We all feel anger from time to time. You might get mad when your friends cancel plans at the last minute, your blood might boil when you think about an injustice in the world, or maybe you get frustrated and angry when your partner leaves dirty dishes around the house.
It’s normal to experience anger, as it is part of the normal, human range of emotions. But sometimes anger can creep into our lives and start to take over more than we intend.
In fact, polls show that anger, in general, is on the rise. 85% of people surveyed believe that Americans are angrier these days than they were a generation ago, and 42% of individuals report being angrier themselves in the past year than they were in years prior.1
In this stressor spotlight, we’re going to explore the emotion of anger and learn how to keep it in better balance if it is beginning to take control in your life.
What is anger?
Anger can vary in intensity, ranging from mild irritation to extreme outrage. It can be triggered by external events (a car cutting you off, your flight getting canceled, your spouse arriving home late, etc.), or internal events (thinking about upsetting memories, worrying about a problem in your life, etc.).3
Some of the different types of anger include:
- Justifiable anger (the kind of anger you might feel when you witness injustices in the world and are outraged by it)
- Annoyance anger (the kind of anger you might feel over daily annoyances like someone stepping in front of you in the grocery store checkout line)
- Temper tantrums (disproportional outbursts of anger when you don’t get what you want)
- Aggressive anger (where you attempt to exert control through acts of bullying, dominance intimidation, or even violence)4
It is believed that men and women experience the same amount of anger as men, but men and women tend to express it differently. For example, men are more outwardly aggressive and have a harder time controlling explosive outbursts. Research suggests this may be in part due to differences in societal expectations, and also in part due to differences in the brain.5
Physiology of anger
Anger is part of the fight-or-flight response that is activated in the brain when we are under threat and feel like we need to protect ourselves. It gets us ready to fight whatever it is that we perceive is putting us at risk so that we can stay safe.6
When we feel anger, certain areas of the brain light up, and neurotransmitters like adrenaline release that charge you with a burst of energy. Your muscles tense up, your heart rate rises, your blood pressure increases… All of this prepares you for action so that you can deal with the perceived threat.2 3 6 7 This is why anger feels tense, heated, and energized, and it is why we often describe it with words like “boiling,” “hot,” or “red.”
Anger is displayed externally through changes in facial and body expressions. These help us look stronger and better able to fight—similar to animals who bare their fangs.6
Function of anger
Most people across most cultures assess anger as a “negative” emotion.8 But anger is a completely normal human emotion. And anger in and of itself is not a bad thing; it’s not negative. In fact, anger has important functions!
It’s how we respond to anger and what we choose to do with it that makes the difference.
The upside of anger
A healthy expression of authentic anger actually serves a purpose, and it can help us out in many ways.
Evolutionarily, anger was a really important emotion. When we feel anger, we become activated and energized so that we are ready to respond quickly to any potential threat. Back in our ancestors’ days, this was necessary for survival, as it literally helped us to stay alive when we or our resources were in danger.
And even in modern times, anger has positive effects. For example, it is known to:
- Motivate us to find solutions
- Drive us towards our goals
- Help us stand up for ourselves and have our voice heard
- Mobilize us and boost our physical performance
- Allow us to express our feelings and discharge their intensity
- Fuel positive change in response to injustices, often driving social movements
- Improve our ability to negotiate and influence opinions
- Spark creativity
- Protect us from vulnerable emotional pain
- Help us honor and protect our values and beliefs3 5 7 9 10
So actually, anger can be quite beneficial. But not all anger is helpful, nor productive.
The downside of anger
When it comes to anger, there can be many negative consequences if we don’t manage it in a healthy, appropriate way.
On the one hand, uncontrolled, excessive anger is a major issue. When we let anger take the wheel and don’t manage it mindfully, it can have harmful effects.
For example, excess anger can:
- Influence our decision making. When we are in a state of anger, we don’t slow down to think things through and choose our actions mindfully.
- Make us take more risks. Research shows that anger makes us more likely to take risks and to minimize the danger of those risks in our minds.
- Negatively affect our health. Research links greater levels of anger to an increased risk of health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, ulcers, bowel diseases, and more.5 6 7 11 12
Anger that isn’t well managed and gets out of control can turn destructive. The harmful effects of anger can lead to problems at work, in relationships, at home, and more. It’s linked to behaviors like relationship conflicts, unsafe driving, substance use, inappropriate risk taking, accidents, and more.7
It is important to note that on the flip side, suppressing our anger can also be problematic.
If we suppress our anger and keep it inside, this can lead to unintended effects. Unexpressed anger can actually be held in the body and lead to health concerns like high blood pressure and depression.3
Often, when we try to hold in anger and don’t allow it to be released through healthy outlets, it will build up and eventually burst out. This can lead to us lashing out in harmful ways when it finally does make its way to the surface.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), certain emotions have energetic connections to specific organs, glands, systems, teeth, and vertebrae in the body. The emotion of anger is connected to the following:
- Eyes, gallbladder, liver, stomach, and spleen
- Liver, spleen, and stomach TCM meridians
- Detoxification system
- Canine teeth (T6, T11, T22, & T27)
What this means is that imbalanced anger may be the root cause of a problem in any of these areas. Therefore, balancing anger problems can lead to healing in these areas.
The opposite is also true with these energetic connections, meaning that a problem in any of these areas may manifest as imbalanced anger. For example, a person with an unhealthy liver may have problems controlling their anger. And when the liver is healed, the anger goes away.
How to better manage anger
Anger isn’t good or bad; it is simply a natural, human emotion.
Some anger can even be helpful to us, fueling positive change, driving us towards our values and goals, and helping us stand up for ourselves. So anger isn’t to be avoided—it is something to be felt, processed, and released in a healthy way.
But a lot of the time, we let anger get the better of us.
