Embrace - Understand - Your Anger  - Honour Your Inner Fire



Embrace Your Anger

Anger assessment

Chapter 4

      ←  the power of forgiveness


Over the course of 17 years of supporting and mentoring       many people with cancer, I observed that Cancer susceptible individuals often carry long - suppressed toxic emotions, such as anger, resentment and hostility. These toxic emotions usually arising in childhood, which have been internalized to such an extent that these individual have extreme difficulty in bringing these unacceptable emotions to the surface. As with many conditions, whatever goes on mentally, emotionally and spiritually in these people can have a profound effect on their physical health. The immune system in particular is continually under the influence of these factors.

My initial observation and belief is that particular suppressed anger, underlie the development of cancer in many cases. Suppressed anger seems to be by far the most common emotional feature of cancer patients in general. This anger    has usually been suppressed for so long that patients either can’t bring it out, or don’t even realize that it’s there…. but    it’s down there somewhere in just about every case.

  • There is much evidence to suggest that repressed anger,         hate, resentment and grief are the root emotional causes leading to the development of cancer.

  • "Extremely low anger scores have been noted in numerous studies of patients with cancer. Such low scores suggest suppression, repression, or restraint of anger. There is evidence to show that suppressed anger can be a precursor     to the development of cancer, and also a factor in its progression after diagnosis." (Cancer Nursing - International Journal)

  • "People who have repressive styles tend to be more prone to illness, particularly [immune-system related] diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, infections, and cancers. The concept is of unexpressed anger. If one doesn't let it out, that could have adverse consequences." (University of California Los Angeles)

  • "Extreme suppression of anger was the most commonly identified characteristic of 160 breast cancer patients who were given a detailed psychological interview and self-administered questionnaire. Repressing anger magnified exposure to physiological stress, thereby increasing the risk  of cancer" (Journal of Psychosomatic Research)

This page is full of information about the emotion of anger. Take your time to work through the different sections. Consider it as a work page.... and be very gentle with yourself. It will take you  days or weeks to work through the different sections and you might would like to get the support from an experienced mentor, councellor or psychotherapist while you choose to address any anger issues you might have. The most important thing is that you have compassion for yourself and connect with your heart.



Anger is one of many emotions or Angry is one of many mental states. Being Human requires all emotional or thinking states to be maintained and regulated.

Many people conceive of anger as something dangerous or to be avoided. However, anger itself is not negative. It is how we express anger that can be either harmful or healthy. It can be expressed in many forms.

Anger is often called a secondary emotion because we tend to resort to anger in order to protect ourselves from or cover up other vulnerable feelings. A primary feeling is what is what is felt immediately before we feel anger. We almost always feel something else first before we get angry.

We might first feel afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured. If any of these feelings are intense enough, we think of the emotion as anger.

Anger can be used as a straightforward and positive force in one’s life - as an agent of constructive internal and external change -and should be expressed appropriately and released. However if this is not possible for a person, if the anger is suppressed for long periods of time then literally these toxic feelings will eat away at us.

Some people will need to take time to process and express old angers and resentments, while some will be able to leap directly into forgiveness and release. Don’t judge yourself if this is a slow and difficult process for you. Just keep moving through it.     

Anger is a messenger telling us that something is wrong, either with the external circumstances of our lives, or with the thoughts and beliefs that we are holding.

Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything, that it won't make you feel better (and may actually make you feel worse, depending how you are able to express your anger in an appropriate way).

Everyone has issues and concerns about anger. Some people need help in managing anger that gets out of control; others need help in accessing buried anger. Some take anger that is meant for one person out on innocent people, while others take their anger out on themselves. Instead of confronting the people with whom they are angry, they become self-destructive in some way - by overeating or binge eating, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, or relentlessly bombarding themselves with self - criticism. Others pretend they aren’t angry but then get back at those who hurt or threaten them in indirect, often underhanded ways, such as gossiping, being sarcastic, or distancing themselves. Unless you find healthy ways of owning and expressing your anger, it will find some outlet that might be inappropriate, unhealthy, or counterproductive.


Feeling angry is a sign that we’re responding to a threat, whether real or perceived.

It is not just an emotion; it has a corollary physical response because our body is mounting a defense to meet the danger.

When we get angry the part of the brain called the Limbic System triggers the fight -or - flight response. From an evolutionary perspective this is one part of the brain that is responsible for our physical safety - when a wild animal was attacking our caveman ancestors, it was very important for them to be able to make very quick decisions on whether to make a stand (fight) or run away (flight).


But our lives have changed a lot from those cave days and as a result we rarely are in life - or - death situations. More often we are confronted by situations with people close to us where we feel threatened and the same fight-or-flight response is triggered. When we give out a natural response in situations, which seem like danger to us, we are basically simply reacting to the event. And the only natural reaction to danger that we know of is to fight or flight.

Sadly, neither works. A fight becomes a battle of wills, a battle of who is right. Of course you think that you are always right and ditto with the other party. After a point, it didn’t matter. All that matters is who will win the battle. And a flight becomes avoiding confrontations, avoiding anger, keeping everything bottled within. An anger, which keeps boiling within, is all consuming. It finds it’s release either by draining the anger keeper physically and emotionally or it explodes and transforms from fight to flight (equally unproductive).  

There Are Many Different Ways People Respond to Threat, Stress and Loss:

  • The Most Harmful Tactics are Used to Intimidate Others.
  • Physically assault others to intimidate them
  • Scold, lecture and verbally abuse others

  • Nurse your anger by holding grudges
  • Engage in revenge thoughts and behaviors
  • Displace your anger on people who are weaker than the one which whom you are angry
  • Criticize and put the blame on others. Refuse to see your part of the situation.

  • Use the silent treatment, cold stares, sighs and eye rolls.
  • Cuss and call names
  • Use sarcastic remarks to show your superiority
  • Manipulate the other person to get what you want

       Turn Your Anger on Yourself
  • Physically harm yourself
  • Blame yourself and beat yourself up
  • Deny anger and stuff your feelings
  • Shut down your mind and numb out

  • Use alcohol, drugs or food to numb out or get high when you are angry.
  • Hit the wall.
  • Drive recklessly
  • Run away and never address important issues.
  • Never get closure and keep storing up the anger



As it is obvious, either ways of managing anger – the passive style (flight) and the aggressive style (fight) is not making you happy. Neither style gives you what you want – a sensible solution to whatever the problem was. And this is the point where you can start to work on yourself.

If we only focus on the anger and not on the source of the anger we do two things; first we activate our brain's fight, flight, or freeze system which begins to pump cortisol, commonly referred to as the stress hormone, into our body. This will prime us to fight, flight, or freeze, even if there is no one or no thing to fight or run from. Having cortisol in our bodies for long periods of time can damage us physically and mentally. (This hormone also fuels the negative internal dialogue.)

Second, we miss the opportunity to gain insight on our anger.


There is a close link between fear and anger. When we are afraid, we are vulnerable. We feel the strength of our need of another person. We experience their ability to hurt us. We feel weak and powerless. Anger gives us power. Anger pushes away that vulnerability. Anger puts us in control.

It is fear that often activates our anger. A fear that someone or something is going to block our ability to achieve a goal or a desire. In other words, something we personally value. A person's anger could be from a fear of not being seen as unique and special by others; it could be from a fear of not feeling superior or being seen as inferior, or it could be from a fear that autonomy is not being respected. The sources of personal fears in our society are as numerous as the cells in our bodies. These fears are what we have the opportunity to explore if we continue exploring our anger pass self-compassion.


Knowing how to use anger to your advantage depends upon what you were taught within your family of origin. Family attitudes toward anger are at the heart of historical anger, which can be defined as the build up of unexpressed anger over one's lifetime. 

