Developing a Different Relationship with Anger

By Freddy Jackson Brown, Duncan Gillard, Steven C. Hayes

Part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Anger isn’t actually a problem. It’s a natural emotion, just like happiness and sadness. How you respond to anger, however, can be problematic. How you feel and what you think aren’t choices – but you can choose how to act. Allowing yourself to feel anger but responding in a way that’s non-destructive and consistent with your values is clearly important.

Here are some tips to help you manage anger:

  • Keep in mind that anger is a natural and inevitable emotion, the purpose of which is often (maybe always!) to warn you of a source of threat. This may be an emotional rather than physical threat, such as being blamed for something you haven’t done or being spoken to in an aggressive manner without justification.

  • When you experience anger (even just a little bit), ask yourself what tender emotions may lie beneath it. You may feel self-doubt, confusion, anxiety, a sense of failure or regret, for example. Ask yourself if it’s possible to communicate those more tender emotions rather than the anger and, if so, what you may say and how you may say it.

  • Use mindful breathing and other mindfulness practices to help you notice anger without responding to the impulse to act on it. Anger’s like an itch – it’s beyond your control and just shows up. Whether you scratch it, however, is up to you!