What is Anger? And Why Anger Management Doesn’t Work

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Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Thought | Posted on 04-11-2018

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

What is Anger?Nobody likes being angry.

It feels pretty crappy.

The more angry we feel inside, the more we want to do something about it. Sometimes an angry outburst is enough to rid the body of our crappy feelings. Often, however, we say or do such horrible things during our outburst that we feel worse.

So we try and manage our anger.

  • We may count to ten.
  • We may distract ourselves with work or a hobby.
  • We may smoke pot, have a drink or do some other drugs.
  • We may try and change our angry thoughts into better ones.

And often these anger management techniques work for us.

Except when they don’t.

And when they don’t, not only do we leave a trail of destruction, but in the aftermath, we beat ourselves up for “losing it, yet again.” We wonder how this could happen when we thought we had our anger issue under control.

In order to understand why anger management techniques sometimes work, but often don’t, let’s look at what anger is and where it comes from.

At a very basic level, anger originates as thoughts in our head.

Thoughts, in and of themselves, are neutral. However, we unconsciously give meaning to them based on our view of life in the moment they occur. Therefore, all thoughts come with a feeling attached.

We have a thought (either conscious or unconscious), which triggers various hormonal chemicals to flow through our body. And it’s those chemicals that create the sensations we feel.

Just like anxious thoughts come with anxious feelings, and sad thoughts come with sad feelings, so too, angry thoughts come with angry feelings.

We don’t like the feelings associated with anger, nor the nasty thoughts that precipitated them. Therefore, we do whatever it takes to get back to our natural, peaceful state.

When we lash out in anger, it’s actually our wisdom helping us to get back to normal.

This may sound counter-intuitive, but our outbursts often help to dissipate the energy brought about by our angry thoughts and feelings.

However, as we all know, angry outbursts can be quite destructive to relationships. From our marriage, to our kids, to our work-mates–nobody appreciates us taking out our anger on them.

So what’s the solution to managing anger?

It helps when we understand the root it. While it always looks and seems as if it’s other people and situations causing us to be angry, (the other driver, my parents, my boss) it’s not.

Anger is always and only caused by thought in the moment.

We can see the truth in this by noticing that what seems to make one person angry, doesn’t even faze another. Not only that, what makes one person angry one day (or one minute), very often, doesn’t the next.

Being aware of the way our system works can go a long way towards keeping our anger at bay. If it hasn’t completely taken us over and we still have even a tiny bit of presence of mind, sometimes we’ll notice the true cause of our anger.

But often, we’re too far gone to realize, or believe that it’s our own thoughts creating our angry feelings.

If you’re skeptical of where anger comes from, consider this…

Anger can almost always be traced back to our own insecurities.

It’s a case of our own mind playing tricks on us. We can see this when looking back at any episode of anger we’ve had in the past. It often stems from a place of defensiveness.

For instance, something as simple as a few words from our partner can seem to send us off the rails. Yet, when looked at logically in hindsight, it makes no sense.

Let’s take us being asked the innocuous question of, “Why did you do that?

Our insecure mind (aka our thoughts) can easily translate this into, “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you an idiotic moron? You’re the stupidest person on Earth. I hate you.

That’s obviously not a helpful interpretation of the question!

Yet, because of our own insecurities (which we all have) we often react defensively.

In other words, it’s that crazy person in our head telling us that we suck, but we think it’s the other person!

We feel attacked by other people’s questions, comments and behaviors, and lash out at them in return.

Other reasons we feel angry also stem from our own mind.

A common one is having certain expectations that we believe aren’t being met. However, it’s not up to other people to live up to our particular standards. When we let everyone be who they are with NO expectations, all of us have more peace in our lives.

This all comes down to our continuous desire to be liked and loved.

And when we believe others can give that to us, we’re likely to be in a perpetual state of anger (or anxiety, or depression…they’re all different flavors of the same thing).

Yet until we Know that the love and happiness we’re seeking is who we are at our core, we’ll never feel the sense of love we crave. And we’ll continue to get angry over ridiculous things.

Are you ready to look inside and see the root cause of your anger?

Are you ready to stop blaming the world and everyone in it for “making you so mad” all the time?

If you are, you’ll be surprised by what happens. While your anger is not likely to disappear overnight, there’s a good chance you’ll start to see that being angry, in and of itself isn’t bad. It’s just one of our numerous natural states of humanness.  And when we know what anger is made of, i.e., thought in the moment, we no longer have to be scared of it.

–Jill

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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety


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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.


Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.


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Thanks for this post, and for all your great posts. Really understanding the true nature of the human experience is something the seems to happen slowly, then all at once (like bankruptcy, as Hemingway said)!

Keep up the good work!

You’re welcome. And thanks for commenting, John!