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Anger in the Workplace:
Controlling Anger -- Before It Controls You
What Is Anger?
Strategies To Keep Anger At Bay?
Do You Need Counseling?
We all know what anger is, and we've all felt
it: whether as a fleeting annoyance or as
Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy,
human emotion. But when it gets out of control
and turns destructive, it can lead to
problems—problems at work, in your personal
relationships, and in the overall quality of
your life. And it can make you feel as though
you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and
powerful emotion. This brochure is meant to
help you understand and control anger.
What is Anger?
The Nature of Anger
Anger is "an emotional state that varies in
intensity from mild irritation to intense fury
and rage," according to Charles Spielberger,
PhD, a psychologist who specializes in the
study of anger. Like other emotions, it is
accompanied by physiological and biological
changes; when you get angry, your heart rate
and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of
your energy hormones, adrenaline, and
Anger can be caused by both external and
internal events. You could be angry at a
specific person (Such as a coworker or
supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a canceled
flight), or your anger could be caused by
worrying or brooding about your personal
problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging
events can also trigger angry feelings.
The instinctive, natural way to express anger
is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural,
adaptive response to threats; it inspires
powerful, often aggressive, feelings and
behaviors, which allow us to fight and to
defend ourselves when we are attacked. A
certain amount of anger, therefore, is
necessary to our survival.
On the other hand, we can't physically lash out
at every person or object that irritates or
annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense
place limits on how far our anger can take us.
People use a variety of both conscious and
unconscious processes to deal with their angry
feelings. The three main approaches are
expressing, suppressing, and calming.
Expressing your angry feelings in an
assertive—not aggressive—manner is the
healthiest way to express anger. To do this,
you have to learn how to make clear what your
needs are, and how to get them met, without
hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean
being pushy or demanding; it means being
respectful of yourself and others.
Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or
redirected. This happens when you hold in your
anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on
something positive. The aim is to inhibit or
suppress your anger and convert it into more
constructive behavior. The danger in this type
of response is that if it isn't allowed outward
expression, your anger can turn inward—on
yourself. Anger turned inward may cause
hypertension, high blood pressure, or
Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It
can lead to pathological expressions of anger,
such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting
back at people indirectly, without telling them
why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a
personality that seems perpetually cynical and
hostile. People who are constantly putting
others down, criticizing everything, and making
cynical comments haven't learned how to
constructively express their anger. Not
surprisingly, they aren't likely to have many
Finally, you can calm down inside. This means
not just controlling your outward behavior, but
also controlling your internal responses,
taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm
yourself down, and let the feelings subside.
As Dr. Spielberger notes, "when none of these
three techniques work, that's when someone—or
something—is going to get hurt."
The goal of anger management is to reduce both
your emotional feelings and the physiological
arousal that anger causes. You can't get rid
of, or avoid, the things or the people that
enrage you, nor can you change them, but you
can learn to control your reactions.
Are You Too Angry?
There are psychological tests that measure the
intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger
you are, and how well you handle it. But
chances are good that if you do have a problem
with anger, you already know it. If you find
yourself acting in ways that seem out of
control and frightening, you might need help
finding better ways to deal with this emotion.
Why Are Some People More Angry Than Others?
According to Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, a
psychologist who specializes in anger
management, some people really are more
"hotheaded" than others are; they get angry
more easily and more intensely than the average
person does. There are also those who don't
show their anger in loud spectacular ways but
are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily
angered people don't always curse and throw
things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk,
or get physically ill.
People who are easily angered generally have
what some psychologists call a low tolerance
for frustration, meaning simply that they feel
that they should not have to be subjected to
frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They
can't take things in stride, and they're
particularly infuriated if the situation seems
somehow unjust: for example, being corrected
for a minor mistake.
What makes these people this way? A number of
things. One cause may be genetic or
physiological: There is evidence that some
children are born irritable, touchy, and easily
angered, and that these signs are present from
a very early age. Another may be sociocultural.
