Understanding Anger (Part I)

IMPORTANT: This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidenced-based education for the purposes of self-help, or to compliment the therapeutic process. ​ ​This blog is non-monetized.

By: Christina Crowe, RP

An issue I come across more frequently than not these days is anger.  Turns out, there are a lot of misconceptions, old wives tales and armchair ‘experts’ talking about anger, and it really confuses people.

To be transparent, there is also disagreement within the world of psychology about anger and its role as an emotion.  Some consider anger to be a “secondary” emotion – meaning the thing that triggered your angry emotions is not real culprit, but something else entirely.  

In this sense, anger is indicative of some other unmet emotional need you have buried deeper within.  And some argue it’s not quite accurate to say it’s ‘secondary’, because anger has a healthy purpose and is part of our human evolutionary design.  It’s there to alert us to something going wrong in our world.

Anger itself is a normal emotion.  How you show your anger, and how long it takes to recover from a trigger are really where the heart of the conversation lies.  In women, anger can be triggered by our hormonal cycles.  Our fuses are shorter, we might be more argumentative, we might be more prone to making a “mountain out of a molehill”.  Hormones also influence men and testosterone is known to play havoc with young men’s lives.  

Some cultures or communities in our society tell us that for the most part, it’s wrong to express our anger outwardly, so we work hard to suppress these emotions.  However, when we suppress our feelings, rather than process and feel comfortable to talk about them, we can run into trouble.  It’s also important to remember, our hormones have a natural function – perhaps they give us the courage to let these emotions come to the surface – in essence saying – “hey, pay attention to me, I need your help.”

IS IT REALLY THAT HARMFUL TO GET ANGRY?

We know that out of control anger hurts our mental and physical health, it hurts our romantic and family relationships and it can definitely hurt our careers.  If you feel like you have to use anger, or the threat of anger, to control the people in your life, this strategy will ultimately disappoint you.  If you find yourself angry a lot of the time, continually frustrated, find it hard to compromise, and take other’s opinions as a challenge to your authority or position, there might be more to your anger than you think. 

Specifically, it can be hard to manage our feelings of anger when,​

  • We are under a lot of ongoing stress,
  • If we are resentful when we realize we didn’t get as children the things we really needed,
  • When old traumas or disappointments are triggered, or unresolved situations keep resurfacing. 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Take some time to get to know your inner self.  Be aware of your anger warning signs and your triggers.  

​Many of these include the physical changes in your body when you are ‘triggered’ (clenching of hands, jaw or back muscles, stomach pains/knots, feeling flushed, confused, racing heart, pacing around).  

Talk to someone about, or start to write down, where your negative thinking starts to spiral out of control.  There are many errors in thinking we all make as humans (called cognitive distortions), and only when you start to slow this process down, can you begin to pinpoint exactly where you can make a meaningful change in your relationships, and ultimately your life. 


As we become more aware of all of our “fight or flight” physical responses, we can also start to use proven strategies to cool down in the moment.  Then the work of understanding how our thoughts got us into this mess in the first place can start to really take shape.  

Finally, finding new, more effective strategies for making yourself heard, and resolving some of these lifelong issues can start to help you move forward in a new healthier way.  Learning to focus on the present moment is not easy.  It takes dedication, practice and a lot of self-compassion. 

The good news is, there is a way out of the anger spiral.  The even better news is, you’re human, and its normal to get overwhelmed with your emotions from time to time. Learning to connect the dots in your emotional world can help provide the clarity you may be seeking or needing, in order to move forward. 

In the next post (Part II), I will address some proven strategies for recognizing your triggers and learning new ways to both manage your emotions and contribute in a positive way to the relationships in your life. 

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Picture of ​Christina Crowe, H.BSc. MACP, RP, (S-Cert) OAMHP (she, her)

​Christina Crowe, H.BSc. MACP, RP, (S-Cert) OAMHP (she, her)

Registered Psychotherapist, Validated Clinical Supervisor, ADHD Therapist & Coach Podcast Host The Christina Crowe Podcast Christina is a Canadian Registered Psychotherapist, a member of CADDRA's Advocacy Committee and relentless mental health advocate. Christina believes great mental health information should be available to everyone, loves creating content that makes invisible things VISIBLE and finding new ways to bring healing experiences to as many people as possible.

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