Some people learn to be angry in childhood by copying the behavior of angry people around them who influence others by being hostile and making threats. For instance, children growing up in a household where one parent constantly berates and belittles the other learn to berate and belittle themselves, and then often recreate this behavior when they grow up and enter into relationships by berating and belittling their partners. Someone who has learned to act in an angry way may not realize that they have an anger problem. From their perspective, they are just acting 'normally' (e.g., meaning normal for their family of origin).

Children learn how to be in relationships from their parents through a process of social learning, and especially observational learning.

They adapt the behaviors they see their parents do. The children in the family watch their parents and learn positive as well as dysfunctional coping styles in dealing with stress and threat. For instance, children growing up in a household where one parent constantly berates and belittles the other learn to berate and belittle themselves, and then often recreate this behavior when they grow up and enter into relationships by berating and belittling their partners.

Children from angry families most often pick up anxiety, frustration and agitation that flavor how they see life.

This inability to deal with frustration and anxiety can lead to extreme out busts of aggression. Or it can surface as icy cold hostility as a means of controlling other using looks of disgust to convey displeasure.

An insecure childhood is often a set up for needing to control others. The person, who was traumatized, as a child by family violence often feels anxious, keyed up, on edge, irritable and tense. He has trouble learning the tools to release pent-up emotions of distress. The child learns to vent his anger because one of their parents acted that way.

Some of the children in the family learn to identify with the aggressor because the parent who yells the loudest gets his way. Belligerence and hostility become a way of life. They can even justify their yelling or hitting saying, "I was raised with my dad's yelling and using the belt, and it didn't hurt me." They cannot see that their current behavior, which seems normal to them, is a direct result of being raised in an angry household.


A second pattern that happens in other children (particularly girls) is freezing in response to loud voices and anger. This is a dissociative response where the person becomes numb and spaces out instead of fighting or fleeing. Dissociation can be a normal response to trauma to keep form experiencing the pain. This behavioral pattern, learned in childhood, then carries over to the adult life where the woman literally gives up her voice to keep the peace.


A third pattern in dealing with stress that is also more prevalent in girls and women is "tend and befriend." Women are more likely to band together and try to keep the peace. Tend and befriend is connected to the female brain and maternal behavior associated caring for others is due to a hormone called oxytocin. This evolutionary adaptation of trying to soothe the waters and keep others happy backfires on women who live in abusive (emotional and physically) relationships.


Later in life the earlier stressors show up in eating disorders, promiscuity, codependency and alcohol and drug abuse. Anger becomes an unwelcome generational gift that is passed down in families.  People who had critical, perfectionistic parents learn to be judgmental themselves. They often become angry when their own needs are not met.

Children growing up in a household where one parent constantly criticize, berates and belittles the other learn to criticize, berate and belittle themselves, and then often recreate this behavior when they grow up and enter into relationships by berating and belittling their partners.


Stored up Anger from the past fuels rage and, surprisingly, depression, too. It keeps you plugged into the past.

A man or woman who is unable to reveal any anger at all may have learned that anger is a bad or forbidden emotion. He or she may have grown up in a household where anger and opposition were never expressed, where a smile - or at least a neutral mask - was required at all times. This circumstance most often produces a child (and later an adult) who has never learned anything about anger or negotiation.

This person is extremely sensitive to, or frightened by, any expression of disharmony or conflict and is committed to keeping everything under control. On the other hand, the early environment may have been one of frequent or periodic physical or verbal explosions, which can create an individual determined never to repeat the chaotic discord of childhood, one who suppresses every dissenting impulse. However, the same environment can give rise to a frightened and powerless child who grows into an adult who feels safe only in his or her ungoverned expression of anger.

 “Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.”

Some children learn through their family of origin to become so passive that they allow others to walk all over them. They bend over backwards to please others, spouses, friends, employers, keeping their own desires a secret and internalizing any anger they feel. They are afraid of anger and of expressing their anger. This is invariably because they come mostly from a family where one or both of their parents or other caregivers were angry in a mean, violent way – a way that caused harm to others. These people are so afraid of being like their mother or father that they repress their anger, taking it out on themselves instead of others. (Woody Allen: “I’m not getting angry, I grow tumors in my body”)


As with any toxic build up, when emotional distress reaches a danger level, the body responds. It begins to shut itself down to reduce the pressure, creating some of the outward signals we have come to identify with depression: appetite loss or overeating which produce numbness, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, sleeping too much or too little, turning off the phone to avoid stimuli, shutting people out.

At times we tend to avoid looking too deeply at the causes of our emotions- especially when we are facing a strong and unsettling emotion such as anger. Whether we are afraid of what we may uncover, doubt our ability to deal with the issues that may arise, or just feel an overwhelming urge to bury our heads in the sand and wait for the anger to go away, confronting our feelings can be daunting.       

Neither dumping anger on others nor repressing it and taking it out on oneself is healthy.

Until an individual deals with his or her anger, there is little chance that day-to-day situations involving anger will be handled with any degree of mastery. Annoyance, frustration, exasperation, feelings of being taken advantage of, or abused, or of being over - protected all stimulate the anger signal. One's response to the warning depends upon whether he or she can address the situation openly, clearly and calmly, or whether one's history commands the response.

If history is in charge, you will most likely explode inappropriately, say nothing at the moment and comply with authority, but be set off later by some unrelated annoyance, or you will comply and swallow whatever anger signals you may notice and say nothing about it, hoping to keep the peace. People who respond in the third mode usually have conditioned themselves so well that they no longer feel more than the slightest stirring of annoyance or anger and are out of touch with feelings in the extreme. Interestingly, rage as well as suppression keeps people out of touch with their real feelings.

If one wishes to grow, the solution is to look back - at historical anger - and begin to examine your life.



Humans differ greatly in what makes them angry. Perceptions of whether an event is threatening is based on the your personal history and prior negative emotional associations built around the event or one with a similar meaning. How the event is interpreted depends on old triggers, buttons being pushed, and red flag words that have been associated with being hurt or rejected in the past.


Anger is often an reaction to feeling frustrated, blocked, thwarted, ignored or criticized; "something or someone is not as we want it or him/her to be." Our anger then gives us the energy to overcome the blocks to our goals or fight harder in a conflict situation.

People who flare up at the slightest incidents have been hurt deeply and hold on to beliefs of injustice. They make rigid judgments around situations of how things should be which contribute to their angry thoughts. They hold rigid patterns of thinking with "shoulds,"  and "musts" for others. If things don't go their way, they justify getting angry.

Threat and the resulting anger can happen to the individual in one or more of five areas:

  • Threat to the body
  • Threat to personal property
  • Threat to the self esteem such as name calling or being criticized.
  • Threat to the values and beliefs (where the sense of what is fair and right has been violated).
  • Threat to not getting what you wanted.

The type of emotional response that comes forth depends upon your beliefs, past history with aggression, and the demands of the social situation. If you comes from a violent home, you may have to suppress your own anger in order to be safe around an explosive parent. When negative emotions are suppressed over a period of time and built up, they can manifest as depression, illness or in an explosion of rage at someone who is safe. Or you may have learned to identify with the aggressor in your childhood home making your anger pattern an explosive one.


