What is anger?
Anger is one of our basic emotions along with joy, fear, sadness, surprise and disgust. These emotions have always been important for our survival. We share these emotions with many other animals. Anger is activated by our sympathetic nervous system and prepares us to fight as a means of self-protection.
Anger can be expressed through many forms of physical and verbal behaviour. Aggression is just one type but anger can also motivate us to change things that feel unfair or unjust. Anger that is too frequently activated can damage our relationships and our own physical and mental health.
How do I control my anger?
As adults, we are expected to control our anger levels. People that are not in control of their anger appear unpredictable and can make others anxious or angry. Anger is a powerful emotion and can sometimes feel uncontrollable and scary.
Each of us probably experiences at least a little anger every day but we often don’t recognize the full spectrum of our anger response. The ability to recognize anger and modify our emotions comes with the development of our brain’s prefrontal cortex which occurs primarily during adolescence and is fully accomplished at the age of 25. Like all emotions, anger can be monitored using self-awareness to prevent it from reaching intensities that can cause harm to ourselves or others.
What do I do with my anger?
Our anger often emerges in various situations when we are being treated unfairly, when we are not being respected or when there is some form of injustice. If our anger is at a manageable level and we are able to notice it being activated, we can then use it to change these situations. However, when our anger levels are too intense and unmanageable, then we may need to uncover the root cause of this anger and process it, so it is no longer activated in the present.
Being aware of our anger gives us a choice about how to express it. If we do not express our emotions and instead repress them, we may then experience other feelings instead, such as low moods and anxiety. There is nothing wrong with anger. It’s what we do with it that matters.