Anger or rage is a powerful emotion. In fact, compared to emotions like sadness, love, or happiness, anger is the most energizing of all. It gets the body and mind to heat up, causing your face to turn red and perhaps even steam to rise from your head. Although the physical signs of anger will vary from one person to another, typical symptoms of anger are:
- Teeth grinding
- Fists clenching
- Flushing red
- Muscle tension
- Body temperature changes
Anger Is Experienced Differently
Male versus female individuals will experience anger differently. Typically, women will feel anger spread slowly while men feel a fiery wave of anger quickly well up from within. Anger and its physical signs are closely connected to the fight-flight response with the chemicals of adrenaline and noradrenaline flooding the body. These chemicals can make anger feel like a sudden fuel of energy. And this is precisely what it is intended for. If you’re faced in a life or death situation, the adrenaline that fills you is meant to give you the power to fight or flee.
Anger is a feeling that is often a response to violation of oneself or others. You can be angry with yourself for something you’ve done, for a violation you committed. You might say, “I ruined that!” or “I messed up!” Or you might find yourself angry at the violations made by others, and you might find yourself saying, “I was mistreated!” or “I didn’t deserve this!” Lastly, you might feel anger in response to life and its unfairness. You might say, “I’m never going to forget this!” or “Life is against me!”
Different people can express anger differently. Some feel angry all the time, constantly on edge and berating others with their anger, and frequently it can be the reason behind drinking or drug use. On the other hand, drinking and drug use can fuel anger that’s already there, buried inside when someone is sober. But when someone is an altered state, the rage explodes.
Still, there are some people that don’t ever get angry. They are forever accepting the transgressions of others. Both of these extremes are destructive however. The first is harmful to others while the latter is harmful to oneself.
Controlling the Anger
As recovering addict, see if you can find yourself on the continuum between these two extremes, between either chronic anger or never getting angry. Ideally, you should be able to get angry when you notice violations against yourself or others, but not allow that anger to have its power over you.
In our everyday routine, outside of the primitive fight or flight scenarios, there are usually two kinds of responses to anger. The first is becoming more judgmental, controlling – using anger to try to control your circumstances – and more sensitive to “right” and “wrong”. The second is becoming less controlling, more flexible, accepting, and tolerant. This response to anger typically tends to take circumstances and those violations less personally.
However, there’s a way to reset your emotional set point so that you can respond instead of react to life’s circumstances. Some of this takes emotional intelligence – the intelligence of being aware of your emotions, or knowing what you’re feeling and when you’re feeling them.
Although you do want to learn how to curb and manage your anger, using anger for you instead against you can be the wisest thing you do. And anger seen as a positive emotion is not new. Aristotle wrote about anger and said, “The angry man is aiming at what he can attain”. It’s true that you can use your anger to fight against discrimination, protect children against abuse, write a book, or a start a community recycling project. Anger is a positive emotion when seen that way. How you decide to use the powerful emotion of anger is up to you.