To analyze the anger, begin by examining the perceived loss. Ask yourself:

  • What have I lost? Is the loss real?
  • What is its value to me?
  • Why do I perceive this as important?
  • Was this my loss or was it someone else's? What are their views regarding this loss? How do you know? Why do you care?
  • Do I feel insulted? Why? Has my ego been attacked? Have I lost some dignity? Was I ridiculed or humiliated? Has my reputation been damaged? Do I feel less competent? Was I denied fair recognition or reward? Is the insult groundless or is it an accurate interpretation of my behavior? What is the asymmetry that bothers me so much?
  • Do I feel powerless? Have I lost autonomy? Do I feel cheated? Was I taken for a sucker? Was a trust betrayed? Was privacy breached?
  • Was I coerced into submission or obedience?
  • Have I been threatened, injured, struck, abused, attacked, or intimidated?
  • Has anyone trespassed on my territory?
  • Have my goals been thwarted? Have my freedoms been abridged? Is my safety or security reduced? Is my legacy diminished?
  • Have I lost power? Have I lost stature? Have I lost strength? Have I lost influence? Have I lost access? Has a relationship been damaged?
  • From a rational point of view, how big is this loss? What impact will it have? How can I recover? Can I just ignore the issue?

Your answers to these questions will provide valuable insights into your values, beliefs, goals, and needs. Based on what you learn, complete the following sentence: I am angry because I have lost . . . This loss is important to me because I [value, believe, want to achieve, or need] . . . Then evaluate how strongly you still assess the loss.


Anger encourages us to act on our sense of justice. Anger may be interpreted in many of the following ways:

  • A demeaning offense against me or mine.
  • Interference with what we are intent on doing. Thwarted goals. Frustration
  • Intentional physical harm toward us; actual, threatened, or reasonably perceived
  • Intentional psychological harm toward us, including insult, humiliation, denigration, intimidation, or rejection
  • Disappointment in the performance of others we care about; we get most angry at the people we love the most
  • Witnessing the anger of another, especially when it is directed at you.

The message to others is “get out of my way” or “I want to hurt you”



There is a long, yet recent, history about the effects suppressing anger, a form of self-silencing, has on the body. One of the universal truths seems to be that even if you hide, conceal, or substitute your angry feelings, those feelings will find a way to come out of hiding; for example, having a shorter temper that leads to you randomly snapping at family members, co-workers, and strangers.

Not only that, but the practice of silencing anger over the long-term has the serious potential consequences of damaging your heart, creating a eating disorder, and giving you high blood pressure and/or certain types of cancer, to name a few things. It could also make you prone to acting in ways that are destructive to your self-esteem.

For example, an internal bully who speaks to you in absolutes: you always fail, this always happens badly for you, things will never get better, you're a complete failure at this, etc. That type of self-talk has a long-term negative impact on self that can lead to depressed feelings and more self-deprecation.


 Anger can be compared to a volcano.

The top hole in the volcano is where all of the built up anger comes out. Usually in full blown rage. And if you have seen any pictures of volcano’s then you will have seen that there are all these side vents. These side vents is where the lava runs out when pressure is building up inside the volcano. And just like us, when we have our own annoyances, frustrations, fears, hurts, rejections, resentments, embarrassments, pressures, and powerlessness if they are not released through one of the side vents then they get blocked and then we explode, we become so angry that our own volcano erupts.

When these feelings aren’t expressed, the force which was behind those feelings doesn’t go away. It builds up and builds up and builds up and builds up and finally explodes out the top. Some one who is constantly angry needs to re-open the other vents so more appropriate feelings can be expressed. This is what I messages do.

Suppressing Your Anger is like plugging up a giant volcano. All of a sudden it starts expanding in weird and radical directions.

People are often scared of their anger and other people's, believing its power could be devastating. This can be true if that anger is repressed for so long that it reaches explosive levels. That is what happens when we constantly repress our feelings - they fester and grow under the surface, becoming twisted and more potent. They can be our greatest enemy in terms of our health, both physical and psychological and certainly have a negative impact on our lives.

It is the repression of anger that is dangerous, NOT the emotion itself.

Eventually, all repressed anger explodes into fury and rage, either inwardly or outwardly. If it is finally expressed inwardly it can transform into self-hatred, self-blame and self-harm. It is also responsible for addictions and risky and destructive behaviour, self-doubt, worry, a feeling of powerlessness and lack of confidence, all of which have a very negative effect on our lives. In the long term, repressed anger can result in high blood pressure, heart problems and cancer. It can be life-threatening as well as life debilitating. The human body cannot be tricked; it feels the damage caused by repressing any emotion.

There is a lot of energy in anger that needs to be released respectfully and appropriately. Our initial feelings of anger are necessary signals and shouldn't be ignored. Anger should be viewed as a messenger delivering important information - it can tell us if change is required. For example, if you feel angry with a person then something about that relationship needs to change - perhaps you feel taken for granted or misunderstood. Repressing your anger simply increases the negativity. It will not only affect you for the worse but also your relationship.
When repressed anger is finally released in rage it can be completely out of proportion compared to the initial cause of the anger. Blind rage is hard to control and can be extremely damaging. It can trigger not only verbal assaults but physical assaults also.



People may totally suppress anger, express it in sneaky ways, or disown their hostility and see it in others. If you do not claim your anger, it will “own” you. When you embrace your anger, you can contain it and aim it in a direction that will serve you well. Each means of short-circuiting anger has costly payoffs

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive manner is an effective way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

We don’t like to be ‘out of control’ in an angry way, and often times we hide our anger to others and ourselves because it scares us. If you never learned to express anger in a healthy way, anger can feel like the most forbidden or dangerous expression of all. 



Another person may feel the anger, try to suppress it, or minimize it and therefore not benefit from the information it is giving about their unfulfilled core values or needs that are discounted. If someone has a belief that they should accept everything, they may not set appropriate boundaries. With lack of self protective boundaries they in essence hang out a "walk on me" sign. The usual scene with suppressing anger is that the internal pressure builds up until the self-suppressing can no longer hold and emotional eruption follows. Then the person feels remorse, shame and self esteem plummets.

 Turning against the self

Yet another person may turn their anger against themselves and shame themselves. The condition for this dynamic is that something in the environment disappoints the person, and then the person finds fault shames themselves. This helps them still feel connected to the disappointing other. After all, is the inner experience, the other person didn't do anything wrong, oneself self was defective.

Non-recognition of anger

The fourth response to our own anger that I want to talk about here is that of not even recognizing that we are feeling anger.

Why is non recognition of our own anger a problem? What you can't recognize, you can't regulate. As John Gray's book title asserts, "What You Can Feel, You Can Heal." In fact, in my very first therapist training, I learned that an important function of therapy is to "give people a language for their feelings so that they don't need to act them out."

Before we can recognize that we are feeling angry, we have to have learned to name the feeling and recognize how it feels inside ourselves. Ideally we are taught to name our feelings as a young child. But as I have found in my practice, people often do not recognize their own anger. This often happens in families with rigid, authoritarian family rules. The children in these families are often taught that they should not show anger towards their parents with their faces, words, tones of voice, or actions.


Suppressed anger causes people to lose themselves.

But if, as a rule, you have to bottle up your feelings, the energy has to go somewhere. It may turn inwards and cause you all sorts of problems. Suppressed anger can have very negative effects, physically and mentally.

In the extreme, people lose enjoyment of and interest in life. Headaches, ulcers, or other physical problems may develop. Some people deny their feelings until they explode or turn anger against themselves.


Stealth anger invites bad will from others due to constant excuses, procrastination, playing helpless, and ignoring requests. Experts at avoiding what they do not want, have trouble knowing what they do want and reaching goals. They rarely receive appreciation or approval from others and ultimately lose self-respect.

Disowned anger makes the world look hostile. By seeing their own anger in others, people gain a temporary excuse to retaliate. However, it is necessary to be on guard all the time and easy to feel victimized, envious, and jealous. Others view these people as suspicious, unpredictable, and not believable. Eventually, the anger that is seen in others becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anger is the least understood and most maligned of all the emotions. Whereas sadness and fear can be private affairs, anger connects us to others. Inappropriate expressions of anger are especially noticeable and the cause of much misinformation in society. This can lead to the internalization of thoughts that disarm us. Learning correct information and identifying beliefs that contradict incapacitating thoughts helps reclaim anger.

