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Dealing with Anger

The thing about anger

We often tend to think about anger as a negative emotion that is ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, but in fact anger can be both positive and helpful. It can energize us and motivate us to overcome obstacles, solve problems and achieve goals that we otherwise may not have accomplished. It is not the angry feelings themselves that cause us difficulties so much as how we respond to those emotions. If we fail to deal with our anger constructively and effectively, it can propel us into inappropriate and troublesome behaviours.  By learning more appropriate and respectful ways to respond to anger helps to avoid potential dangers such as extreme stress, high levels of tension and anxiety, health problems, and increased accidents.

Can I learn to manage my anger?

Anger is usually a cover-up reaction for other feelings such as hurt, disappointment, frustration, fear, jealously, embarrassment or insecurity.  It is important to stop and consider what emotions lie beneath your anger and find ways of expressing these feelings in a healthy way.

When we get angry a subtle chain of events occurs.  Recognizing and altering this chain of events can help us manage anger.

So what can I do?

Everyone experiences anger. Learning to express negative feelings in a constructive and positive manner is important for positive physical and mental health. Here are some steps you can take to express and handle your anger effectively and appropriately.

  • Learn to recognize your anger. Admit to yourself that you are angry. Know how you are when you get angry.  Begin to notice the early warning signs.  These may be thoughts, physical signs,
  • Calm down. The old adage of "take a deep breath and count to ten" really works. We do not think as clearly and carefully while in a state of high emotional arousal.  Tell yourself that you can deal with the situation more effectively if you are calm and that you won’t take action until then.
  • Reappraise the situation. Give yourself a chance to see if the situation that caused your anger is as bad as you first thought.  You may like to talk with a neutral person to help you determine if you are interpreting the situation accurately
  • Do not avoid the issue. Don't allow anger to build up and interfere with later situations or circumstances. After you have reappraised the situation decide to take some respectful appropriate action or to let it go.
  • Examine your options. Identify the different ways you might respond to the situation and the potential outcomes that might result, and determine the response that will result in the most positive outcomes for you and others in the long run.
  • Respond assertively rather than aggressively. Express yourself firmly without making insulting remarks or trying to put someone on the defensive. Work to resolve the problem rather than to win.
  • Learn to fight fairly. If someone has done or said something to make you angry, tell them that it has and that you want to discuss it. State specifically what the person has said or done, why it has made you angry and, what you expect to rectify the situation. Ask the person if he or she understands why you are angry and to state his or her understanding of the situation. Ask the person to work with you toward a resolution of the problem.
  • Take care not to displace your anger. Because the energy of anger wants to be released, there is a tendency to displace anger onto people who are not the source of your anger. This will only make things worse. If you are angry at a business, agency, office or department, ask to talk with someone in charge to express your anger. Avoid displacing your anger onto an unsuspecting clerk.
  • Use humour, physical exercise or other enjoyable activities to release pent-up anger. Sometimes you experience minor irritations or problems that cannot be resolved, or the timing is not right to confront the source of your anger. Finding constructive ways to release your tension can help you to move on or to deal more effectively with the source of your anger when the time is right.

What should I do if someone gets angry with me?

  • Listen to them, trying not to interrupt until they have finished talking.
  • Stay aware of what is reasonable and what is not true.  Don’t let them bully you with their anger.
  • Once they have had their say, use “I” statements to say how you feel.
  • If they won’t let you have a say, remind them that you gave them a chance to talk.
  • Talk about ways to resolve the problem together.

What if the person becomes verbally or physically aggressive?

Some people show their anger by threatening or hurting others.  This is violent behaviour and is not acceptable.  In fact, it is a crime.  People who use anger to get their own way are bullies.  Nobody should have to resort to violence to express anger.

Where to from here?

If you would like to make an appointment to see a counsellor to learn more about this topic please contact the counselling service on your campus.  Distance students can contact any one of the campuses.

Please tell the receptionist if you need an urgent appointment.

Albany: Health and Counselling Centre Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm. Telephone (09) 213 6700.

Manawatu: Student Counselling Service, Turitea Campus, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 5.00 pm (8.30 - 4.30 during semester breaks). Telephone (06) 350-5533.

Wellington: Student Counselling Service, The Student Services Trust @ Wellington, Monday to Friday 8.30 am - 4.30 pm. Telephone (04) 801-2542.

Massey Contact Centre Mon - Fri 8:30am to 5:00pm 0800 MASSEY (+64 6 350 5701) TXT 5222 Web chat Staff Alumni News Māori @ Massey