7 Steps to Help Resolve Anger

Do you have difficulty controlling your temper? Do you express anger in unhealthy ways that could harm yourself and/or others? Do you live with someone who has difficulty controlling their anger? Have you ever been so angry that you wanted to knock somebody’s block off?

Most of us have been there. Studies indicate that most people experience some form of anger at least 8 to 10 times a day. It’s probably safe to say that the majority of people don’t like the feelings, thoughts and emotions that accompany anger. In fact, most people would describe anger as a negative emotion. The truth is, anger is energy, and energy is neutral. The same energy that becomes anger also leads a person’s desire to love. So, what we DO with that energy is very significant to you as a person and those who are in a relationship with you.

What is anger?

Anger is a complex emotion. One of the key things to know about it is that whenever you are experiencing anger, it is always a secondary emotion. There is something else going on underneath the anger that is causing you to want to lash out. Recognizing this is often an “aha!” moment for people.

“Anger is one of the most frequently mentioned emotions, yet most people don’t understand it is one of the most powerful emotions,” says Dr. Gary J. Oliver, clinical psychologist and co-author of Mad About Us. “Most emotions drain us. Worry, fear, depression and grief drain us, but anger is an energizing emotion. We feel anger and have this energy so what do we do with it? Most people react rather than investing in responding. They attack the person instead of going after the problem.”

When you are experiencing anger, your heart rate and blood pressure go up and your levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline increase. 

Angry woman

It is important to note that the emotion of anger in and of itself is not a problem. It’s when people allow themselves to be controlled by this powerful emotion that it can become unhealthy and cause harm to others. Anger often disguises itself as something else like criticism, silence, intimidation, depression, or sarcasm.

couple arguing

“One of the most valuable attributes of anger is it can serve as an alarm or warning sign that we need to look at some aspect of our lives or relationship,” says Dr. Oliver. “When people learn to recognize the disguises of anger in themselves and others, they become better equipped to deal with the cause of the anger and avoid the emotional explosions that rock a relationship or friendship.”

Healthy anger provides the power to protect those you love and can lead people to more intimate relationships.

Disagreements usually involve the emotions of fear and/or hurt and/or frustration. These are the primary emotions that lead to the secondary emotion of anger. Anger sets people up for conflict, and most people don’t know how to do conflict well.

Resolving Anger

If you are seeking ways to more effectively manage anger in your life, here are seven steps to help you.

Step 1: Define the issue. Listen and seek understanding. Whose issue is it? Is there more than one issue involved? What is my spouse’s/friend’s core concern? What is my core concern?

Step 2: Ask, “How important is it?” Use a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being low and 10 being high.

Step 3: Ask, “What is MY contribution to the problem?”

Step 4: Ask, “Do I need to apologize or ask for forgiveness?”

Step 5: Choose radical responsibility. Don’t wait for your friend/spouse to reach out and seek understanding—smart people are always willing to take the first step.

Step 6: Choose what you can do differently.

Step 7: Do it and review it.

Picture of Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

President and CEO, First Things First

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