Often people are unaware of the presence or source of anger raging inside them, yet frequently it is precisely what lies at the core of the most predominant problems in their lives. From past childhood traumas to everyday stress at the office and at home, anger can easily seep into a woman's life. Though it can feel empowering at times, in the end anger takes up so much energy and space that there is little room left for positive thoughts, emotions and experiences.


It is important to understand that hiding your anger is not the same thing as controlling it.

Without a healthy means of expression, anger festers underneath the surface and finds others ways of negatively manifesting itself in your life. These include:

  • Procrastinating in the completion of tasks, especially ones you don't like or want to do.

  • Habitual lateness.

  • Sarcasm, cynicism, or flippancy.

  • Over politeness, constant cheerfulness (fake), attitude of "grin and bear it" but internally resenting it.

  • Frequent sighing.

  • Smiling while hurting.

  • Over-controlled monotone speaking voice.

  • Frequent disturbing or frightening dreams.

  • Difficulty in getting to sleep or staying sleep. Thoughts going around in your head keep you awake.

  • Boredom, apathy, loss of interest in things you are usually enthusiastic about (depression from internalized anger).

  • Slowing down of movements, especially when doing things you don't want to do.

  • Getting tired more easily than usual.

  • Excessive irritability over trifles.

  • Facial tics, spasmodic foot movements, habitual fist clenching, and similar repeated physical acts done unintentionally.



 _____  Fear _____  Hurt _____  Guilt _____  Sad _____  Confusion _____  Overwhelmed _____  Startled _____  Restlessness _____  Envy _____  Hate 

Anger itself may be a mask. It may be that individuals have learned only the expression of anger and it becomes a cover for other more tender emotions they have not learned to own and express. It may cover other hurts which, being unhealed, cannot be exposed. For example, Jeff used anger as a mask to cover tender feelings which he did not learn to express as a child. Not experiencing the level of affection and nurture that he desired, either eliciting from him or being expressed to him, he masked those emotions with anger which seemed to justify his experience. It may cover many other motivations, such as desire for recognition, control, power, desire for attention or care, and so on.

When anger itself is discovered to be a mask for other emotions, it is dealt with as a secondary emotion and the focus may shift to understanding what is being covered. In that case, one must focus on exploring, understanding, and developing strategies for expressing the masked emotion. It is important to be open to considering whether anger is a mask, or if it is being masked. - Excerpt from “Helping Angry People” by Glenn Taylor, Rod Wilson


Anger as a substitute emotion.

By this we mean that sometimes people make themselves angry so that they don't have to feel pain. People change their feelings of pain into anger because it feels better to be angry than it does to be in pain. This changing of pain into anger may be done consciously or unconsciously.

Being angry rather than simply in pain has a number of advantages, primarily among them distraction. People in pain generally think about their pain. However, angry people think about harming those who have caused pain. Part of the transmutation of pain into anger involves an attention shift – from self-focus to other-focus. Anger thus temporarily protects people from having to recognize and deal with their painful real feelings; you get to worry about getting back at the people you're angry with instead. Making yourself angry can help you to hide the reality that you find a situation frightening or that you feel vulnerable.


Anger is a chain of simultaneous body and mind reactions. It happens quickly as one of the responses to threat or perceived threat. It takes one thirtieth of a second from threat to reaction for the chain of mind and body reactions to take place.

The response of anger can serve many different functions. Some people with low self esteem automatically substitute anger during threatening experiences due to their fears of being seen as vulnerable. They have learned that acting tough and macho makes them feel important. Often negative emotions serve to manipulate, control or intimidate others. Sometimes you even substitute an inappropriate emotion for another response out of fear. Getting angry when frightened or crying when frustrated are examples of misguided emotion. 

When anger gets out of control and turns destructive - (either through repressed/suppressed anger or to aggressive behaviours), it can lead to problems - problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you're at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion. Once words of anger are said, they can be apologized for, but they cannot be taken back.

Angry people have automatic thoughts of a negative nature that increase the perception of harm. Self talk statements are made which heat up the situation. The way that the stressful situation is interpreted comes from past with being hurt. You may dwell on the concept of fairness and exaggerate the injustice of the current situation. You can self anger yourself by holding self-righteous beliefs and a desire for vengeance. Angry people often see threat in situations that are ambiguous.

The most common kind of self-angering thoughts that increase conflict are:

  • Name calling which is giving the person a negative label. "You dummy." "You are stupid,"Bitch....

  • Making judgments and "should" statements that lead to a sense of injustice. "You should not act that way."

  • Making revenge and getting even statements. "I'd like to wring your neck. I want to you."

  • Assuming that the other person deliberately wanted to harm you. "She / he did it on purpose."

  • Making mountains out of mole hills - catastrophizing and exaggerating the importance of small events.

  • Making rigid judgments that wimps and weaklings need to be punished.

  • Beliefs of "I have the right to hurt others because I am better than them."


Angry people hold similar negative thoughts based on their beliefs about unfairness:

  • It's not fair. He's mean.
  • How dare he do that to me?
  • He did that on purpose to hurt me.
  • She doesn't care about me.
  • He can't get away with that.
  • I'll get him back. He deserves to be punished.

In addition to providing a good smoke screen for feelings of vulnerability, becoming angry also creates a feeling of righteousness, power and moral superiority that is not present when someone is merely in pain. When you are angry, you are angry with cause. "The people who have hurt me are wrong – they should be punished" is the common refrain. It is very rare that someone will get angry with someone they do not think has harmed them in some significant fashion.



Whether justified or unjustified, the seductive feeling of righteousness associated with anger offers a powerful temporary boost to self-esteem.

It is more satisfying to feel angry than to acknowledge the painful feelings associated with vulnerability. You can use anger to convert feelings of vulnerability and helplessness into feelings of control and power. Some people develop an unconscious habit of transforming almost all of their vulnerable feelings into anger so they can avoid having to deal with them. The problem becomes that even when anger distracts you from the fact that you feel vulnerable, you still at some level feel vulnerable.

Anger cannot make pain disappear – it only distracts you from it.

Anger generally does not resolve or address the problems that made you feel fearful or vulnerable in the first place, and it can create new problems, including social and health issues.



  • We become angrier when we are stress and body resources are down.

  • We are rarely ever angry for the reasons we think.
  • We are often angry when we didn't get what we needed as a child.

  • We often become angry when we see a trait in others we can't stand in ourselves.

  • Underneath many current angers are old disappointments, traumas and triggers.

  • Sometimes we get angry because we were hurt as a child.

  • We get angry when a current event brings up an old unresolved situation from the past.

  • We often feel strong emotion when a situation has a similar content, words or energy that we have felt before.

Identify Your Self Angering Metaphors:

  • I'm Hot as a Firecracker
  • I'm an Emotional Yo-yo.
  • I'm a Time Bomb Ready to Explode
  • I'm Coiled Ready to Spring
  • I Have a Short Fuse 
  • I'm a Volcano Ready to Go Off 
  • There's a Ball of Fire Within Me
  • I'm at My Breaking Point
  • I'm a Prisoner of my Anger
  • I'm a Pressure Cooker Ready to Blow
  • There Are Red Flames Consuming Me 
  • I Have an Uncontrollable Temper
  • I'd Rather Be Right Than Happy 
  • I'm an Emotional Roller Coaster
  • I'm Stuck - I Can't Let Go - It's Engraved in Stone 
  • I'm the King/Queen of Denial

Remember When You Are Stressed, You Are More Likely To Become Angry Successful Anger Management Keeps The Stress At A Minimum In Your Life


It Is What We Do With Our Anger That Is Important.