Anger is often regarded as negative; we're
taught that it's all right to express anxiety,
depression, or other emotions but not to
express anger. As a result, we don't learn how
to handle it or channel it constructively.
Research has also found that family background
plays a role. Typically, people who are easily
angered come from families that are disruptive,
chaotic, and not skilled at emotional
Is It Good To "Let it All Hang Out?"
Psychologists now say that this is a dangerous
myth. Some people use this theory as a license
to hurt others. Research has found that
"letting it rip" with anger actually escalates
anger and aggression and does nothing to help
you (or the person you're angry with) resolve
It's best to find out what it is that triggers
your anger, and then to develop strategies to
keep those triggers from tipping you over the
Strategies To Keep Anger At Bay
Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing
and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry
feelings. There are books and courses that can
teach you relaxation techniques, and once you
learn the techniques, you can call upon them in
any situation. If you are involved in a
relationship where both partners are
hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for both
of you to learn these techniques.
Some simple steps you can try:
1. Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing
from your chest won't relax you. Picture your
breath coming up from your "gut."
2. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as
"relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself
while breathing deeply.
3. Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience,
from either your memory or your imagination.
4. Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can
relax your muscles and make you feel much
5. Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use
them automatically when you're in a tense
Simply put, this means changing the way you
think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or
speak in highly colorful terms that reflect
their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your
thinking can get very exaggerated and overly
dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with
more rational ones. For instance, instead of
telling yourself, "oh, it's awful, it's
terrible, everything's ruined," tell yourself,
"it's frustrating, and it's understandable that
I'm upset about it, but it's not the end of the
world and getting angry is not going to fix it
Be careful of words like "never" or "always"
when talking about yourself or someone else.
"This !&*%@ machine never works," or "you're
always forgetting things" are not just
inaccurate, they also serve to make you feel
that your anger is justified and that there's
no way to solve the problem. They also alienate
and humiliate people who might otherwise be
willing to work with you on a solution.
Remind yourself that getting angry is not going
to fix anything, that it won't make you feel
better (and may actually make you feel worse).
Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when
it's justified, can quickly become irrational.
So use cold hard logic on yourself. Remind
yourself that the world is "not out to get
you," you're just experiencing some of the
rough spots of daily life. Do this each time
you feel anger getting the best of you, and
it'll help you get a more balanced perspective.
Angry people tend to demand things: fairness,
appreciation, agreement, willingness to do
things their way. Everyone wants these things,
and we are all hurt and disappointed when we
don't get them, but angry people demand them,
and when their demands aren't met, their
disappointment becomes anger. As part of their
cognitive restructuring, angry people need to
become aware of their demanding nature and
translate their expectations into desires. In
other words, saying, "I would like" something
is healthier than saying, "I demand" or "I must
have" something. When you're unable to get what
you want, you will experience the normal
reactions—frustration, disappointment, hurt—but
not anger. Some angry people use this anger as
a way to avoid feeling hurt, but that doesn't
mean the hurt goes away.
Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused
by very real and inescapable problems in our
lives. Not all anger is misplaced, and often
it's a healthy, natural response to these
difficulties. There is also a cultural belief
that every problem has a solution, and it adds
to our frustration to find out that this isn't
always the case. The best attitude to bring to
such a situation, then, is not to focus on
finding the solution, but rather on how you
handle and face the problem.
Make a plan, and check your progress along the
way. Resolve to give it your best, but also not
to punish yourself if an answer doesn't come
right away. If you can approach it with your
best intentions and efforts and make a serious
attempt to face it head-on, you will be less
likely to lose patience and fall into
all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem
does not get solved right away.
Angry people tend to jump to—and act
on—conclusions, and some of those conclusions
can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do
if you're in a heated discussion is slow down
and think through your responses. Don't say the
first thing that comes into your head, but slow
down and think carefully about what you want to
say. At the same time, listen carefully to what
the other person is saying and take your time
Listen, too, to what is underlying the anger.
For instance, you like a certain amount of
freedom and personal space, and your
"significant other" wants more connection and
closeness. If he or she starts complaining
about your activities, don't retaliate by
painting your partner as a jailer, a warden, or
an albatross around your neck.
