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Anger Management: Myths vs Reality

Last updated on 19th February 2024

Anger Management: Myths vs Reality

Feeling angry on occasion is a normal part of life. Anger can be a helpful and useful emotion. However, if anger starts to have an impact on your health, or the lives of your loved ones, you may want to consider learning some strategies and coping mechanisms to manage your angry feelings. 

Learning ways to manage anger can be done in a group setting, one to one, online or sometimes as ‘self-help’. We refer to these management techniques as anger management

People often misunderstand the impact that anger can have and why it happens, leading them to turn to unhelpful and unhealthy coping strategies. In this article we will debunk some of the myths that surround anger management and suggest some simple and healthy coping strategies for when angry feelings start to take over. 

Myth: Suppressing anger is healthy

It’s a common misconception that suppressing anger is a healthy way to deal with it. This idea is false as suppressing anger and keeping it all inside is not a healthy coping strategy at all.

Unexpressed anger can lead to physical, mental and emotional health issues. 

The emotional impact of storing all of our anger inside can lead to:

  • Feelings of being tense, nervous and anxious
  • Not being able to fully relax
  • Feeling resentful or hateful towards others
  • Feelings of being judged, humiliated or let down

Common physical symptoms associated with anger include:

  • Faster heartbeat
  • Sweating/feeling hot
  • Clenched jaw or fists
  • Tightness in the chest

Unexpressed anger can also affect our mental health and lead to:

  • Increased stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Suppressing anger can also lead to physical ailments such as headaches, digestive issues, insomnia and high blood pressure. There is a link between our physical and mental health; failing to manage stress and anger, or managing it in an unhealthy way, can also put you at a higher risk of developing certain conditions. 

Rather than trying to suppress our anger, it is important to find healthy ways to express and manage it. This can help us to feel better and be more productive.

Reality: Healthy expression

Healthy expression of anger is essential for maintaining good mental and emotional health. This can include assertive communication, where you express your feelings and needs in a respectful and clear manner.

Another way to manage anger is to find constructive outlets for your anger. This could be in the form of exercise, such as running, swimming or going to the gym. Some people benefit from channelling their anger into something creative or constructive, such as art, music, journaling or creative writing. 

Sometimes, when we feel angry, simply being able to express our feelings can help. This might mean talking to our partner, a trusted friend or even a therapist. It is important that we recognise the need to talk about anger in a safe and effective way. 

Anger management

Myth: Venting anger is effective

Just like holding it all in is not healthy, having a huge blow-up or outburst of anger can also be bad for us. Some people will become aggressive towards others (or themselves) when angry. This can have serious consequences and result in significant harm.

Venting might look like:

  • Shouting and screaming
  • Ranting and raving
  • Lashing out

Many people have come to believe that venting their anger through shouting or aggressive outbursts is an effective way to release it. However, this approach can be counterproductive and can actually cause angry feelings to escalate. It may also damage relationships and create a hostile environment.

In the past, many psychologists upheld the idea that ‘venting’ emotions, including anger, was the most effective way to deal with them. In some instances, people were advised to hit objects such as pillows or punch bags to release their feelings. This method may have made people feel better in the moment, but research suggests this type of expression has long-term negative impacts. 

This is because the ‘acting out’ of anger that is physically felt by the body can lead to the strengthening of neural pathways; essentially the brain starts to associate this type of venting exercise with anger. This can mean we get angry more quickly the next time we experience a trigger and there is a higher chance this anger will result in an unhealthy (or even violent) outburst.

Instead of venting, it is important that we learn the art of calm and productive communication to express our feelings.

Reality: Calm communication

Instead of venting or screaming, we can try practising calm and respectful communication when expressing anger. 

This might look like:

  • Taking time to calm down and reflect before communicating (counting to ten, having a change of environment, taking a moment to breathe deeply)
  • Setting and respecting boundaries
  • Not being defensive
  • Focusing on the issue at hand rather than making personal attacks
  • Not being resentful or hanging onto negative emotions for too long
  • Reframing our thoughts (taking responsibility, not getting stuck in negative thought cycles)
  • Practising active listening and responding appropriately to cues
  • Using humour where appropriate; this can quickly diffuse an angry situation at times
  • Learning about being proactive rather than reactive in tense situations

For calm communication to be effective, we should focus on expressing our emotions in an assertive way, rather than an aggressive one. This can help maintain healthy relationships and resolve conflicts more effectively.

Anger can also cloud our judgement or become a distraction from the real problem in a situation. By being able to identify and rationalise our anger, we can start to problem-solve and overcome obstacles more quickly and effectively.

Myth: Anger is always bad

It is a myth that all anger is negative. There is a difference between healthy anger, which involves asserting boundaries or standing up for yourself, and destructive anger, which can harm others or yourself.