If you sometimes feel overwhelmed by your angry feelings and don’t know what to do when you feel this emotion, there are many tools you can turn to to learn to better manage your anger.
Here are some tips to consider…
1. Name it to tame it
A great first step when you are angry is simply to name that anger is present. You can say out loud, or to yourself in your mind, “I’m feeling angry right now.”
Oftentimes, this simple act of naming how we feel can take some of the emotional charge out of the moment so that we can proceed from a more grounded place.
2. Slow things down
One of the very best things you can do to better control unproductive angry responses and outbursts is to slow down in the moment.
We often react quickly when we are angry. This makes sense, as anger serves the purpose of helping us act against an immediate threat. But while our knee-jerk responses may help in the short-term, they often actually make the situation worse in the long term.
So, practice slowing yourself down when you feel the sensations of anger rise up in your body. Take a moment to pause, check in with yourself, and consider how you want to respond. This moment of slowing down and pausing before you react can help you see a wider range of options and choose your responses more mindfully.
3. Write it out
Putting pen to paper can be a very helpful strategy. It is a safe way to express our feelings and discharge the emotion without taking it out on those around us. Writing about how we feel in the moment helps us to slow down and make sense of our feelings, so that we can decide what we want to do about them in a constructive way.
4. Practice perspective
A technique called “psychological distancing” (where we imagine looking back on the current event from the future or seeing it from the perspective of a friend) is known to be very helpful when it comes to managing anger.9
Practicing widening our perspective and seeing the situation from a distance can help take the edge off and allow us to make wiser decisions in the moment.
5. Reframe your thoughts
Techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy including cognitive restructuring (reframing unhelpful thoughts and tapping into more productive ways of thinking) are effective in managing anger.9
Begin to practice noticing what your thoughts are saying in moments of anger. And then gently challenge those thoughts, considering if there may be a more helpful way to think about the situation that will allow you to respond in a more productive way.
6. Express your feelings in an assertive (and respectful) way
In some situations, your anger may be signaling something important that needs to be communicated to those around you (such as a boundary being crossed, a need that you’d like to make a request around, etc.).
When this is the case, it is important to express and communicate your feelings assertively and respectfully. You can practice clarifying what your needs are, making a request, or asserting a boundary without hurting others or being disrespectful in your communication.
7. Try relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and other relaxation techniques can help soothe your system so that you can approach situations from a calmer, more balanced state of body and mind.
Think of relaxation techniques as a must-have tool for cooling down when feeling hot with anger, so that you can approach the situation with a clearer mind.
Getting support for excess anger
If you find yourself angry often, if you act in ways that feel out of control when you feel anger, and if anger is causing harmful effects in your life and relationships, then you may need to get support to address excess anger.
There are a lot of ways to get support if you have an issue managing your anger, including working with a mental health professional, joining a support group in your community, attending educational classes online, and more.
Ask your healthcare provider for referrals, search online, or use other local resources to find a therapist who can get you started and point you in the right direction.
Anger stressor Virtual Item
A digital signature representing the emotion of anger is automatically scanned in the ZYTO Balance Biosurvey. Anger can be scanned in various biosurveys in the Select and Elite software as well.
With the Balance Biosurvey, you can see how the body responded to the Anger Virtual Item in the Mental & Emotional Stress section of the Wellness Report. This allows you to see if the body had an out-of-range, or abnormal, response, as well as see how far out of range the response was.
When using the ZYTO EVOX, you can also observe imbalances related to anger in Zone 7 of the Perception Index (Anger vs. Acceptance of Change). Imbalances in this zone can indicate an issue with anger in relation to the topic you are speaking about.
Anger balancer Virtual Items
In a typical ZYTO scan, balancers are scanned and then a re-scan shows which ones were able to bring the out-of-range stressors back into range. If Anger is out of range, you can see which specific balancer Virtual Item brought it back into range in the Biomarker Progress Chart, which is in the Advanced Report.
Additionally, in the Balance Wellness Report and the Select/Elite Lifestyle Report, you can see the top products for the Mental & Emotional Stress category. These products may help to balance anger also if it is out of range.
In addition to ZYTO scanning, the EVOX provides an opportunity to work through anger and other related emotions through our patented perception reframing process.
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
1. Hensley, Scott. “Poll: Americans Say We’re Angrier Than A Generation Ago.” NPR. Npr.org.
2. “Anger.” American Psychological Association. Apa.org.
3. “Control anger before it controls you.” American Psychological Association. Apa.org.
4. Ni, Preston. “4 Types of Anger and Their Destructive Impact.” Psychology Today. Pyschologytoday.com.
5. Devlin, Hannah. “Science of anger: how gender, age and personality shape this emotion.” Guardian News and Media Limited. Theguardian.com.
6. Alia-Klein, N., G. Gan, G. Gilam, et al. “The feeling of anger: From brain networks to linguistic expressions.” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 108 (2020): 480–497.
7. “How to recognize and deal with anger.” American Psychological Association. Apa.org.
8. An, S., L.J. Ji, M. Marks, & Z. Zhang. “Two Sides of Emotion: Exploring Positivity and Negativity in Six Basic Emotions across Cultures.” Frontiers in Psychology 8 (2017): 610.
9. Robson, David. “How anger can be put to good use.” BBC. Bbc.com
10. Ratson, Moshe. “The Value of Anger: 16 Reasons It’s Good to Get Angry.” GoodTherapy, LLC. Goodtherapy.org.
11. Suls, Jerry. “Toxic Affect: Are Anger, Anxiety, and Depression Independent Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease?” Emotion Review 10, no. 1 (2018): 6-17.
12. Khazan, Olga. “The Best Headspace for Making Decisions.” The Atlantic Monthly Group. Theatlantic.com.