In every life, anger is considered to be ‘normal’, an inevitable constant but can we reduce the impact on our wellbeing? It’s a common human emotion that can be triggered by a myriad of experiences, ranging from the frustrations of being caught in traffic to the pain of personal abuse. The impact of anger on our lives is determined not by the emotion itself, but by our response to it.
It’s estimated that around 64% of people express their anger by shouting, while 58% tend to isolate themselves. Yet, only about 37% choose to control their anger through relaxation methods. This is concerning given the adverse effects of uncontrolled anger on our health, relationships, and overall quality of life.
What triggers your anger
Frustrations, irritations, abuse, and unfairness are the main four common triggers of anger. Frustrations, like getting stuck in traffic or dealing with a stubborn computer, can ignite a spark of anger. Irritations, which could be as simple as a dripping faucet or a noisy neighbour, can gradually build up into explosive anger if not addressed. Abuse, whether physical, emotional, or verbal, often leads to profound anger. Finally, perceived unfairness, such as feeling undervalued at work or misunderstood in a relationship, can fuel persistent anger.
Recent neuroscience research has shed light on the relationship between anger and brain structure. Higher levels of trait anger, which reflect a person’s tendency to easily experience frustration and anger, are associated with hyperconnectivity between specific brain regions and the sensorimotor network. This suggests that individuals who frequently experience anger may have a greater propensity for action in response to provocation.
However, living in a state of chronic anger can be detrimental. It can not only physically damage your health and quality of life but also impair your relationships. Unresolved anger can keep you mentally anchored to past pain and prevent healing.
The good news is that the way we respond to anger is within our control, and changing our response can dramatically improve our lives. Letting go of anger can lead to significant improvements in physical pain, a decrease in anxiety, and an overall enhancement of well-being within weeks.
Our response to anger is a powerful determinant of the quality of our lives. By recognizing its triggers and learning to manage it effectively, we can turn anger from a destructive force into a catalyst for self-discovery and transformation.
Anger- a defence mechanism against more vulnerable feelings?
Anger, often characterized as a “secondary emotion”, is a complex human experience. As a secondary emotion, it is usually a response to another underlying emotion, such as fear, hurt, or sadness. This categorization derives from the idea that anger typically arises not as an initial, instinctive response to a situation, but rather as a defence mechanism against more vulnerable feelings.
Picture a scenario where a person feels slighted or disrespected. The primary emotion might be hurt or embarrassment, but it may be easier or more socially acceptable for the person to express anger than to expose the vulnerable feeling of hurt. By expressing anger, the person shields their vulnerability and regains a sense of control.
This is where the surge of energy that anger provides comes into play. Unlike fear and sadness, which can drain us and make us feel vulnerable or helpless, anger can make us feel powerful and in charge. It’s a physiological response that readies us for action. Our hearts pump faster, our adrenaline levels rise, and our focus sharpens – all part of the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to perceived threats. While this can be a protective and adaptive response in some situations, it can also lead to destructive and regrettable actions if not managed properly.
Understanding that anger is a secondary emotion can be a crucial part of effectively managing it. By recognizing the primary emotions that trigger anger, individuals can address the root cause of their feelings rather than getting caught in the cycle of anger and reaction. This understanding can also help in developing healthier responses to these triggers and in fostering better emotional health overall.
It’s important to note that while categorizing anger as a secondary emotion can be helpful, it does not diminish the validity or intensity of the anger that is felt. Anger is a natural human emotion, and feeling angry is not inherently wrong or bad. It’s how we handle and express this anger, and whether we let it control our actions and interactions, that makes the difference. It is key to learn to process anger in a way that is not harmful to ourselves or others, and to use it as a tool for understanding our deeper, primary emotions.
Anger and the impact on your health and wellbeing
Anger is a complex emotion that has a profound impact on our brains, our health, and our quality of life. Recent neuroimaging studies have provided us with significant insights into the relationship between anger and the functional architecture of brain networks. People with a higher degree of anger, have a disposition to experience frustration more easily. In a range of situations, have been found that people who experience anger have a hyperconnectivity between specific brain regions and the sensorimotor network.
This reflects a greater sensitivity for provoked action and aggression, leading to negative impact on health such as an increased risk for coronary heart disease. Anger can have a detrimental impact on health and quality of life. Chronic anger can lead to physical damage and is associated with unresolved anxiety. It can disrupt the healing process and is often linked to chronic pain.
Anger can also shorten an individual’s lifespan, cause ongoing inflammation, and even lead to cognitive impairment as blood flow is shifted away from the rational thinking centres of the brain. In extreme cases, chronic anger can be likened to unrelenting pain, causing significant distress and a decrease in life quality.
Anger can be managed effectively. Understanding that anger can be a normal response to certain situations is the first step. It is when anger becomes chronic or when it flares up frequently that it becomes a problem, contributing to different disorders and negatively affecting various aspects of life. Knowing when anger is healthy and when it’s not, and learning to express it appropriately, can significantly improve one’s mental and physical health.
The impact of anger on our lives and the ways we can mitigate its effects is part of a larger discussion but we hope to inspire you to take a few more steps for further exploration and understanding. If you or someone you know is struggling with managing anger, it’s important to seek professional help. There are numerous resources available, including psychiatrists, therapists, and support groups that can provide assistance in managing anger and improving overall mental health.
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