Everyone has experienced anger and knows what it feels like. You’re irritable, grouchy, and it doesn’t take much to make you snap at those around you. But most of the time, you don’t know where it comes from.
Anger is often a secondary emotion. A defense mechanism to hide something that makes us feel vulnerable such as sadness, fear, or loneliness. What makes it more difficult to deal with is the fact that society discourages conflict. We’re expected to be nice and polite at all times, to have a positive attitude, and say yes when we really want to say no. So we try to repress it, which only makes it worse.
Anger is a normal and useful emotion. It shows us when something is wrong and pushes us to make changes in our lives. We try to fight it, but the best way to keep it from taking over our lives is to listen to what it’s trying to tell us. Then we’ll know why we’re angry and what we can do to feel better.
Anger from Feeling Powerless
Feeling powerless often leads to anger. The vulnerability, helplessness, and loss of control are hard to cope with, so we use anger as a sort of defense mechanism. We get the sense that our rage is helping us reassert control, which can be very empowering.
When you feel trapped in a difficult situation such as an abusive relationship, demanding job, or serious health problem, you can easily become overwhelmed, and this makes you more prone to anger outbursts.
All your negative feelings are bottled up, and you need to vent. The person or thing on the receiving line might have nothing to do with the cause, but if they annoyed you in some way, it was enough to push you over the edge.
If you find yourself over-reacting to situations, ask yourself if there’s something in your life that makes you feel powerless.
Anxiety and anger might seem like two separate issues, but they are often closely linked. People with high levels of anxiety will become overwhelmed and have strong emotional reactions. Faced with challenging circumstances, they may express their frustration and fear though anger outbursts.
Managing your anxiety can be very taxing, so they constantly feel on the verge of exhaustion. They put so much effort into hiding their emotional state that when it gets too much, it can seem like they have a “short fuse.”
If you recognize yourself in this description, the good news is that there are effective ways to reduce your anxiety and resulting anger. You can work with a therapist that will teach you how to identify your triggers, how to reframe them, and techniques to calm down quickly. You can also talk to a psychiatrist regarding treatment options.
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You can also increase your resilience to stress and manage anxiety by exercising more, making sure you get enough sleep, and engaging in hobbies that you find enjoyable and relaxing. Meditation is another good option.
Stress for short periods can be motivating, and it helps you focus. However, it also triggers our natural fight-or-flight response so you can expect either higher anxiety levels or more frequent anger outbursts. Dopamine, adrenaline, and cortisol are released in higher quantities into the bloodstream so you’ll become more reactive than usual.
Chronic stress, meaning stress that extends over a longer time frame, will affect key regions in your brain. Your amygdala will become more sensitive to stimuli that it perceives as threats while your prefrontal cortex, which is the region of the brain responsible for impulse control, becomes impaired. You’ll be experiencing stronger emotional reactions while having a decreased neurological capacity to control them.
In this case, you need more than anger management classes. You need to either reduce the factors that are contributing to your high stress levels or to increase your resilience. Stress doesn’t just affect the brain. It weakens your immune system, increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, decreases your muscle mass, and has a negative impact on metabolic activity.
Grief can come from losing a loved one, losing a job or important career opportunity, divorce, or breakup. Your anger can be directed at the person you lost, or you feel caused your loss but also at anyone that reminds you of your pain or who you think doesn’t really understand what you’re going through and isn’t responding appropriately.
Grief can have a profound impact on how you see the world. You become frustrated with the cruelty and injustice you begin to notice all around you, saddened by the human condition, enraged by people’s indifference or complacency. You’re thinking about how the future you had envisioned is no longer possible, and this loss can trigger waves of shock, guilt, numbness, fear, sadness, stress and anger.
All of these are normal reactions and part of the healing process. Grief is not something you just “get over.” Losing someone or something you love is one of life’s toughest challenges. It takes time. Some people start to feel better after a few weeks or months, while for others it can take years. It can’t be hurried or forced, and there’s no “method” to make the process more “efficient.”
Although the pain and stress you feel may make you want to withdraw from others, having that support can be very comforting. People that haven’t gone through a similar experience will feel awkward and won’t know what to say to you or may say the wrong things. What matters most is that you don’t isolate yourself. Simply being around people that know what you’re going through and who will listen to you when you feel the need to talk can make the burden of grief a little easier to carry. You can also join a support group or see a therapist with experience in grief counseling.