Anger is a natural part of life and can sometimes be useful. It may motivate you to stand up for what you believe in or alert you when your boundaries have been crossed. Being angry often, however, is not healthy and can wreak havoc on your body and your relationships. When you experience high levels of anger your body kicks into "fight or flight" mode and releases stress hormones as well as raises your blood pressure. Some research has even found a correlation between being highly angry often and heart disease. Your health is not the only thing that suffers from being angry often. Your anger may also lead you to become isolated from others and can keep you from getting your relational needs met.
What you may be feeling AND why it looks like anger
Sadness, fear, guilt, anxiety, disappointment or frustration are common feelings behind anger. Here are several reasons these emotions may be expressed as anger.
1. You grew up in an environment where people were angry often. You learned that anger is an acceptable emotion to express while sadness, fear, guilt, anxiety or disappointment are signs of weakness and should not be expressed.
2. Anger creates a sense of control in a situation in which you are not in control.
3. You have not learned to discern what you are truly feeling. This can lead to feeling overwhelmed and confused. The easiest way to get this yucky energy out is to be angry.
4. Being angry allows you to protect yourself from having to be vulnerable with others.
The benefits of "getting in touch with your feelings"
In addition to the health benefits of decreasing stress on your body, knowing what you are feeling can strengthen your relationships by allowing you to work through conflict more effectively. Expressing your true feelings gives the other person the opportunity to respond in a way that is comforting or validating instead of defensive and hurtful.
How to discern what's behind your anger
1. First. Take some deep breaths. By breathing deeply you relax your body and get out of "fight or flight" mode. When you body is calm you are able to think more clearly to discern your true feelings.
2. Ask yourself "How do I really want this person to respond to me?" This can give you major a clue to your true feelings. You may want the other person to recognize that he or she hurt you or validate your experience.
Now comes the hard part. Tell someone how you are really feeling. If you are used to being angry often, this will be difficult but well worth it in the long run. You can do it!