our spouse, our child, our neighbor, our coworker. Granted, this desperate reaction may be self-soothing of the last resort, but it’s a kind of self-soothing nonetheless. In short, if we can’t comfort ourselves through self-validation, we’ll need to do so through invalidating others. And people who suffer from chronic depression typically have not learned how to avail themselves of this potent, though ultimately self-defeating, defense.

Anger as the Low Road to Self-Empowerment

If anger can help us self-medicate against all sorts of psychological pain, it is equally effective in helping ward off exasperating feelings of powerlessness. And here again, Stosny’s hormonal account of anger arousal is suggestive. Not only does our brain secrete the analgesic-like norepinephrine when we’re provoked, but it also produces the amphetamine-like hormone epinephrine, which enables us to experience a surge of energy throughout our body—the adrenaline rush that many of my clients have reported feeling during a sudden attack of anger.

How ironically “adaptive”!—and seductive as well. A person or situation somehow makes us feel defeated or powerless, and reactively transforming these helpless feelings into anger instantly provides us with a heightened sense of control. As the title of this article suggests, if anger can make us feel powerful, if it’s the “magic elixir” that seemingly is able to address our deepest doubts about ourselves, no wonder it can end up controlling us. In a sense, it’s every bit as much a drug as alcohol or cocaine. And it’s my strong belief that many, many millions of people worldwide are addicted to anger because of its illusorily empowering aspects.

Although almost nobody appreciates their proclivities toward anger as coping strategies calculated to disarm, denigrate, or intimidate “the enemy,” I’m convinced that anger is employed universally to bolster a diminished sense of personal power. Contrary to feeling weak or out of control, the experience of anger can foster a sense of invulnerability—even invincibility. The movie Raging Bull, dramatizing the life of prizefighter Jake LaMotta, is possibly one of the most compelling examples of how anger can physically fortify an individual, powerfully compensating for various personal deficits (particularly in the realm of relationships).

Anger as a “Safe” Way to Attach in Intimate (Read, Vulnerable) Relationships

To conclude this piece, I’d like briefly to explore–also paradoxically–anger’s function in ensuring safety in close relationships by regulating distance. It’s only logical that if a child’s caretakers proved distressingly unresponsive, unreliable or untrustworthy, the “adult child” is likely to be gun-shy, or defensively cultivate a certain emotional detachment, in intimate relationships. While such individuals may desperately yearn for the secure attachment bond that eluded them in childhood, they will be wary of openly expressing such needs and desires. Doing so to a partner who might respond negatively to them could reopen ancient wounds.

The primal fear of these individuals is that if they let their guard down and made themselves truly vulnerable—freely revealing what their heart still aches for—a disapproving or rejecting response from their mate might lead them, almost literally, to bleed to death. And so (however ultimately self-defeating) the protective role of anger in non-disclosure and distancing can feel not simply necessary but absolutely essential.

Repeatedly, I’ve heard spouses complain that when their relationship seemed to be going better than usual, their partner—apparently beginning to experience some trepidation about “getting too close for comfort”—would, with little or no provocation, pick a fight. Psychologically wounded from parental insensitivity, disregard, or worse, their profound distrust of intimate connections would compel them to disengage through self-protective anger.

Contrariwise, anger also has the effect of pushing the other person away, of getting them to withdraw. In my anger classes, I’ve many times suggested that if you want a lot of space in your life, just be a very angry person . . . and you’ll get all the space you could ever desire. After all, if there’s really been no precedent in our life for relational intimacy, getting really close to another—or having another get really close to us—can begin to feel hazardous to our emotional equilibrium, thereby setting off a self-insulating reaction of anger.