Lots of assertiveness training courses, especially those aimed at the corporate industry, often focus on people who do not feel enough anger and therefore allow people to take advantage of them and fail to reach their potential. In this instance, not feeling any anger at all when treated poorly, has a negative impact.

It is true that anger plays a role in being assertive and it is also key to setting and maintaining boundaries and, to some degree, personal safety.

Psychologists claim that ‘healthy anger’ can play a role in:

  • Recognising points of conflict in relationships
  • Closing business deals
  • Giving people a sense of control or belonging during difficult times (such as angry protestors taking to the streets, objecting to war or climate change)
  • Self-protection (activation of the fight/flight mechanism)
  • Identifying problems/grievances
  • Standing up against discrimination or injustice

When we experience healthy anger, we feel it and understand it as an emotion, but we do not allow it to control us. Healthy anger can increase resilience and overall well-being. 

Reality: Anger as a signal

Anger can be a valuable emotional signal that highlights unmet needs or areas where change is necessary. Recognising and addressing the root cause of your anger can lead to personal growth and improved relationships.

It is not always easy to take a step back and identify what it is that is making us feel stressed, anxious or angry. Sometimes it feels like an accumulation of things, whereas other times there may be an obvious trigger. 

We often learn about anger during our childhood. Children who grow up in chaotic or violent households where walls were punched and communication consisted of shouting and screaming may have normalised this behaviour. Anger management techniques can help us to reframe this type of thinking and make changes so we do not perpetuate this cycle of anger. 

Anger can be a learnt behaviour and it is also true that some people are more predisposed to becoming angry than others. Many times, though, anger is a sign of something deeper. Anger might be a sign of:

  • Unmet needs (from a partner, parent, job etc.)
  • Childhood trauma
  • A mental health condition (such as depression)
  • A change is needed (career, relationship, school, environment etc.)

By identifying the root cause of anger we can begin to understand and address it in a healthier way.

Myth vs reality anger management

Myth: Anger management is only for angry people

The claim that only angry people require anger management is untrue. Strategies to deal with stress and anger that make us feel calmer, more collected and in control of our emotions can benefit everyone. 

It is also important that we are in good emotional and mental health before we try to help others, as we do not want to enforce cycles of negative thinking or suggest unhealthy coping mechanisms. 

Being angry does not usually feel good. Learning to cope with anger and reduce the effects of being angry is beneficial to everyone, even if anger is not a significant problem in our lives. 

Anger management can help us to:

  • Perform better in the workplace
  • Be a better, calmer and more empathetic parent
  • Form healthier and longer lasting relationships and friendships
  • Be a more effective problem solver

Children, in particular, can often struggle to regulate their emotions. When parents see their child’s angry behaviour getting out of control or becoming dangerous, early intervention is key. However, all children, even those who are more laid back, will benefit from learning about coping with emotions, including anger. By setting a positive example and helping our children learn anger management strategies, we are helping them to build skills for the future. 

Reality: Prevention and skill building

Anger management involves learning and implementing skills that will prevent anger from becoming problematic. 

By developing healthy coping strategies, we can manage our anger more effectively and maintain better mental and emotional well-being. This might look like:

  • Recognising the early signs that we are getting angry so we can take steps to calm down as early as possible
  • Implementing simple coping strategies such as breathing exercises or counting to ten before we react
  • Understanding, managing and avoiding things that we know trigger our anger (as far as is practical)
  • Knowing when we need help or advice and being prepared to listen

It is also important that we can recognise when anger is becoming a problem. As we have discussed, everyone feels angry at times and everyone expresses it in one way or another, but when anger is causing problems within our daily life, relationships, career or damaging our health, it needs addressing. 

To successfully address anger, we can try to find the root cause and find some strategies that help us to manage our emotions. Anger management is not a ‘quick fix’ and it may take some practice and time to build the skills required to stop our anger from bubbling over the surface and causing us problems.

To get the most out of anger management techniques, follow these tips:

  • Use trial and error, strategies that work can vary from person to person
  • Talk rather than shout
  • Learn to listen to others. Try to use active listening techniques (rather than just waiting for your turn to speak
  • Address underlying issues behind anger
  • Learn assertiveness rather than resorting to aggression
  • Consider finding a support group or therapist to talk to
  • Avoid triggers or unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcohol, if they are going to make things worse

When we increase our understanding of the reality of what anger management is and how it can help us, we can stop believing in harmful myths and perpetuating negative stereotypes. By learning to recognise when anger is healthy versus when anger is a problem and understanding that we can control our emotions, even if we cannot control external factors, we can develop a healthier and happier attitude to life.

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About the author

Vicky Miller

Vicky Miller

Vicky has a BA Hons Degree in Professional Writing. She has spent several years creating B2B content and writing informative articles and online guides for clients within the fields of sustainability, corporate social responsibility, recruitment, education and training. Outside of work she enjoys yoga, world cinema and listening to fiction podcasts.



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