Frustrated woman stuck in traffic

Emotional Regulation: Appropriate Anger Responses

As discussed in a previous blog post on anger, anger is often an unwarranted response to a situation. However, there are times when it is justifiable to be angry, but it’s still up to us to control the emotion and react appropriately. For instance, imagine your car gets broken into at the mall. Is anger justified when you find out? Yes. Is it appropriate for you to throw things, kick other cars, and scream profanities at anyone passing by? No. That’s what we’ll cover here. How to keep your anger in check even when it’s justified.

First, take a moment to look at the situation and cover the facts, in your mind, about what is happening. This time-out will prevent the knee-jerk reaction that may be over the top and instead allow you to process the situation and your emotions a bit before responding.

When you do respond, use “I” statements as opposed to placing blame on others. Doing this will help prevent emotions from escalating and others from becoming defensive. Be specific and get to the root of your anger. For example, “I am upset that my car is damaged, my belongings gone, and I have to now deal with this situation when I am running late as it is” is a healthier response than to yell at the security guard because they didn’t prevent the break-in.

Once you’ve identified what is causing your anger and validated yourself for an appropriate emotional response, it’s time to look for possible solutions to the problem. This positive step will refocus your energy and adrenaline and move the situation along as opposed to keeping you stuck in place.

Feelings of anger will likely surface when you recall the indecent later. That’s where other mind calming tricks come in handy. Try deep breathing, meditation, exercise, journaling, a long bath, etc. Processing the situation and your emotional reaction will help you learn about yourself, figure out what your boundaries are, and what you’re capable of doing. If you’re pleased with how you reacted, be sure to mentally congratulate yourself. If you’re not pleased, think about what you could have done differently and make an effort to try a different approach in the future.

Of course, if you feel your anger is out of control and you’re stuck on how to move forward, talking to a therapist can be a good next step.