  • We can use anger to lash out at others and intimidate them.
  • We can turn it inward and beat ourselves up.
  • We can use it to speak out with firmness increase our self-esteem.
  • We can use it to correct a situation that is wrong.

Anger is a coping mechanism for dealing with some event that threatens our body, property, self esteem, values of what we hold near and dear or when we don t get our way.

So you are the only one who can make yourself angry. You choose how you respond to events that upset you. What you think about the event can determine whether you become angry or not. Your thoughts and beliefs can make you angry. Your negative self-talk helps you hold onto your anger. Your positive self-talk can talk your own anger down.





The anger mechanism would not have survived millions of years of evolution if it did not provide important survival benefits. Here are some of those benefits:

  • Anger tells us that something needs to change.

  • Anger can provide the motivation to constructively change whatever it was that caused the anger. It can energize the fight for legitimate rights. It contributed to eliminating slavery and apartheid, and lead to women's suffrage and civil rights. Anger can motivate us to overcome oppression and topple a tyrant. 

  • Anger can provide the motivation to constructively correct an injustice. It urges us to act on our sense of justice.

  • Anger can provide the motivation to constructively teach offenders what they did to make you angry, and to learn to act differently.

  • Anger can help to reduce or overcome fear and provide the energy needed to mobilize needed change.

  • Anger sends a powerful signal that informs others of trouble. It notifies the offender that you have perceived an offense.

  • Anger helps us to preserve our ego and think good of ourselves.

  • Anger is a normal response to an external stimulus that needs to be addressed.

One of the most dangerous features of anger is that expressing anger increases the anger of others. This can lead to a rapid and dangerous escalation. We may try to harm the target of our anger. We often wish them harm. The impulse to harm is probably a central part of the anger response for most people. While anger can be dangerous and must be constrained, it cannot and should not be eliminated.


Anger as a motivation for Change

Considering anger as an urgent imperative for change provides a useful point of view for analyzing our options, actions, and effectiveness. This viewpoint raises these questions:

  • Why am I receiving this signal for change? What does it tell me about my own beliefs, values, goals, judgments, sense of justice, and needs?
  • What has to change?
  • What steps are needed to carry out the change?
  • Who needs to act to make the change?
  • When does the change need to take place?
  • Will the change be effective?
  • Will the change be lasting?
  • Will the result be constructive?

 Recognize the positive role anger can play in your life.

Expressing anger is necessary; but do it by standing up for your rights clearly and assertively, not violently. Suppressing legitimate anger is unhealthy. Continually venting anger is also unhealthy.

The excuse “You made me do this, I had no choice” is always false. Self control is the difference between acting destructively in anger, and responding calmly, constructively, and rationally. You are always responsible for your actions.

It is false to believe: If I don't act out the anger, I have given in, lost face, wimped out, become a coward, and disgraced myself. Actually the opposite is true. It takes greater strength, self restraint, introspection, and analysis to constructively resolve anger.

Like any other emotion, anger serves a purpose. It is a God-given warning system letting you know something is wrong. Anger should be a catalyst of sorts, prompting you to examine a given situation or relationship more closely. Only by getting closer to the root of the problem in this manner can you identify the actions necessary for positive change.



Unfulfilled expectations.

From family life to professional success, have things turned out differently than you planned? Instead of determining the course of your own life, does it feel more like circumstances beyond your control are making these decisions for you?

Keeping score.

Do you keep a mental list of all the wrongs perpetrated against you? Do you make it a habit of running through this list when you need reassurance that you a re surely right and "they" are surely wrong?


Are you overworked and overwhelmed? Do you have so many commitments to your job, family, friends, finances, church, children, and community that instead of enjoying your life you feel like a slave to it?

Life is unfair.

Do you feel victimized by life? Are you so convinced things will never be different that your anger has transformed into depression simply so you need not feel anything at all?

Rewriting history.

Do you play out the same relationship dynamic with different people? Do you hope and expect a new relationship to somehow resolve the issues you had in the last one?


Do you avoid dealing with situations that you feel are beyond your control by masking the pain with things you can control, like food, alcohol or drug use

Your body.

Are you tired of irritations that normally reside underneath the surface predictably erupting beyond your control in a pattern you see connected to your menstrual cycle?



Most adult anger is about expectations and values not being met. We build up strong belief systems of how things should be or should not be and then expect others to behave in ways that we deem best. Expectations can be realistic. The shoulds are the irrational ways we make our self and others crazy by insisting that small, insubstantial things be our way.

The shoulds are the rules that we make for our self and others that are based on our personal history and way of doing things. Anger is often the result of a person's need to control someone else and tell them what to do based on his own view of how things should be in life.


The situations that trigger anger can be very varied but could include some of the following:

  • Facing a threat to ourselves or our loved ones
  • An urgent signal to prepare for change, or a plea for justice
  • Being verbally or physically assaulted

  • Suffering a blow to our self-esteem or our place within a social group
  • Being interrupted when pursuing a goal
  • Losing out when money is at stake
  • Someone going against a principle that we consider important.

  • Being treated unfairly and feeling powerless to change this
  • Feeling disappointed by someone else or in ourselves
  • Having our property mistreated

  • Reaction to injustice, terror and feeling out of control.
  • Feeling of betrayed and are unable to express the pain
  • Perhaps our understanding of an agreement was broken.
  • Maybe someone lied to us and we think they shouldn’t have.

  • Something happened which we “think” should not have happened.
  • Or something didn’t happen which we “think” should have happened.
  • When a person feels a threat or a loss or a perceived threat or loss.
  • Their values are being threatened (disagree with what someone is doing such as kicking a dog or not following the rules)

  • Someone insists that they do something they don't want to when someone hurts or betrays them and they feel a loss of trust they are guilty about something and they do not want to feel or admit their guilt
  • They feel discounted and their sense of self-esteem is lowered
  • Their expectations are not met and they don't get their way (their expectations may be unrealistic)

Many words in our vocabulary describe forms of anger. They often differ in the intensity of the anger they express, but the basic archetype is the same. Here is a partial list, in approximate order from the most mild to the most intense:

Annoyance, irritation, aggravation, agitation, frustration, peeved, annoyed, miffed, sulking, offended, bitter, indignation, exasperation, incensed, outrage, hostile, spite, vengefulness, resentment, wrath, rage, fury, ferocity, and livid. Bitterness describes a long-lasting result of unresolved anger. Hate is a form of anger because you blame the other for your difficulties when you decide to hate them.

In addition to varying over a wide range of intensity, anger has a variety of forms. These include:

  • Indignation: Self-righteous anger,
  • Sulking: Passive anger,
  • Exasperation: anger at having your patience unduly tried, and
  • Revenge: A deliberate response to an offense, delayed until after a period of reflection



People often express their anger verbally. They may:

  • Shouting, raised voice, threatened or actual violence.

  • Threaten

  • Use dramatic words / emotional abuse

  • Bombard someone with hostile questions
  • Exaggerate the impact on them of someone else's action.

  • In extreme situations people express their anger with physically violence

  • Passive withdrawal, stonewalling, lack of cooperation, sabotage, revenge.

  • Throwing a tantrum - a violent and objectionable demonstration of rage or frustration that is often considered quite childish.

Some people internalise their anger. They may be seething inside and may physically shake, but they do not show their anger in the way they behave when they are around other people.


Facial Expression

An angry expression sends the clear signal: back off, I am prepared to attack.

The facial expression of anger has these distinctive features:

  • Eyebrows pulled down together,
  • Wide open, glaring eyes,
  • Upper eyelids raised in a stare,
  • Lips wide open to form a rectangle, or
  • tightly closed with the red margins of the lips becoming more narrow, and the lips becoming thinner.


What feelings are felt during an expression of anger?

