Managing Your Anger Response

Managing Your Anger Response


The information in this article is from the book Transforming Anger by Doc Childre and Deborah Rozman.

Everyone gets angry! Anger is a normal human emotion. It is important to note that anger is often used as an umbrella term. We all know how anger feels. We become irritable, short-termed, aggressive, hostile, and say hurtful things. Yes, all of this feels like anger, but it’s not why you’re angry. The book, Transforming Anger states that we feel angry when we’re experiencing:

  • Insecurity: uncertainty, feeling danger, threat, or lack of protection

  • Guilt: feeling responsible for offensive acts

  • Hurt: emotional pain due to someone’s words or actions

  • Disappointment: displeasure due to unfulfilled hopes

  • Embarrassment: self-conscious of negative responses from others

  • Jealousy: fear response over lack of possessions or safety

  • Resentment: feeling unhappy due to being wronged/ hurt

  • Rage: uncontrollable violent actions

  • Frustration: upset at the inability to change/ achieve something

  • Irritation: emotional discomfort from inconveniences/ annoyances

  • Anxiety: worry about the future

  • Depression: sad mood, negative thoughts

  • Victimized: (hardships, trauma, “shoulds”)

How does anger present? What does it look like? How can you know for sure if you’re angry? This article will tell you. Individuals presenting with anger can look very different in comparison. Differences in presentation may be due to individual differences in emotional thresholds (i.e., how much can you take before getting angry), coping skills (activities that help calm you down), temperament (long-held personality traits), etc. So, we will discuss some common indicators that your anger needs better management.

During periods of anger, individuals may have outbursts. These outbursts are an accumulation of anger built over time and not managed. Outbursts can consist of past unresolved rage and anger from current emotional pain. Individuals may become short-tempered and irritable and say and do very hurtful things. It is important to note that anger can hurt relationships. Loved ones especially become fearful because the person struggling with anger is out-of-control and in a state of overdrive. Individuals struggling with anger tend to experience a simultaneous inability to think rationally. They make decisions that jeopardize their future, including long-term relationships, careers, health, finances, safety, etc. Individuals who have experienced long-term anger are at greater risk for anger issues worsening. The book states that the more you respond to situations with anger, the more likely you will get angry. This idea is similar to, the more you cook a meal, the better it tastes/ turns out; the more you exercise, the easier it becomes; the more you sing a song, the better your pitch gets. Individuals experiencing anger are also at risk for physical health complications. Symptoms such as headaches, irregular heartbeat, tension (back, chest, jaw), high blood pressure, cardiac issues, and hormonal balances are frequently reported.

So now, let’s get into what to do with this anger. There is a reason, a situation for you to feel angry. That is no doubt. But the book encourages us to learn what to do when anger occurs and to act at the first whiff of rising anger. Unfortunately, this article does not discuss how to resolve the situation that made you angry. But, we discuss how we can intervene in anger responses to handle problems effectively, without hurting relationships and making decisions that we later regret. Here are the steps that the book recommends:

  1. Ask yourself if there’s an alternative, a healthier, or a more helpful emotion for you to experience now.

Let’s take the example that you get pulled over for a broken tail light and are already late for a meeting at work. Before you got pulled over, you were probably already on edge, rushing, and mentally preparing to walk into work. Then you get pulled over. Why does this have to happen to you? This inconvenience seems like it’s making the issue even worse. Now, ask yourself – what would be the best emotion for me to express right now? Consider this, you could get angry and have an outburst with the police officer – but that can lead to jail or a ticket. So instead, you may decide that, despite being angry, I choose to feel patient at this moment. Choosing patience over anger can help resolve the situation faster, and there may be fewer consequences. This practice is not to say that whatever happened that made you angry is ok. The book says there’s a better and healthier way to feel and think while handling situations that make us angry.

  1. Shift your focus inward, and breath the Selected Emotion through your heart space.

Step 2 discussed in the book is tricky because many of us were never taught to “breath an emotion through our heart space.” So, let’s break it down. This step encompasses several other coping skills, all wrapped up in one practice. First, let’s talk about body scanning. Body scanning is a meditation-like practice involving mentally checking out parts of your body. Normally, you’ll do this with your eyes and hands to see how everything looks. But in this case, you’ll examine your body with your mind to see how it feels in that region. You may ask yourself, how does this body area feel, is it painful, is it tense, is it comfortable, am I holding my bladder, do I need to stretch/ exercise, does it itch? The second is the power of breath. Breath work is important because it regulates our heartbeat and calms everything down. The book states that when you experience certain emotions (e.g., happiness, attraction, jealousy, irritation), your heart creates its special heartbeat pattern, which signals to the brain what emotion you are feeling. Breathwork is an intervention because it immediately stops your heart from signaling negative feelings to your brain and calms down the body’s natural stress response (i.e., autonomic nervous system, fight or flight response). Third, it’s going to take some grit. Choosing to feel an alternative emotion in lieu of anger can take a lot of personal will, strength, and grit. It may feel like you’re driving down the highway, and you just realized that you’re taking the wrong exit. Now you have to veer back into the right lane.

  1. Balance heart and brain.

Here is where all of the elements come into play! (1) You’ve determined an alternative emotion to experience, (2) you’ve brought your mental attention to your chest area/ heart space so you can regulate your heartbeat, and (3) now it’s time to breathe through it. Please pay attention to your chest. It may help to lay a hand on your chest. Think about the emotion you want to feel, affirm to yourself that you are capable of feeling this emotion, visualize yourself feeling like this, and imagine how others would respond if you felt like this. Also, monitor your breathing. When we are sad or angry, our breathing gets crazy. We inhale/ exhale fast, feel out of breath, and stutter while breathing. So, intentionally inhale every bit of air, slowly, calmly, and fully – as best as you can. You can exhale with force if you need to release some tension. Think about the selected emotion, give yourself some soft/ slow/ full breaths, and repeat, repeat, repeat. As we discussed earlier, the more you respond with anger, the more likely that anger will be your first response in the future – it’s a habit that has been formed. Given all the times you’ve responded with anger, give yourself patience, compassion, and time to calm down. This exercise may not work the first time, or it may not work as you expect—practice, practice, practice. And for more support, consider finding a licensed professional. Attending therapy will provide a judgment-free and confidential space for you to discuss your anger responses and what makes you angry. Individual therapy will also offer greater support, as the professional will be able to aid your unique case.


We specialize in treating a range of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, addictions,  trauma, motherhood, life changes, postpartum, child therapy, post traumatic trauma, and mood disorders. We help clients in Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, and Sandy Springs, Georgia.  


Towler Counseling LLC

8046 Roswell Road Suite 101 C Sandy Springs, GA. 30350

Phone: 404-580-7150 or 770-800-7362