Dealing With Anger: Let It Out or Keep It In?

angry man


When it comes to anger, the best solution is to not get angry in the first place, but rare is the person who walks through life without experiencing at least the occasional flare-up of anger. So what should you do when anger starts to build up inside? Is it better to let it out and express your anger or is it best to bottle it up and deal with it internally?

There are studies that fall on both sides of the fence. Some studies have found keeping anger bottled up inside is bad for you, while other studies have revealed outward expression of anger is problematic. The one thing these studies all have in common is they tend to look at extremes, either examining explosions of rage or people who bottle up their emotions and never let them out. The best response to anger lies somewhere in the middle and anger is something that should be managed according to the situation at hand.

Anger is a natural human emotion. We all feel it from time to time, albeit some of us more often than others. It's when it gets out of control that it can turn destructive and cause problems in both our personal and professional lives and can affect the overall quality of our lives. Instead of letting anger control us, we've got to take control of our anger and learn to express it in a healthy and safe manner.


Why Do We Get Angry?

In order to control anger, you've got to understand what anger is and why you're feeling it. Anger is a throwback to the days of old. It's the body's way of responding to a threatening situation by raising our heart rate, heightening our senses and preparing us for battle. While this fight-or-flight response would be appropriate when cornered in a dark alley, it isn't as appropriate when a coworker starts taking shots at you during a meeting at work.

Dealing With Anger

The problem is the body isn't always good at identifying appropriate situations to initiate the anger response. That's why we sometimes lash out angrily at a driver who pulled in front of us on the freeway or we find ourselves extremely angry at a coworker because of a remark they made in passing. It was viewed as an attack and a threat and our body responded the way evolution designed it to respond. The problem with allowing our body to take control in an angry situation is the level of anger felt isn't always equal to the actual threat that presents itself.

There are three methods of dealing with anger that can be used by the individual to control it:

1. Express the Anger.

This is usually the most immediate response to anger. People take the anger being felt and express it to the person who made them feel that way. If you decide to go this route, it's usually important to do so without letting things spiral out of control. Of course, this doesn't always work in the real world and expression may not be appropriate in the work place, especially if you have a boss who doesn't want to hear that you're upset with him all the time.

By expressing anger, you're letting it out and aren't keeping it bottled up inside. This isn't to say you should give yourself free reign to fly off the handle every time you get angry. Dealing with anger through expression is all about controlled expression, not uncontrolled outbursts of emotion.

2. Supress the Anger.

Sometimes it's best to hold anger in and to redirect it into positive thoughts and actions. This can be done by forcing yourself to think of other things or taking other actions to distract yourself from the situation that's inducing anger. We've all heard the saying, "Walk away and count to 10." That's a simple form of suppressing anger.

The problem with using this technique all the time is constantly bottling anger up and holding it inside can cause you to change as a person. Anger directed inwardly has been shown to cause depression and a number of other health problems. Suppression may work in the short-term and it may be a decent solution for a one-time issue that isn't likely to present itself again, but it isn't a good choice for dealing with a constant source of anger.

3. Calm and Assertive Deconstruction.

The third approach is the most difficult approach, but it's the healthiest approach in terms of personal health (and the health of those around you). If you can learn to calmly assess an angry situation, the best response may immediately become obvious. This requires controlling both your internal and external responses to anger until you can objectively assess a situation and determine the best plan of attack.

Breathe deeply, tell yourself to relax and remove yourself from the situation, if at all possible. Sometimes things that seem important at the time are relatively unimportant in the long run and are easy to let go. Other times, you may remove yourself from a situation only to find you had good reason to be angry. This will still allow you time to coolly and calmly assess the situation and devise an appropriate manner in which to deal with it.

Remember, logic is almost always the best response to an angry situation. Logic dictates that yelling and cussing at the copy machine that just jammed for the 5th time in 3 days isn't an appropriate response. It also dictates anger may be appropriate if you catch your significant other cheating on you. Assess each situation logically and determine the best course of action.

Practice Makes Perfect

You aren't going to go from being a hothead to a calm and collective person overnight. Learning to deal with intense emotions like anger is something you've got to work at in order to get good at it. Getting angry isn't always unhealthy. It's a natural human emotion and is a natural response to stressful situations. Learn how to deal with your anger appropriately by practicing controlling it.

The type of person you are is largely dictated by how well you deal with your emotions and anger is one of the toughest emotions to control. It can be done, but you're going to have to work at it.