Fear, rage, wanting to make it better, upset, emotional release, sick, physically ill, displaced or misdirected attack, apprehensive, sad, hurt, offended, frustration, lack of feeling, revengeful, embarrassed, shaky, wanting to make it better, guilty, tense, uncomfortable, scared, "flight or fight" stress response and/or loss of composure.


Anger is often experienced physically as the body reacts to the interpretation of the situation.

Here are some common cues which may indicate that a person is becoming angry:

• Tensed body
• Clenched teeth

• Increased intensity of speech or behavior

• Unkind words or the tone of voice changes to whining or yelling

• Restlessness, withdrawal, unresponsiveness, or being easily provoked

• Noises with the mouth like growls or deep breathing

• Pouting

• Squinting, rolling the eyes, or other facial expression.

Becoming aware of these kind of cues can help a person to identify that they are feeling anger and take steps to deal with it appropriately.




Anger In: This is feeling angry but directing it toward oneself. It is depression or suppressed hostility.

Inward expressions include feelings like seething, biting your tongue, or suppressing angry feelings. Neither of these approaches is healthy.

Anger Out: This is feeling angry and directing it toward other persons or things, or outwardly directed anger. It is the showing of repressed hostility and resentment.

Outward expressions of anger include yelling, screaming or violence, and even less threatening approaches like sarcasm. 

The third way to express anger is control and channels it into more acceptable methods of expression.



As a social emotion, anger is experienced through communication. Angry people tend to have distinct communication postures that they habitually take up when communicating with others. Psychologists have described four of these communication postures, each possessing its own motto:

The Aggressive communications posture says:
"I count but you don't count."
 The Passive communications posture says:
"I don't count."
The Passive-Aggressive communications posture says :
"I count. You don't count but I'm not going to tell you about it."
  • The Assertive communications posture says:
    "I count and you do too."

Verbal and Nonverbal

Anger can be expressed both verbally and non-verbally. Let's take time to go over the verbal and non-verbal ways anger may be expressed.


"Shut Up!"; "Get Lost"; "You'll be sorry"


  • Finger pointing
  • Glaring
  • Invasion of personal or even intimate space (4” and closer)
  • Arms crossed
  • Widening of stance
  • Hands on hips
  • Fingers clenched into a fist
  • Increase in the volume of voice


“I’m sorry to have to tell you this…”; “Please don’t get angry or upset with me”;


  • Biting lips and tongue
  • Looking away or down
  • Folded arms
  • Very soft voice, mouth behind hand
  • Apologetic tone


“I feel”; “I think”; “I am angry about…”; “I would like you to…”; “I don’t understand”


  • Direct but non-invasive eye contact
  • Modulated voice
  • Respect for spatial boundaries
  • Use of illustrative gestures
  • an erect but relaxed posture

Angry people tend to use the Aggressive and Passive-Aggressive postures a whole lot.

Aggressive communicators are more likely to start an argument than they are to get the results they want achieved, however.

Being passive in your communications is also a mistake, as it communicates weakness and tends to invite further aggression.

The Assertive communications posture is the most useful and balanced of all the postures, as it is the only posture that communicates respect for all parties.

Communicating assertively is the most likely way to ensure that everyone involved gets their needs taken care of. Learning how to become assertive rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive is an important step in discovering how to communicate appropriately with others. 

Assertive people stand up for themselves and their rights and do not take crap from others. However, they manage to do this without crossing the line into aggressiveness; they do not attack the person they are communicating with unnecessarily.
Assertiveness is "anger in self-defense" whereas aggressiveness is "anger because I feel like it".


Repression: experiencing but immediately forgetting or stuffing the anger.

Non-feeling: never even identifying the feelings or sensation of being angry.

Displacement: getting angry at a person or thing when something or someone else is the actual target of the anger.

Controlling: holding in the emotional storm of the anger.

Suppression: experiencing the anger but holding it in with no expression of it.

Quiet crying: suppressed anger with no verbal or physical cathartic process; this stifles the emotion of anger and changes it to sadness and pain.

Assertive confrontation: a direct response of how I feel about the person or thing that angered me.

Overreaction: fury or rage at something or someone who perhaps does not deserve such a reaction.



We were OK until something happened to provoked our anger. We know the feeling; our heart beats faster, our eyebrows pull down together, we are somewhere between frustrated, annoyed, and enraged, and we have this almost uncontrollable urge to lash out and act now. Although the cause could be any number of things, perhaps we were humiliated, we will use the term “insult” to describe any of these provocations. After reflection and reappraisal, the offender who made the original insult may decide it was unjustified and could later feel shame or guilt for his attack.


Now we are angry, and we have to decide what to do about it. The importance of the choice we make here cannot be overemphasized. We can retaliate and take a path leading quickly to escalation and violence, we can remain resentful for days, months, or years, we challenge an advisory and ensure a destructive outcome, or we can carefully resolve the problem. If the message of anger is that “something has got to change” then it is essential to accurately determine what it is that has to change and what actions you can take to effect that change. If your actions, for example an anger display, will not cause the needed change, then that action is not a good choice. Do not take other action until you have a chance to cool off, calm down, and reflect. The yellow color indicates the need for caution in choosing the next path.


The most common, and most destructive, response to anger is some form of retaliation. This is too often in the form of the familiar “anger display” where raised voices, yelling, threatening, insulting, and even physical actions such as clenched or raised fists are used in some attempt to assert dominance and intimidate or coerce someone. The retaliation may be delayed and often escalated into some form of revenge, spite, or “getting even”. More subtle, but equally damaging forms include sarcasm, wise guy responses, mocking, tit-for-tat, and other verbal or psychological insults. The inevitable result is increased anger, shown here as the path leading from anger to enraged, from enraged to overtly violent, and from resentful to angry. Attempts to justify retaliation are often based on a mistaken belief that it is necessary to “let off steam”, “teach a lesson”, “get even”, or “save face”. We recommend you look at the map, decide where you want to go, and choose another path to get there. Although an “anger display” is not helpful, it is often important to describe to your advisory why you are feeling an urgent need for change. Describe your needs evidence and recommending an effective course of action.


Tempers are flaring. You are obsessed with anger. Yon are not thinking clearly and revenge, retaliation, getting, even, teaching a lesson, and other form of retaliation, revenge, and escalation are the only alternatives you can think of. You better calm down and think this through again. De-escalate the hostilities now and avoid further destruction. The orange color represents moderate to high danger levels.


Walk away, calm down, count to 10, or 100, or 1,000, take deep breaths, ask for help, hold your arms and hands down at your side, pray, apologize, fawn, or ignore the provocation. Do not continue an anger display, make threats, communicate insults, mock, retaliate, vent, use sarcasm, snipe, get in the last word, or provoke violence.  When experiencing anger in another, acknowledge it and calmly help the person analyze and express it. These phrases may help:

  • “I see you may be angry. I regret that. Please tell me if there is anything else I can do that would be helpful to you.”
  • “I would be happy to talk to you now or at later time about how you feel about this.”

Overtly Violent:

Ranging in intensity from a tantrum, to disrespectful or obscene gestures, verbal abuse, grabbing, shoving, slapping, hitting, biting, punching, destroying property, bar room brawls, road rage, terrorism, lynching, and thermonuclear war, this unfortunate violent condition is where too many anger paths lead. De-escalate now. The red color represents high to extreme danger levels.


When you hear “Oh, its nothing, really it isn't” for the 100th time, it seems it must be something, really it is. Whether through inaction, avoidance, submission, or rumination, you have not taken action but you certainly have not forgotten the insult. You are holding tightly to a grudge and doing nothing to resolve it. You dream of revenge. Stop paying the price every day and learn from St. Augustine when he said: “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Take effective steps now to reconcile the grievance.


