Anger 101

anger 101

Anger 101

By Alexis Kubiak January 24, 2024 01.24.2024 Share:
Anger Communication Conflict Counseling Dysregulation Therapy

We have all had times when we have acted out of anger and regretted it later. When our anger is triggered, it can be very difficult to see anything else. Our physical bodies may feel hot, fidgety, or out of breath. Our thoughts may race, or our minds may go blank. We may feel mentally and physically out of control, which exacerbates the situation. When we act out of anger, we are no longer in control. We tend to become verbally and sometimes physically aggressive with others, often those that we love and care for dearly. This has a rippling negative impact on our self-concept and damages our relationships. We are often left with a mix of emotions including a strong sense of remorse, guilt, and shame. Though we may not like the way we react, it may seem impossible to break the cycle. If you can identify with any of this, here is some important information that will lead to breaking the cycle of anger.

Understand regulation and dysregulation

Your brain has specific parts that serve different functions. When we are emotional, our reptilian brain (found at the base of the skull near the brainstem) is controlling us. This is the part of your brain that controls your fight or flight response, which helps you automatically decide what action to take when in life-threatening situations without thinking. This is great for when you see a bear in the woods, but not so great when you are having a conversation with someone you care about. The key is to understand that when this part of your brain is activated, logic and reason cannot be. The part responsible for that is in the front of the brain (prefrontal cortex). So, to be able to think straight, you must be calm and re-engage your logic by calming your physical body. This is why when we are angry, we are not thinking straight.

Understand triggers and causes of anger

To get ahead of this issue, you must gather information about what makes you angry, and process why. “Anger organizes our responses to the blocking of important goals or activities or an imminent attack on the self or to important others. It focuses us on self-defense, mastery, and control (Linehan, 2015, p.328).” It is a sign that something needs to change. You can start this process by being more mindful of your emotional experiences, especially when your anger is triggered. Have conversations with yourself to find to root cause of the anger, and what associated feelings may be underneath.

Once regulated, communicate the anger appropriately

Here is where the timeout is not just for children. Take a break, go for a walk, write in a journal, listen to music. You will know the best way to calm down. There are also a multitude of techniques useful to regulate your body. Assertively communicating your anger (and what is underneath) can mend relationships and bring you closer to those you love. One simple way to do this, is to focus on your feelings, naming them, and avoiding blame-related language through the use of “I” statements.

Give yourself a break

Understand that we learned how to deal with anger from our family of origin. The physiological and behavioral pathways for responding to anger have been set and reinforced over years and decades. It will take time, effort, and energy to alter so give yourself a break. As long as you are trying, you are succeeding!

Sources:,, Linehan, M., M., (2014). DBT Training Manual. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

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