Dealing with anger

We’re born with a bark.  How we manage it is up to us.  Photo by Robert Gramner on Unsplash

We have bodies that, systematically, get angry.  Observe dogs when they are pushed beyond what they are comfortable with.  Many, but not all, will tend to bite or threaten when things get too much.

Anger is a defensive strategy, born of the fact that, at some time in the past, animals that got angry survived.  That it is a product of evolution does not mean that anger is right; nor it does not mean that anger is wrong.  It just means that, in the interactions between beings so far, some have developed an angry methodology.

What is also means, is that humans have inherited a set of mind and body signals that can lead to an aggressive outcome.  The basic message of anger is ‘leave me alone’, and it is sent out when a being is in an environment that disrupts its safety, comfort or security.  If we were all secure in all environments, then there would be no need for anger, since we would adapt instantaneously to wherever we were.


It follows that people are more likely to be angry when out of their comfort zone.  Individuals who are nice as pie normally, can turn into something quite sharp and aggressive when pushed to perform in an unfamiliar environment.


Equally, some humans, and some animals, can turn into ‘rogues’, beings set apart from their natural social setting, and locked in constant battles with their erstwhile friends.  In the wild, and in cities, they can become homeless, scavenging for food where they can, but failing to benefit from the normal comforts provided by a protective circle of mutual support.


Sometimes, through no immediate fault of their own, beings can be put through terrible suffering in a short space of time, and come out of it shocked and unable to readjust.  Often, their internal alarm system stays on high alert, and their trigger settings are lower.  It takes less to set them off into an angry or reclusive sequence.  This is the world of the ex-soldier who suffers from PTSD, or the abuse survivor who tries to live normally, but finds themselves hypersensitive in intimate situations.


But it doesn’t have to be a particularly exceptional case.  Anger permeates society, and in the normal run of things, people get tetchy, difficult, frustrated, immoderate, impatient, snarky, moody… whatever word you want to use.


It’s a potentially long subject, but here are a few suggestions as to where we can focus in handling our own anger:

  1. Be honest – observing others in a psychological setting, I am aware how long we can all hang on to the strategy of throwing our anger out to others, and denying it’s anything to do with us as a behaviour.  It’s always a nice moment when people calm down and own their own frustration.
  2. Find happiness – if your current environment is pressurising you, then perhaps find a different environment that doesn’t pressurise you.  Amazingly often, the best strategy for an angry person is to leave the room to calm down.
  3. Cultivate patience – this is a long term strategy, but if you have the wish to learn meditation, it can be an excellent training in patience.  You can’t be angry and patient at the same time – they’re opposite strategies.  The more patient you become, the less you need anger.
  4. Call bullsh*t on your blaming tendencies – if you find yourself blaming someone else, then you have always missed the point of an experience.  You can hold others accountable, but that’s a different thing.
  5. Apologise – if possible, acknowledge the suffering you have caused, and try to change.  Otherwise, you may develop a blindness to the effects of your actions, and end up habitually using anger or sulks to manipulate your nearest and dearest.

Again, a long subject, but here are a few suggestions:

  1. Remove yourself from any immediate danger.
  2. Once you are safe, find a medium term strategy for staying safe.  If it means staying away for a while, then do that.
  3. Assess how the angry person thinks and behaves.  This is important information for your strategising.
  4. Consult others – do not fall into the trap of covering for your angry colleague.
  5. When you are comfortable, choose a strategic setting for expressing yourself back to the person who has been angry.
  6. Let them know what behaviour is inappropriate, what you would prefer, and what consequences will result if it happens again.
  7. Next time, do what you say you’ll do.  If there are no consequences, an angry person may just do it again.

Today, try to catch yourself in the middle of any frustration.

Instead of living in the frustration, try to become mindful of it, maybe using some or all of the 5 methods offered above for handling your own anger.



Anger is built into our animal bodies.  We may even have gone through experiences which have exaggerated our tendency to anger.

Deal with your own anger honestly, moving away from the pressure, avoiding blaming others, and apologising if necessary.  Meditating on patience can help enormously.

Deal with others’ anger by first making yourself safe, and then choosing an assertive strategy which holds the angry person accountable for any future repetition.  Mention clear consequences, and follow through.