Unresolved anger leads to resentment and often revenge. You are not over it, there is no denying it, you remain bitter and still harbor negative thoughts, bad feelings, plans for revenge, and ill-will continues to fester. You are holding a grudge and are “hooked on anger”;. The anger has become a destructive recurring pattern. It may even be affecting your health. Resignation is not a solution, so end your suffering with a reconciliation. St. Augustine said: “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Take effective steps now to reconcile the grievance. The orange color represents moderate to high danger levels.


You are resigned to resentment when you tell yourself: “Well I guess I'll just have to ignore it or live with it”. But if you are still bothered by unresolved anger, you are resentful and not OK. Take steps toward a reconciliation.


The slight could have been ignored or easily resolved, but instead it was used as an opportunity to create a show down, the classic “dominance contest” where someone has to lose. If I can prevail, I may be OK, although you are not. But if you prevail and I capitulate, then I become resentful, and the problem is not resolved. “It is often better not to see an insult than to avenge it”.


When a challenge is offered you can often decline; just don't take the bait. If the gauntlet is thrown down, either ignore it or reach over, pick it up and simply say “you seem to have dropped your glove”. Be careful not to smile, gloat, show sarcasm, or otherwise humiliate or insult your adversary here, or you will quickly escalate the situation.

Dominance Contest:

This is also know as the “show down” or “stand off”. A dominance contest either establishes or challenges the present dominance hierarchy. It is a public test, generally of fighting ability or some other form of power, to determine the relative ranking of the two contestants. It is often a form of rebellion. Rams butt horns, wolves may fight to the death, countries go to war, Coke and Pepsi spend millions on advertising. Don't play this costly game unless you know you can win, and if that is the case why even bother? The orange color represents moderate to high danger levels.

You Prevail:

and I capitulate. You win and I have lost the dominance contest and run away with my tail between my legs. I am now resentful and my first thoughts are of revenge and retaliation.

I Prevail:

and you capitulate. I win and you lose, but the problem is not resolved. Take time to empathize and understand how this feels to the loser. His first thoughts will be to retaliate. The only way to win is not to play this game.


This is the difficult path to the only satisfactory solution. Anger is urging you to act on your sense of justice. Take the time to calm down, cool off, reappraise and revalidate the justice principle, gather evidence and share your viewpoint thoughtfully with your adversary, and plan a constructive path to change. The beginning of this web page describes the analysis steps that can lead to a satisfactory resolution and constructive change. It is likely that a resolution will require you to change.


Wanting to look good while doing bad is a popular response to anger. But this passive-aggressive behavior leads to a covertly violent state that can be as destructive over time as an overtly violent state.


Who me? I didn't do a thing. Inaction can be as hostile as overt violence when it is done as a covert form of retaliation. Passive-aggressive behavior has been refined to a fine art form by some very angry and insincere people who work hard at appearing polite, kind hearted, and civilized. Stonewalling is an especially destructive form. Passive aggressive-behavior is particularly volatile when it is used in a relationship with an overtly violent person. The red color represents high to extreme danger levels.


You'll gladly tell anyone who will listen about your grievances, so why won't you take steps toward an effective resolution? Talking about your adversary is not helpful, unless you are developing a plan for a constructive resolution. Talking to your adversary can be very helpful.


Remove your burden of unresolved anger. Ideally you will have the opportunity to accept a sincere, complete, and timely apology from the person you are angry with. Unfortunately a true apology may never happen, or may not happen soon. Short of an apology, perhaps you can recognize that the person you are angry with is truly remorseful even if they do not apologize. You may reappraise the situation and recognize that the insult was unintended, unfounded, trivial, meant in jest, or sincere and useful feedback. You can always take steps yourself to reconcile your anger. Why not forgive the grievance and let go of your anger; this is about you, not them. Let go and get on with your life.

Don't require that:

1) you teach them a lesson, or

2) they make the first move, or

3) they show true remorse, or

4) they change. Take responsibility for how you feel and how you live your life, forgive them and move on. St. Augustine said: “Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” Take effective steps now to reconcile the grievance.


Many years ago when people struggled to survive in small groups or tribes being shunned or cast out of the group was a very severe punishment that often resulted in death. Human nature and social customs seem to have held on to various forms of ostracizing as punishment. Severing communications, choosing a scapegoat, and withdrawal are common forms of shunning. Today it is counterproductive and dysfunctional approach to resolving differences. Problems are solved by increasing communication, not through isolation, transferring blame, severed communication, or withdrawal. The most important conversations may be the ones that are the most difficult.


While communications are severed there is little or no chance of solving problems and reconciling differences. Open up the communications lines, perhaps through some peace offering. Don't make the mistake of replacing resentment with alienation. The blue color represents the coldness of isolation.

Peace Offering:

Make the first move. Offer some small gift (e.g. olive branch) or courtesy (e.g. a sincere smile) to your adversary. Open up the communications channel and begin to reconcile the grievance.


Poking and jabbing your adversary at every opportunity, including a barb or insult in every conversation, and constantly finding opportunities to renew the resentments will not resolve any problems. If you have an issue to resolve, or something to say, address the person directly and explicitly.



Anger and depression are much more closely connected than most people might think. As near as experts can tell, since depression causes us to feel powerless, helpless, and ineffective, these feelings can be perceived as threatening by our inner selves, engendering an anger response. Many depressed individuals commonly lash out with seemingly no provocation, while others turn their anger inside, and do harm to themselves. Either way it comes out, unmanaged anger, especially in untreated depression, is dangerous.


Depression and anger feed each other in a vicious cycle that is seemingly endless: the feelings of helplessness and lack of self - worth cause frustration and self - hatred, which leads to anger at the self. This anger leads to self - destructive behaviors, such as substance abuse, irrational and violent behavior, and damaged relationships; this further supposed demonstration of why the depressed person is so worthless elicits more anger…and so on.


While the external reactions displayed by anger and depression look very different, the underlying causes, and emotion, are very much the same. It is simply the way that these emotions are expressed, or suppressed that differs. When anger is not expressed, processed and released, it becomes suppressed. It is this suppressed anger (among other factors) that can lead to the experience of depression and or to passive aggressive anger behaviours.

Venting anger on another is about controlling through intimidation and blame.

Anger dumped on oneself is about controlling feelings that are harder to feel than anger, such as fear, anxiety, loneliness, or helplessness over others.

Individuals, that are not able to turn bottled up anger into anything positive, are people who commonly refer to as ticking time bombs. 

 “Anger repressed can poison a relationship as surely as the cruelest words.”



There is essentially a link between anger and various ailments of human body. People are born as purely pleasure seeking animals. They remain so with modifications. People would like to believe that they are intellectual animals, meaning that they are governed by intelligence but they are not. People are full of feeling of anger that manifests itself in direct or disguised ways.


There are many causes of headache including meningitis, brain tumors, abscesses and hemorrhages. By far, the most common cause is tension and tension is more often created by repressed anger.

Gastrointestinal Disorders

Repressed anger frequently uses the gastrointestinal tract that extends from the mouth to rectum as an outlet. People described as having week stomachs, throw up for the slightest cause. One factor to be considered is hidden anger.

Respiratory Disorders

The most common disease, “common cold” is probably related to repressed anger. Resistance may be lowered because of emotional stress and one of them is anger.

Skin Disorders

Repressed anger can affect the skin and one of the most common conditions is itching. When anger is repressed, it may lead to attacking the skin. One form that is particularly uncomfortable is itching around the rectal area.

Genito-urinary Disorders

Suppressed anger can affect genito-urinary tract. A common expression of anger is “Piss on him”. Some people urinate frequently because of repressed anger. Anger can cause sexual problems such as inability to have an erection or frigidity in females.


There are many causes of arthritis and repressed anger is certainly a contributory factor.

