4 Effective Tips to Control Your Anger
Annie was feeling out of sorts. She knew she felt “off,” but didn’t know exactly why or what to do about it. No matter what she tried, she still felt “on edge.” Her parents were aging and requiring more care and patience from her. She was feeling ineffective in parenting her “unruly” teen daughter, who seemed to be rebelling against every expectation Annie had for her. Her boss was relentless and demanded more time from her. She knew if she didn’t comply, the promotion she was after wouldn’t happen. Her “competition” was another female executive who seemed to think she was entitled to special treatment just because she was “ruthless” like the men. Secretly, she envied her confidence and direct approach.
She was keeping all of these concerns to herself, so as to not appear as if she was struggling or inadequate. Her spouse and kids seemed to walk on eggshells around her, for fear of triggering an outburst. She started getting labeled with not-so-nice nicknames, which reminded her of how wrong and unacceptable it was to not “be nice.” She tried “being more pleasant,” only to feel even more angry and powerless. She hated feeling this way and how bad she felt about her effect on her loved ones. It became a vicious cycle. The more “bad” she felt, the more critical of herself she became, the more reactive she became towards others, and again, the worse she felt.
Anger is a normal emotion and a natural reaction to threats. Culture has shaped our definition of what is appropriate and inappropriate ways to express anger. Especially for women. We are socialized to be people pleasers, submit, be ladies, and not be threatening at all. So, we’re socialized to not express anger (which is the natural reaction to people crossing boundaries, disrespecting us, controlling us, or threatening us). Consequently, women mostly stuff anger for the sake of being accepted and loved. This leaves us frustrated, powerless, and resentful, and judgmental when we see other women expressing anger or assertiveness.
Signs you’re suppressing anger:
- You have physical ailments like HBP, stomach problems, headaches
- You numb your strong emotions with alcohol, drugs, binge-behaviors (like watching too much TV, oversleeping, overspending, etc.)
- You develop symptoms of depression (anger turned inwards) which show up as low self-esteem, shame, excessive guilt, hopelessness
- You become very judgmental, critical, and passive aggressive towards other women who may seem to be more assertive about their anger
1. Name it: “I’m feeling anger.”
Don’t suppress; acknowledge your anger is there and it will pass much quicker than if you deny it.
2. Cope with it: “I can cope.”
Deep breathing, grounding, passive muscle relaxation, peaceful imagery are effective techniques to reduce the intensity of anger.
3. Express the underlying needs: “I feel anger when ___. I need ____.”
What is your anger trying to make you aware of? What is underneath that anger that is more vulnerable or you don’t feel safe feeling/expressing? This information is key to self-awareness, boundary setting, and getting our needs met. Acknowledge the need/vulnerability behind the anger and use “I” messages to express your anger and need.
4. Set healthy boundaries: “I felt ____ when you ____ because _____. I need you/us to ____.”
Avoid diffuse (submitting) or rigid (controlling) boundaries. Instead, aim for clear (assertive) boundaries where there’s mutual respect and differences are allowed.
Anger is a natural and adaptive emotion that, when well managed, can lead us to healthier lives and safety. There’s a difference between aggression and assertiveness. Gender aside, a healthy society discourages aggressive behavior (from men and women) because it can lead to more violence and lack of safety. However, assertiveness can lead to having our needs met, mutual understanding and respect, and safer, more fulfilling relationships. To get to this healthier society, as women we are called to learn how to identify and manage our anger and be role-models for our younger generations on how to express it assertively, instead of continuing labeling assertive women as “difficult” or “entitled.”
Need to learn more about how to identify and manage your anger as women? Individual therapy can help!