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Seeing red

Anger is a completely normal human emotion. But when it gets out of control, it turns destructive



REEL LIFE This Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie explored the problem

Sathyavathi is raging. Her son just brought home his report card and has not done well in maths. She knows she is frightening the kid but she is unable to control herself. A few days ago, she had started shouting furiously at her husband because he was late but had not called to tell her. Sathyavathi knows her family and friends are worried over her inability to control her anger. What should she do?

What is anger?

Anger is a completely normal, usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control leading to rage and fury, it turns destructive. It can lead to problems at work, in personal relationships, and in the overall quality of life. Like all intense emotions, anger affects us physically and mentally. The heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of the `fight-or-flight' hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. Constant release of these hormones can lead to hypertension, stress ulcers and heart problems. Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. Day-to-day events can trigger anger. Brooding about traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats. It allows us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival. On the other hand, cultural and social norms place limits on how far we can go with our angry reactions. If we realise that we cannot always get rid of or change events or people who anger us, we can learn to control our enraged responses. Expressing angry feelings in an assertive but not an aggressive manner is the healthiest way to express anger. By learning how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others, requires respect for yourself and others. Suppressing anger is another way of dealing with it. Focussing on something positive and doing something constructive helps defuse anger. Make sure you do not let this anger fester inside without outward expression. That might just lead to depression and hypertension. Unfortunately, some people suppress anger but then constantly put others down, criticise everything, and make cynical comments.

Calming down is a positive and healthy way of dealing with anger. It is not enough to control the outward expression of anger but needs the control of the internal responses. Taking deep breaths helps lower the heart rate, achieve a degree of serenity, and let the feelings subside. Some people get angry more easily than the average person does. Some throw tantrums while others are chronically irritable and grouchy. People who are easily angered generally have a low tolerance for frustration. They feel they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance. Unfortunately, some people are just genetically programmed that way and these signs are present from a very early age. Others have not been taught during their formative years on how to deal constructively with their anger. Research also shown that people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communications.

GITA ARJUN

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