When dealing with life, Bobby McFerrin in his hit song says "Don't worry. Be Happy." When dealing with an attacker, a better mantra would be “Don’t worry. Be angry.”
What has anger got to do with self-defense? It makes you want to stop the attacker instead of capitulating. If not controlled, it will only rob you of control, power, and speed, because you will not be thinking clearly and your body will be tense.
Without training, confidence, and a desire to survive, fear or anger will cause you to freeze-up or do the wrong thing in a confrontation. With proper preparation, the body will do whatever is necessary to escape and preserve its life, naturally and without hesitation. Every ounce of its strength is focused and directed toward one thing—survival.
We all know what anger is and we have all felt it, whether as a fleeting annoyance or as full-rage. Anger is not a fault. It is not a defect in our genes. It is a part of our human psyche. Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion.
Anger may be harmful or it may be beneficial; it all depends on how you use it. Anger is harmful when it is inappropriate, unjustified, or uncontrolled. Anger is beneficial when it makes you get off your ass and do something and it prepares your mind and body for what they have to do.
Getting angry at inappropriate times serves no useful purpose, such as getting angry with an unruly child in a public place. Unjustified anger is always bad, such as getting angry when the baby will not stop crying. Uncontrolled anger usually leads to medical problems (stress) to you and others, or to injuries to you or others. It may also lead to legal problems, social problems, and lawsuits.
Justified, controlled anger used at appropriate times is a useful survival tool that nature has provided us. Do not reject anger as a fault, instead, understand it, and use it.
Nature of Anger
Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes. When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.
The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors that allow the body prepares itself for either "flight or fight." Flight involves running for your life and using up the excess energy you have created by your anger. Fight means you engage in a physical confrontation with your adversary. A certain amount of anger is necessary for our survival. If you do not flee or fight, then your body will have to deal with the excess energy internally, which leads to problems.
Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. You could be angry with a specific person, such as a coworker or supervisor, an event, such as a traffic jam or a canceled flight, or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events may also trigger angry feelings.
Anger people show changes in their thinking. Typicall angry people become "single minded," focusing exclusively on what they believe is provoking them.
Anger control problems tend to be associated with a number of "thinking errors:"
Cognitive deficits. People with anger control problems have an insufficient number of adaptive responses to provoking events. Research has shown that angry people, when asked how they would solve provocative situations, have fewer ideas than people without anger problems. Not surprisingly, their few ideas tend to be hostile.
Frequent false positives. People with anger control problems often misconstrue events such that they feel provoked even when they are not. People with anger control problems tend to be vigilant for the presence of people deliberately hassling them. Therefore, due to only seeing part of the picture, they tend to misconstrue innocuous behavior.
Rigid beliefs. People with anger control problems often possess steadfast beliefs as to the legitimacy of hostile retaliation. Some examples include, "The best way to get your needs met is to demand it" or "People are, for the most part, stupid and need to be dealt with forcefully." It is not difficult to imagine how adhering to such beliefs might lead to some volatile encounters.
Difficulty anticipating outcomes before action. People without anger problems are able to control how they respond to anger and actually keep it from getting out of control by predicting what could happen if they lost control People with anger problems tend to respond quickly without such forethought.
We cannot physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us; laws, social norms, and common sense place limits the use of anger. People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming.
Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive, but not aggressive, manner is the healthiest way to deal with 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 does not mean being pushy or demanding, it means standing up for your principles and beliefs without being disrespectful of yourself and others.
Anger may be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into behavior that is more constructive. The danger in this type of response is that if it is not allowed outward expression, your anger may turn inward. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression. Anger may be redirected by using it in a constructive way, such as punching heavy bag or running until exhausted. Punching a hole in the wall is not a constructive action.
Unexpressed anger may create other problems. It may lead to pathological expressions of anger, such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on) or a personality that seems perpetually cynical and hostile. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments have not learned how constructively to express their anger.
A final way to deal with anger is to calm yourself. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calming yourself, and letting the feelings subside.
When none of these approaches is used or they do not work, someone is going to get hurt.
Ways to Decrease Anger
- Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, may help calm angry feelings. Some simple steps you may try:
- Breathe deeply from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest will not relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your abdomen.
- Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax" or "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
- Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
- Non strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises may relax your muscles and make you feel calmer.
- Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you are in a tense situation.
Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts in an exaggerated, overly dramatic way. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything and that it will not make you feel better, and may actually make you feel worse.
