Even though expressing your anger can be good for you, flying into a rage at
every suspected slight isn't the answer. For instance, blowing off steam by
hurling hardware at your hubby or breaking plates over the boss's head aren't
great solutions. But it is possible -- even desirable -- to use anger in a
positive rather than negative way.
Forget the pop notion of channeling anger into more productive pursuits.
"Relationship enhancement is the most productive outlet possible for
anger," says Deborah Cox, PhD, a psychologist at Southwest Missouri State
University in Springfield -- and this can happen when you let the other person
see you're upset. So what concrete tips might help when you're mad as hell and
not going to take it any more? Read on.
By Ann Hodgman
One woman's diary
I said to my daughter, "You know what I just can't stand about this
book? The long passages with no dialogue." -
She paused, then said, "Mom, are there any books you like
Now it was my turn to pause. How could she ask that, when everyone knows how
much I love to read? But then again, when had I last complimented a book — even
one I admired? Come to think of it, how often did I say anything without a
negative twist? I don't want my tombstone...
Seek out a safe place to seethe. Before confronting the object of your
wrath, talk with a trusted friend, co-worker, or counselor who can help get to
the root of what's pressing your buttons. Mulling it over with someone safe may
help you figure out less hostile, more instructive ways to express your
feelings with a loved one, colleague, or boss.
Approach the person who sent your blood boiling in the first place. As a
general guideline, the more significant the relationship, the more important it
is to articulate feelings in a constructive way, says Dana Crowley Jack, EdD, a
psychologist at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University in
Bellingham. She suggests trying something like, "This is bothering me.
Something has to change. How can we deal with it?"
Identify the reason behind the rage. There's always something underlying an
angry reaction. The trick here is to find the trigger. If it's not obvious,
keeping a log of anger experiences may help you uncover patterns. For some
people, professional help may be needed to delve through deep-rooted feelings
of shame and anger that started in childhood.
Find a physical release. Though jogging and other physical activities can
be helpful, Cox advocates an anger workout: hitting a mattress with a tennis
racket or slapping the sofa with a bat when you really start to see red. The
key, says Cox, is to talk as you thwack the furniture. Engaging large muscle
groups along with your voice should help you work through some of your fury.
Kickboxing or Tae-Bo may give the same results. You'll feel less likely to lose
it if you have a physical release first, explains Cox. "When a client tells
me: 'If I really let it out, we'd all burst into flames,' then I might suggest
an anger workout," she says.
Take several deep breaths. If you find yourself blinded by
heat-of-the-moment anger, try to buy some time to cool off a bit, especially if
you think you're at risk of harming someone physically or emotionally. You may
even need to walk away from the situation for a while. Remember, though, that
in the long run, fleeing the scene won't help you express yourself. So ask for
a few moments to collect your thoughts and then say what needs to be
Look for like-minded souls. All fired up about a societal injustice? Sick
of suffering? Then hook up with people who share your passion or problem
through a support group or organization. Consider working with an organization
for change, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). "Joining other
people who care about what you do can transform anger into a positive
expression," says Jack.