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The Top 3 Ways to Tame Anger Reactivity

Anger is a powerful and instinctual emotion that triggers our body's fight-flight response. While it served a purpose in primitive times, it can be harmful and counterproductive in modern society. By understanding the biology behind anger and learning effective anger management techniques, we can empower ourselves to handle and even eliminate this intense emotion.

Anger Reactivity

Anger – you know the feeling, that flushed face, clenched jaw, muscle tension, irritability and reactivity!  Anger is one powerful emotion and can cause people to lose a sense of rational, clear thinking or even lose memory in a fit of rage.  

We all experience anger in some form, but it is rarely, if ever, useful!  So how can we tame this?  Aside from an anger management class, read on to empower yourself with knowledge about what’s happening in the brain, and how to clear it up!

Anger is part of the mind’s primitive ‘fight flight or freeze’ response of our nervous system, preparing the body to actually ‘fight’.  Most of the time when you’ve been angry, you aren’t trying to physically fight someone though!

That uncomfortable rush in the moment of anger is just that – your body’s attempt to protect you, in order that you SURVIVE!  Your heart rate increased, your breathing changed, and your digestive tract halted, all to send more energy to the muscles for you to fight!

This extra strength is not useful in most scenarios of civilized society.  Sometimes it is worse than useless because it can harm us and the people around us.  Even though anger is a natural human response and is derived from the survival part of the mind, there are still things we can do to improve and manage anger and even eliminate it.

Anger Management tips

Three Steps to Tame your anger

  1. Clearly identify and write down personal triggers that you have commonly noticed anger showing up with. Sometimes anger came on so suddenly that you weren’t even consciously involved in it.  Looking back at what preceded the reactivity is key. 
  2. Reflect on which all-or-nothing thoughts or limiting beliefs may have been associated with the trigger such as “everyone is always screwing me over” or “they always disregard my feelings”.  Being familiar with these often unconscious thought patterns when you’re not angry will help you become better aware of them in the moment and better able to tame it.
  3. Practice taking a pause before you respond.  Even if that pause is literally a few seconds, or a small sliver of time between the feeling and the response.  This gives your conscious mind time to generate wisdom or self awareness before launching into the automatic survival response.  With practice and time, this tiny sliver will naturally increase in size until you no longer react with anger.
writing down what she is feeling

Recognizing Anger

We all experience the emotion of anger.  Implement awareness around triggers, destructive thought patterns or limiting beliefs, and consistently practice that pause to increase that sliver of time before responding, and you will notice a change within the first week!  

Often people find it useful to seek support from a counsellor – anger management is an area many counsellors are trained in.  Anger management provides accountability and expert advice, tailored to your unique situation.  It can help you process any deeper-rooted cause that may be contributing.

Check out our mental health blog