It's natural to get defensive when you're
criticized, but don't fight back. Instead,
listen to what's underlying the words: the
message that this person might feel neglected
and unloved. It may take a lot of patient
questioning on your part, and it may require
some breathing space, but don't let your
anger—or a partner's—let a discussion spin out
of control. Keeping your cool can keep the
situation from becoming a disastrous one.
"Silly humor" can help defuse rage in a number
of ways. For one thing, it can help you get a
more balanced perspective. When you get angry
and call someone a name or refer to them in
some imaginative phrase, stop and picture what
that word would literally look like. If you're
at work and you think of a coworker as a "dirtbag"
or a "single-cell life form," for example,
picture a large bag full of dirt (or an amoeba)
sitting at your colleague's desk, talking on
the phone, going to meetings. Do this whenever
a name comes into your head about another
person. If you can, draw a picture of what the
actual thing might look like. This will take a
lot of the edge off your fury; and humor can
always be relied on to help unknot a tense
The underlying message of highly angry people,
Dr. Deffenbacher says, is "things oughta go my
way!" Angry people tend to feel that they are
morally right, that any blocking or changing of
their plans is an unbearable indignity and that
they should NOT have to suffer this way. Maybe
other people do, but not them!
When you feel that urge, he suggests, picture
yourself as a god or goddess, a supreme ruler,
who owns the streets and stores and office
space, striding alone and having your way in
all situations while others defer to you. The
more detail you can get into your imaginary
scenes, the more chances you have to realize
that maybe you are being unreasonable; you'll
also realize how unimportant the things you're
angry about really are. There are two cautions
in using humor. First, don't try to just "laugh
off" your problems; rather, use humor to help
yourself face them more constructively. Second,
don't give in to harsh, sarcastic humor; that's
just another form of unhealthy anger
What these techniques have in common is a
refusal to take yourself too seriously. Anger
is a serious emotion, but it's often
accompanied by ideas that, if examined, can
make you laugh.
Changing Your Environment
Sometimes it's our immediate surroundings that
give us cause for irritation and fury. Problems
and responsibilities can weigh on you and make
you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have
fallen into and all the people and things that
form that trap.
Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some
"personal time" scheduled for times of the day
that you know are particularly stressful. One
example is the working mother who has a
standing rule that when she comes home from
work, for the first 15 minutes "nobody talks to
Mom unless the house is on fire." After this
brief quiet time, she feels better prepared to
handle demands from her kids without blowing up
Some Other Tips for Easing Up on Yourself
Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight
when you discuss things at night—perhaps you're
tired, or distracted, or maybe it's just
habit—try changing the times when you talk
about important matters so these talks don't
turn into arguments.
Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes
you furious every time you walk by it, shut the
door. Don't make yourself look at what
infuriates you. Don't say, "well, my child
should clean up the room so I won't have to be
angry!" That's not the point. The point is to
keep yourself calm.
Finding alternatives: If your daily commute
through traffic leaves you in a state of rage
and frustration, give yourself a project—learn
or map out a different route, one that's less
congested or more scenic. Or find another
alternative, such as a bus or commuter train.
Do You Need Counseling?
If you feel that your anger is really out of
control, if it is having an impact on your
relationships and on important parts of your
life, you might consider counseling to learn
how to handle it better. A psychologist or
other licensed mental health professional can
work with you in developing a range of
techniques for changing your thinking and your
When you talk to a prospective therapist, tell
her or him that you have problems with anger
that you want to work on, and ask about his or
her approach to anger management. Make sure
this isn't only a course of action designed to
"put you in touch with your feelings and
express them"—that may be precisely what your
problem is. With counseling, psychologists say,
a highly angry person can move closer to a
middle range of anger in about 8 to 10 weeks,
depending on the circumstances and the
What About Assertiveness Training?
