Understanding Anger

Understanding anger is the first step to taking control of ones anger. Many of us are chronically irritated. How intense is the irritation and what degree of control do we have over it? How close are we to losing control?

Consider personality styles.  Direct and Influential people have a natural inclination toward anger. This anger is outward and cannot be mistaken. Direct people become aggressive. Influential people become explosive.

Steady and Cautious people have an issue with fear. Their fear can cause them to be angry, but it is smoldering and non-obvious. They get even or complain or sabotage. They may not know they are angry. When someone pushes their buttons, they react.

What upsets one person may not upset another. Do you get irritated when someone gets in your way or fails to give you credit for your work? Does it annoy you when someone criticizes your looks or opinions or your work? Do you feel that they are taking advantages of you, not listening to you?

Do you get angry with yourself when you make a foolish mistake or behave poorly in front of others? What about when you do, or are asked to do something against your morals or better judgment?

Some people easily overlook annoyances. Others mentally rehash them. Your button may be someone who ignores you or is condescending. It may be circumstances that you cannot control. The more our expectations are thwarted, the angrier we become.

The root of most anger is fear. We fear an unknown terrorist or assailant, and we are angry because we feel helpless to stop it. It’s like hitting fog, a vague unknown with no clear solution. Our fear may be much more basic such as a fear of failure (I can’t succeed. I’m a failure) or a fear of success (if I succeed once, I’ll be expected to succeed every time. People expect perfection from me). It might be a fear that we are thought of as stupid. Our defense against fear shows itself as anger.

Anger is a drive, an urge inside, striving for expression. Ignoring it doesn’t do anything to reduce the anger and may increase it. We can control anger, but it seeks expression. It is important to deal with the immediate anger quickly, so that it doesn’t build.

 “Anger makes dull men witty, but it keeps them poor.” ― Elizabeth I, in Francis Bacon, Apophthegms, 1625


  1. We can find a scapegoat and take our anger out on him. Preferably, someone smaller than we are.
  2. We can vent and explode, maybe throw things or hit someone.
  3. We can attack when other feelings aren’t acceptable such as feeling hurt or disappointed or guilty or when we don’t get our way. Anger can be a form of manipulation.


1. Watch less anger and aggression on TV. Angry people, who get away with anger, give you permission to allow your anger to grow. If you are a person who reacts strongly to injustice, limit how much you watch the news. Nightly news encourages a feeling of helpless and fear.

2. Better understand other people and realize that most of what they say and do has nothing to do with you. Stop taking things personally. Some people explode and shout at anyone available.

Example: You swerve into another lane and cut in front of a driver because the car in front of you suddenly comes to a stop and you need some place to go. The driver behind you is visibly (finger gestures) angry. You were avoiding an accident and he didn’t understand or care. It could have been anybody, doing just about anything and he would have been angry.

3. Change your expectations. You still want what you want when you want it, but by lowering your expectations you develop more tolerance for the unavoidable.

Example: If you know construction is going on in the city, the more you keep track of street closings, the easier it is to plan for delays and not be annoyed, frustrated or late.

4. If it is a solvable problem, solve it. If it is an unsolvable problem, recognize that, let go of it and move on.

Example: Your mother-in-law is critical of you. Solve this problem by making her your friend and not criticizing her. If this is an unsolvable problem, ignore any of her comments and be around her as seldom as possible.

5. The more you appreciate and accept yourself; the more you can accept another’s shortcomings.

Example: “You can’t keep your bankbook up to date. I can’t keep the inside of the car clean. We all have our little quirks.”

6. Be tolerant of others because you are more competent or capable than they are.

Example: You might think, “You were never taught courtesy. I understand.” (This is an arrogant thought, but helps diminish anger.)

7. Discover your real anger. Is it hiding something you can’t or won’t deal with? 

Example: You think your job is in jeopardy, but can’t ask outright. You want to be prepared for the worst, but don’t want to worry about it. Look for clues and keep your résumé up-to-date. Begin looking at job possibilities and options. Consider returning to school to improve your options. Take control of your situation. Act proactively instead of reactively.

8. Avoid frustrating situations by noting people or situations that angered you in the past.

Example: You don’t like the way a store treats you. Don’t go there. Find another store that treats you better. If there are things you prefer about the store, decide what is more important to you and accept that no situation is perfect.


  1. Stop talking about it over and over again. The more you rehash the situation, the stronger the anger gets. Get your mind on something else, especially something constructive or creative.
  2.  Anger in a relationship means something is wrong. Find out and deal with the real issue.

Example: “I feel like I’m fighting my spouse for control of the marriage, but don’t know how to say what’s on my mind. I’m not even sure what I would say, so I nit pick and criticize.”

When you fight life, life wins. Do not fight battles you cannot win.


  • Are you naturally angry and frustrated at nothing in particular?
  • Do you have a lot of fears that, in turn keep you angry?
  • Do you want to change your angry attitude?

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