Coping with Feelings of Anger

Man with his arms crossed in eating disorder treatment

Anger is one of 6 basic emotions identified in Paul Ekman’s “Atlas of Emotions.” These six emotions are ones that will be felt by everyone at one point or another [1]. Despite this, it is still one of the least socially acceptable emotions.

We cannot face that which we are unwilling to accept, which is probably why many people struggle with coping with feelings of anger. As it will come up at some point in everyone’s life; exploring how to deal with it effectively is important.

Accept Anger

You likely knew this was coming after the introduction. Yes, in order to cope with anger, we must accept that we are experiencing it. If this is not something you have done before, you may not know how.

Considering the somatic experience of anger may help you to identify it. If your face is flushed, your pulse is racing, and your blood feels like it is racing to your hands – you are likely experiencing anger. It might also help to consider the last time you allowed yourself to feel and acknowledge anger.

Perhaps it was a moment you shamefully never think or talk about; maybe it was an experience in your childhood – whatever that moment is, do a deep-dive into what you felt at that moment.

Next time these same feelings arise, affirm to yourself that “this is anger, it is a common and unavoidable emotion, it is not shameful, it is okay.” Accepting that anger will happen and is happening is key to coping with it in an effective manner as opposed to in a way that can harm you or those around you.

Pause

Woman thinking while angry before acting on the emotionAnger is an incredibly reactive emotion that often pulls us to behave impulsively and, generally, negatively. As you are experiencing and accepting feelings of anger, fight the urge to react immediately.

This may mean engaging in mindfulness skills of grounding or deep breathing. You may also engage in Dialectical Behavior Therapy skills such as opposite action, focusing on one thing in the moment, or tapping into calming prayers or affirmations.

Give yourself permission to communicate your need for a moment and take time for yourself to go for a walk or use these skills. Pausing can keep you from responding out-of-anger in a way you may regret later.

Reach Beyond

Anger is rarely actually about anger. In fact, it is often referred to as a secondary emotion. That is, we tend to resort to it in an effort to protect ourselves or avoid a more vulnerable emotion, such as betrayal, sadness, or hurt.

The Anger Iceberg is a tool often used to signify this. Just as 90% of an iceberg is below the surface of the water, so is 90% of your emotional experience. The much-smaller portion peeking above the surface is barely a fraction.

The same applies to anger. Dig deeper than your anger to explore what vulnerable and challenging emotion your anger is attempting to mask and protect. Once you recognize these, do the work to process them in an effective and helpful manner, and you will likely find your anger dissipating.

Anger is natural, it will happen, and it is not a shameful emotion to experience. Allowing yourself to acknowledge it, examine it, and process it on your timeline can go a long way in helping you cope with it effectively.


Resources:

[1] Benson, K. (2016). The anger iceberg. The Gottman Institute, retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-anger-iceberg/.


About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published October 29, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on October 29, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

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