Anger is often recognised in children as being a frustrated inability to communicate their feelings and emotions. They may be feeling unheard, ignored, disrespected but are lacking the skills and means to explain this appropriately. They may not know the words to use, fear the response or be completely overwhelmed by the situation.
An adult watching the child's behaviour can see very clearly what the particular issues are. They may choose to intervene and over time teach the child better ways of handling difficult situations. As life goes on hopefully the child will learn to communicate in more effective ways. Friends will rapidly disappear if a person continues to go into rages and tantrums if things don't go their way.
Anger gets the best of us when we feel ineffective, not listened to, disrespected. Like a pressure cooker about to explode, anger is a way of venting frustrated feelings. It occurs when a person feels unable to convey how they feel in a skillful enough way. Learning to communicate these feelings appropriately is an important skill for adult life and successful relationships.
Some situations where anger can get the best of us are:
- Relationships can cause anger because friends and loved ones are those people closet to us and are privy to our inner thoughts, feelings and vulnerabilities. If we feel neglected, ignored or taken for granted all our good feelings can evaporate into anger and frustration. It is part of our defences, to help protect us from being hurt. By retreating behind a wall of rage and anger there comes a 'get them before they get me' mentality.
- Work situations can cause frustration if we feel that we continuously give of our best but are unappreciated. Some people may feel that as we are being paid to do our best that should be good enough. Others may say that the personal satisfaction of knowing that we have done a good job is the main thing, but often recognition is an important part of the situation too. It can de-motivate and discourage if we come to realise that our best efforts go largely unappreciated. Anger and resentment can start to fester.
- Public situations can cause anger and rage because life is often such a rush as people race to get things done as quickly as possible. Road rage, anger at queuing, feelings of being treated impolitely or with disregard can compound already stressful situations.
Let's look at some alternative ways to communicate angry feelings:
- Humour can be a good way to communicate hurt feelings. Making a joke, a funny face, a dry remark can convey the message whilst making people laugh. Humour is an effective way of dealing with difficult situations. It can sometimes avoid the need for a difficult conversation whilst helping the anger dissipate.
- Self-deprecation can be useful, so long as it is used carefully. It can become a negative pattern if we put ourselves down too often. And that defeats the purpose of saying things in that way.
- Picking a good time to talk through how we are feeling can make all the difference to the conversation's success. When there is time available, both people can relax and be calmer about listening, understanding and appreciating each other's point of view. It can be a less angry and more respectful discussion.
- Avoiding accusations is important otherwise the other person may become increasingly angry, defensive and feel that they are being blamed or are having to defend themselves.
- Perspective is often useful to consider. Is this really worth getting annoyed over? When we are angry we lose control, give our power away to the other person or situation. Is that what we want to do? Is it really worth it?
- Saying or doing things that cannot be unsaid or undone can cause lasting damage to a relationship. Also people see us behave badly and that impression can affect their opinion of us forever.
- Sometimes feeling out of our depth can precipitate anger. If the other person seems quicker thinking, more intelligent or superior in some way it can be scary to confront them. Thinking it through in advance, maybe writing a letter to explain how we feel can provide a sense of handling the situation more effectively.
There may be times when being angry seems to be the best way to demonstrate how much
something has affected us. It may be important to communicate the extent of our hurt or distress. But often calm and cool is a more effective way of keeping control of a situation. It allows us to do what we need to do in a positive way.