Be careful of words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or someone else. The words are inaccurate and they serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there is no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.
Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it is justified, may quickly become irrational. So use cold, hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is "not out to get you," you are just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Angry people tend to demand things, such as fairness, appreciation, and agreement. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when we do not get them, but angry people demand them, and when their demands are not met, their disappointment becomes anger.
Angry people need to become aware of their demanding nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other words, try saying, "I would like" instead of saying "I demand" or "I must have." Then when you are unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions of frustration, disappointment, and hurt—but not anger.
Sometimes, anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives so they are natural responses to these difficulties. Not every problem has a solution. Sometimes the best thing to do is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem. Make a plan, resolve to give it your best, and check your progress along the way, but do not punish yourself if an answer does not come immediately.
Angry people tend to jump to, and act on, conclusions. Most of those conclusions are inaccurate. The first thing to do if you are in a heated discussion is to slow down. Do not say the first thing that comes into your head. Think through your responses. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.
It is natural to get defensive when you are criticized, but do not get angry, instead, listen to what is being said and to the intent of the words. If it is constructive criticism, take it to heart. It is hurtful criticism; deal with it in a rational, calm manner.
"Silly humor" may give you a more balanced perspective. When you get angry and want to call someone a name, stop and picture in your mind how that word would literally look. Instead of calling the person a bitch, picture in your mind the person as a dog running around in heat. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury.
Angry people tend to feel that they are morally right, that any blocking or changing of their plans is an unbearable indignity and that they should not have to suffer. When you feel that urge, picture yourself as a god or goddess, always having your way in all situations while others defer to you. The more detail you can get into your imaginary scenes, the more chances you have to realize that maybe you are being unreasonable.
Be cautious in using humor. Do not try to "laugh off" your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Also, do not use harsh, sarcastic humor; it is just another form of unhealthy anger expression.
Change Your Environment
Sometimes it is our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities may weigh on you and make you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap. Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some personal time scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful.
If you find you tend to get angry at certain times, try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks do not turn into arguments. If certain things tend to make you angry, avoid them as much as possible or find alternatives.
When something makes you angry, ask yourself
- Is there sufficient evidence to back up the interpretation you have made of the event that is angering you?
- Is there another way of looking at this event? Try to entertain one or two other explanations for what you have interpreted as "deliberate provocation."
- So what! Will it amount to anything three hours from now?
- What will the outcome be? Thinking of potential outcomes of our actions is not easy, much less when you are in a state of anger. Anger is by nature "single minded." Extreme anger almost always has negative outcomes.
- Where is the other person coming from? Anger creates cognitive myopia. Symptomatic of anger is a narrowing of focus on what we perceive as injustice. Therefore, it is more difficult to empathize with others when we are angry. Force yourself to empathize EARLY ON, before anger is out of control. Even just momentarily considering the validity of the other person's feelings can be enough to ebb anger to the extent that it is manageable.
If you think your anger is really out of control or if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider professional counseling to learn how to handle it better.
Need to Increase Anger
Controlling of anger does not just mean being able to decrease our anger when it is inappropriate, unjustified, or uncontrolled, it also means being able to increase it when it is appropriate or justified. However, the increased level of anger must remain under control or it will become a liability rather than an asset.
As stated above, anger helps us to survive. When it is necessary, we need to be able to achieve a controlled rage and use it to defend ourselves or others.
Taekwondo helps its practitioners control their anger. Taekwondo training helps us control anger by helping us decrease anger over trivial problems. It also helps control anger by helping us increase and manage justified anger and use it accomplish good.
The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotions and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You cannot always get rid of, avoid, or change the things or people that enrage you, but you may learn to control your reactions to them.
There are psychological tests that measure the intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger you are, and how well you handle it, but if you do have a problem with anger, you, and those around you, already know it. If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you may need help finding better ways to deal with your anger.
Some people are more "hotheaded" than others are. There are also those who do not show their anger in loud, spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people do not always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill.
People who are easily angered generally have a low tolerance for frustration. They feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. Some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered and it never changes. Since anger is often regarded as negative; we are taught that it is okay to express anxiety, depression, or other emotions, but not to express anger. As a result, we do not learn how to handle it or channel it constructively. Family background also plays a role. Typically, easily angered people come from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communications.
American Psychological Association. [Online]. Available: http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/anger.html