How To Cope With Anger When You Feel Like Breaking Everything, According To Experts
Everybody hurts — and what's more, everybody gets angry. Rage is a healthy emotion that's often a pretty reasonable response to the infuriating, frustrating things that happen in this world. But anger is still a highly stigmatized emotion, particularly for women: A study in 2015 found that American juries reward men who display anger, but penalize women who exhibit rage. But it's important to have a healthy relationship with your anger, and as experts tell Bustle, there are many ways to cope with anger, acknowledge it, and understand it, when it feels like you could destroy something just by looking at it.
"As human beings, it's only natural that we want to avoid negative feelings," social worker Jessica Tappana tells Bustle. "Too often I see people try to stuff down, ignore or run away from their negative feelings. What research is beginning to show us and what most of us know in our gut to be true is that avoiding negative feelings doesn't eliminate them. In fact, if we avoid negative feelings their grip can actually tighten on us."
Of course, if your anger is getting in the way of your daily life, it's valid to seek outside treatment, in the form of a therapist or counselor. But if you're experiencing occasional anger that you're not sure how to manage, these suggestions can help you get a handle on why you're feeling what you're feeling, and how to deal with it.
"Because our minds tend to focus so heavily on the negative," cognitive behavioral therapist Celeste Viciere tells Bustle, "it is important we stay in tune with what is taking place in our minds in real-time. If we intentionally process our thoughts on a daily basis, we will begin to understand where our feelings derive from and can begin to grow in our ability to make mindful decisions."
As with a lot of other negative feelings, like sadness and loneliness, humans who are feeling anger can feel like they'll cope better if they stay away from others, therapist Laura Chackes tells Bustle. Rage and sadness aren't inherently unhealthy, she explains, but "problems arise when instead of reaching out for support, we isolate ourselves." If you feel that being around others while you're angry makes you feel worse, that's OK — but make sure that when your anger has subsided, you're checking in with a support network about it. Chackes says, "if we start avoiding healthy people and activities and stay in our heads ruminating about how terrible we feel," that's a concerning reaction. Reaching out, even if it's just to a trusted friend to vent, is helpful and necessary.
Experts also say that there's no easy way to manage rage; sometimes you've just got to sit with it. "Often the only way 'over' an emotion is "through" it," Tapanna tells Bustle. "When a negative emotion bubbles up inside you, often the healthiest way to cope with it is to acknowledge the feeling and let yourself experience this human part of you. By letting ourselves feel angry, we learn to evaluate situations in a realistic way, get our needs met, cope with our emotions in a healthy manner and avoid getting emotionally stuck."
If you want to express yourself, Viciere has a recommendation: guided journaling. Writing things down, she says, "can help people to embrace the power they can have over their emotions and enable them to make more clear-minded decisions around everyday situations that affect their lives." Guided journals give prompts to help direct your thoughts and reflections, and can be a good start if you've never kept a journal or haven't experienced it as helpful before.
Therapist Laura MacLeod says acceptance is a large part of the battle, whether you're experiencing anger or you're watching someone else cope. "Be OK with your loved one feeling bad," she tells Bustle. "When it's your turn for negativity, you'll need the same space and consideration." Sometimes that's what it takes: a bit of space to get your head sorted, figure out what's behind your rage, and move forward.