Nervous system Disorders

Neurologists are well aware of the role of anger in headaches and backaches. There’s a possible contribution of other neurological conditions such as strokes, tics of various sorts, speech disturbances.

Circulatory Disorders

Vacillations in blood pressure are a common outlet for anger. In an individual with coronary artery diseases and anginal attacks (diseases of heart causing pain), the condition is aggravated by emotions particularly anger.

Emotional Disturbances

As extensive are the effects of repressed anger on our physical being, their influence on our emotional lives is worse. There is a broad spectrum of emotional disturbances from withheld rage, extending from impaired judgment to suicide.




  • Using feelings of threat and distress to cue yourself that you are beginning to be angry
  • Not sweating the small stuff and heading off anger before it escalates (This is no big deal)

  • Using humor to defuse the tension in the situation
  • Using movement or exercise to drain anger away
  • Becoming more flexible and accepting of things others do.

  • Writing about the anger (Use size 24 print and a bold type    on your computer, then delete it.)
  • Drawing pictures about anger
  • Looking for and admitting your part of the problem

  • Sharing feelings and discussing the issue from an emotional level Gently confronting the irrational ideas of yourself and   the other person.
  • Problem solving the issue using conflict negotiation
  • Taking Time Out to cool off, and then come back to address the problem.

  • Breathing and calming to talk your anger down (I can handle this. I'm cool. etc.)
  • Observing your physical reactions, thoughts and feelings .
  • Finding the errors in your thinking that triggered anger.
  • Trying to see the issue from the other person's point of view.

  • Take constructive action to make changes about the situation (MAD-Use your anger to make a difference

Using relaxation techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitization, Thought Field Therapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, Tapas Acupressure Technique and Progressive Relaxation to release anger.




How would you like to keep your calm even when you are angry? Interested? Analyze your own skill level with dealing with uncomfortable feelings. Much of how we react when angry is learned behavior. You can unlearn old nasty behaviors and learn new positive anger skills.

These angry feelings and behaviors are very, very complex. They can be broken down into many sub skills that you can practice daily. The more skill you have to deal with your mad feelings, the better equipped you will be to live in our chaotic world.

Practice the skills you do not have until they become part of your daily repertoire.

To Release Current and Old Anger in Effective Ways
  • To displace anger symbolically when it is not safe to express it directly.
  • To use positive displacement of anger and refrain from negative displacement.
  • To break into self-angering thoughts.


To Learn Assertive Ways of Dealing with Threat

  • To stand up and speak assertively when threatened.
  • To say No, state boundaries and Bottom Line and leave if boundaries are not respected.
  • To shield against the negative energy of name calling and ridicule.
  • To take care of self when others fight. (It's not my problem. It's a grownup problem.)
  • To break into dissociative states of fear and numbing out.
  • To use techniques of self soothing when upset.



To Learn to Contain Excessive Anger

  • To learn to discriminate between big and little deals.(Don't sweat the small stuff.)
  • To realize and accept that you Don't always get what you want. (Break into entitlement)
  • To learn to identify irrational thoughts and statements that fuel anger.
  • To break into self-angering thoughts and use cool down thoughts.
  • To learn to analyze and correct mistakes instead of beating yourself up.
  • To use Thought Stoppage techniques to interrupt intrusive, negative thinking.
  • To keep cool when others are trying to push your buttons.
  • To take Time Out when overheated during an argument and then return to problem solve.



To Observe Rather than Over React to Threatening Events

  • To learn to observe and identify body reactions, emotions and thoughts during threat.
  • To use observation of physiological cues to break into anger or fear responses.
  • To find and express sadness, confusion and hurt that may lie under the anger.
  • To analyze the threatening event and identify and break into triggers.
  • To bridge current angers back to old unresolved childhood issues.
  • To stay present in the threat of danger rather than lashing out or stuffing anger.
  • To change the self-angering or self-depreciating meanings given to threatening events.
  • To make self empowering statements showing resilience.



To Channel Anger Into Constructive Action

To identify and name feelings and use the "I formula" when appropriate

 To speak feelings appropriately when feeling threatened but refrain when it's not safe.

To deal with others who discount feelings and do not want to listen.

To express anger in safe and productive ways that increase self esteem.

To change anger constructively to MAD - Make A Difference



To Learn to Feel Empathy and Respect Others

  • To listen to others when they are upset.
  • To recognize and refrain from actions that are hurtful to others.
  • To stop blaming others under conditions of stress.
  • To take responsibility for one's own actions and wrong doings.
  • To refrain from sarcasm, name calling, egg-ons and put downs.
  • To see things from the other person's perspective.
To observe the effect of one's actions upon others and express sorrow for hurting others.

To treat others with respect and altruism.


It takes only a split of a second for all of this to happen! After years of this pattern being repeated again and again, the person develops a locked-in automatic response to threat. The antidote to break out of this instantaneous reaction is to slow down the reaction time by breathing and substituting another more healthy response. By watching and changing the self-angering thoughts, the person can break into the automatic self-angering thoughts and decrease anger and violent behavior. We are what we think. We treat people the way that we have been treated in the past. Getting a handle on thoughts such as "It's not fair" and "I am entitled to blow up at others because I am special and they are stupid, weak or of a different race or belief system" is part of the breaking out of the self-angering thoughts which contribute to unnecessary anger. 



         Using a Traffic Light for Anger Management


"Everyone (and also children as young as three or four years of ) able to understand the basic concept of a traffic light and are familiar with the use of traffic lights on roadways, they are valuable tools for use at home  to learn and manage anger management skills.

You can use a symbolic traffic light in two ways to cope with anger.

Stop, Think, Go

When you learn anger management skills a traffic light is effective at encouraging the identification of angry emotions. The color red represents stopping, and is useful when you begin to lose control of your emotions. Yellow offers an opportunity to think and find an appropriate solution to their problem, and green lets you know they can move forward in a responsible way. Just as a driver who runs a traffic light risks getting a ticket or causing an accident, a you or your child risks punishment, personal injury, or inflicting injury on someone else by running an anger traffic light.

Representing Stages of Anger

Traffic lights are useful analogies when teaching anger management to older children and adults. Using a traffic light for anger management helps you and your children become more aware of their angry emotions and learn to control their reactions to triggers in the environment.

The three colors on a traffic light can represent the three stages of emotion you or your child passes through when becoming angry. Green represents calm and relaxation, or the state before anger begins to develop. Yellow symbolizes the build-up of angry emotion that typically occurs when you or your child first encounters a stressor. Red represents the child's reaction to the angry emotions.

Once you or your children learn to recognize what stage of anger they are in, they can utilize coping strategies learned in anger management programs to stop the progression of their emotions before they reach red.

You can purchase small traffic lights at most novelty stores and at some larger stores.

Anger is a complicated and overwhelming emotion, but using a traffic light for anger management allows children to visualize their anger and the steps necessary for controlling their reaction to angry emotions.

  • Recognize: Thoughts = anger
  • Accept: You control the thinking


  • To pause and cool down
  • To take down your inflammatory hot thoughts
  • To breathe deeply and be in control of the situation
  • To choose a higher level of anger response


  • Your level of arousal
  • Other emotions that accompany or substitute for anger
  • What you tell yourself to keep yourself caught in anger


About how you react to when there are...

  • Stressors to your body
  • Risks to your property
  • Threats to your self esteem (Being discounted, put down, teased, rumors spread about you, things not going the way you think they should etc.)
  • Your values, what is important being trashed

So watch your thoughts. Learn what angers you.

What do you tell yourself to make yourself angry? What do you say to keep yourself angry? You turn your anger up or down by your thoughts. What calming statements do you say to let go of inflaming thoughts? Make a list of your calming thoughts and carry them with you."



 Next page: anger assessment

      Chapter 4 - Letting Go

 ← the power of forgiveness



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