Understanding Anger: Hooks, Effects, Beliefs, and Responsibility

Angry woman with steam coming out of her ears - understanding anger

Let’s face it, we all get angry. Anger is just one of the many emotions that make us human beings. However, when you get angry for irrational reasons or beliefs or express your anger in a way that harms or frightens others, it can have a dramatic impact on you and those you love.

Recognising and understanding the “hooks” for anger

There are many reasons why you can become angry. For example, you’re:

  • feeling defensive
  • under extreme stress
  • feeling embarrassed
  • not feeling safe
  • feeling resentment
  • feeling wronged

Of course, most of us are not angry all the time. We need a “hook” or “trigger” for anger to occur and escalate. Often these triggers are rooted in our personal histories, that we bring to each interaction. For example, let’s say you are being poked fun at by a friend. Usually, the two of you get along great. Still, you don’t like them treating you this way because it reminds you of childhood experiences of being bullied. As a result, you lash out in anger, which can have negative consequences on your friendship.

Understanding how anger effects close relationships

If this flare-up only happened once in the course of your friendship, it might not be an enormous deal. But if it often occurs and over an extended period, it can severely strain and fracture your relationship. Why? Because anger causes stress, both for you and the person on the receiving end of your anger. It’s hard not to take it personally, especially if your friend doesn’t understand why you become angry in the first place.

Also, when you become angry, it can start a stress response in others that causes them to feel unsafe. This is especially true if you have an outburst where you lash out, yelling, breaking objects or do something worse. No one should have to tolerate an unsafe living situation at all, but the consequence can mean that your closest relationships are the ones that are ultimately damaged or destroyed.

Challenging unhelpful beliefs attached to anger

So, if you are struggling with anger issues, what can you do about the problem? The first thing you can do is to challenge any unhelpful beliefs associated with your anger. For example:

  • I don’t need help.
  • People think I am foolish.
  • I am unsafe.
  • I feel resentful toward others.
  • Others are out to get me.
  • I can do this on my own.

These and other beliefs create a disconnect between your perception of a situation and reality. However, instead of becoming angry, pause for a moment. Ask yourself what feelings, beliefs and assumptions you associate with the anger you are feeling? Doing so helps create space so you can make a better decision and respond more appropriately.

Taking responsibility for your own arousal to anger

Although many people claim that they have no control when they are angry, they do have control over becoming angry. This means that you are accountable for your actions when you become angry and how those actions affect others around you. Instead of seeing yourself as being powerless when angry, acknowledge that you do have control over what happens and that you have to take responsibility for your actions.

You can do this by:

  • Talking to those whom your anger has affected.
  • Writing a letter to those you’ve wronged.
  • Making amends through service.
  • Taking part in anger management groups
  • Learning strategies to help you better express your emotions other than through anger.

Talking to a therapist about your anger

Another way you can show you are taking responsibility for your anger is to work with with a therapist who specialises in anger management. A therapist can help you better understand what your “hooks” are, how your anger affects others, and teach you ways to help you stay in control.

Anger is a natural human emotion. When harnessed appropriately, anger can be used to create change for good. On the other hand, inappropriately expressed anger can destroy relationships with those you love. By understanding anger, knowing your hooks, and taking responsibility, you can ensure that anger doesn’t get the best of you.

Taking the next step

 If you would like to speak with someone, in confidence, about anger management,  call use today on 0151 329 3637, email enquiries@counselling-matters.org.uk or complete our online referral form. We look forward to hearing from you.

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