It's true that angry people need to learn to
become assertive (rather than aggressive), but
most books and courses on developing
assertiveness are aimed at people who don't
feel enough anger. These people are more
passive and acquiescent than the average
person; they tend to let others walk all over
them. That isn't something that most angry
people do. Still, these books can contain some
useful tactics to use in frustrating
Remember, you can't eliminate anger—and it
wouldn't be a good idea if you could. In spite
of all your efforts, things will happen that
will cause you anger; and sometimes it will be
justifiable anger. Life will be filled with
frustration, pain, loss, and the unpredictable
actions of others. You can't change that; but
you can change the way you let such events
affect you. Controlling your angry responses
can keep them from making you even more unhappy
in the long run.
Source: American Psychological
Anger issues can be resolved without medication. With the right kind of psychotherapy (counseling) anger management can easily be obtained by anyone. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most effective for anger. See Anger Management Courses for more information.
1. An understanding of where anger comes from is the place to start.
2. Next is the willingness of the subject to change his or her thinking. This is not a difficult process, although it does require practice. It begins with listening to your self-talk.
Anger management classes may be beneficial to those with anger issues. One-on-one counseling may often help. See Anger Management Courses for more information.
3. There are steps you can take now to manage your anger. Keep in mind it takes patience and practice--there is NO magical cure for anger.
Anger is not a brain chemistry problem, nor is it physiological in origin. Genetics have little to do with anger management, even those with a parent who has anger and rage issues can learn to manage and control their anger.
Interestingly, you hold the key to your own anger management. When you learn to change your self- talk--your internal dialogue--about yourself, others and the world around you, you can find anger relief. This is at the core of anger management.
4. To successfully manage anger now AND in the future, you must first have a good understanding of how our emotions originate and how our thinking affects our emotions.
Anger management begins with listening to your self-talk, and then learning how to change it so you remain more calm.
By gaining a true understanding of healthy thinking vs. unhealthy thinking you'll be able to work yourself out of anger, or better still, keep your anger in check.
Online Counseling for Anger >>
See Anger Management Courses for more information.
Self Help Books for Anger
The Origins of Anger and How to Manage It
Calm and Conquer Your Anger
How to Control Your Holiday Anger & Stress
The Basics of Anger Management Courses
7 Tips to Overcome Holiday Stress
What to Do When Someone Else Becomes Angry or Enraged
Causes of Anger/Dealing With an Enraged Person
The Psychology of Anger: In basic terms, anger occurs when you don't get what you want and exercise minimal patience with the frustration that then happens.
You tend to blame others, when actually it's what's happening in your own head that creates the anger. See Anger Management Courses for more information.
When you don't know what steps to take instead, then you'll get angry, and angrier.
These are the steps that lead to anger.
1. I want something; then I get frustrated because you won't give me what I want.
2. That's uncomfortable -- and I can't stand to be uncomfortable.
3. I've changed my mind; I don't just want something -- now I DEMAND that I get whatever I want.
4. You are bad and worthless because you are frustrating or depriving me.
5. To make you give me what I want, I'm going to be very severe with you.
Top 10 Reasons to Give Up Your Disturbed Anger
10. Anger often leads to self-destructive behaviors that hurt you and others.
These reactions include drinking, drug use, insulting others, yelling, breaking things, and hitting people.
9. People often feel guilty and depressed about the things they do when they are angry.
8. Anger leads to rumination and to a narrow focus that blocks problem-solving.
7. Anger feels bad and the tension uses up your energy and leaves you tired after it ends.
6. Hate is a relationship. Anger connects you with people you dislike.
5. Anger is related to the development of heart disease.
4. Anger destroys relationships.
3. Anger prevents assertiveness that helps you resolve conflicts.
2. Anger drives people away from you.
1. Anger is NOT an aphrodisiac.
By Ray DiGiuseppe, REBT Resource Book for Practitioners www.rebt.org Anger Management Courses
Anger is created from within, not by others or the world around us. Many people dispute this and hold to their statements: "she made me mad," "it makes me so mad..." But these statements are scientifically false: "it" has no ability to make you mad, nor does she.
Your reactions to "it" and she are the origins of your anger
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