Dr Eddie Murphy: imploders & exploders - how to identify and manage your toxic anger
Anger is a normal human emotion. It makes up one of our five primary emotions from childhood - anger, sadness, fear, happiness, and disgust. Anger is not always negative, it can help us tackle injustice and imbue us with strength and determination. Unfortunately, anger can become toxic.
Take Sean: "When I get angry, I lose the plot. I would shout, bang things, throw things, I am ruining my relationship with Amy. I have smashed two phones recently."Sean is an exploder.
Suppressed anger (imploders) is also very toxic to the health of the person. This has been called 'Toxic In' as opposed to 'Toxic Out' and is linked with high blood pressure and cardiac illness.
When is anger a problem?
Anger becomes a problem when it creates trouble for you with other people, your work, your health, day-to-day living or the law. Anger is also a problem when other people around you are frightened, hurt or feel they cannot talk to you or disagree with you in case you become angry.
Prolonged periods of suppressed and expressed anger result in prolonged stress responses, which in turn cause harm to our bodies, emotions, minds and relationships.
Anger can range from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. The goal of anger management is to reduce the toxicity that anger causes yourself and others. You can learn to control your reactions.
So, is it good to "let it all hang out?" This is a dangerous myth. Research has found that "letting it rip" with anger actually escalates anger and aggression and does nothing to help you (or the person you're angry with) resolve the situation.
Anger management is about knowing the triggers and early warning signs of anger and learning techniques to calm down and manage the situation before it gets out of control.
Tips to help manage anger
1. Tune into your body and notice the warning signs of anger: The earlier you can recognise these warning signs, the more successful you will probably be at calming yourself down before your anger gets out of control.
2. EXPRESSING: Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive - not aggressive - manner is the healthiest way to express 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.
3. SUPPRESSING: Control your thinking. When you're angry, your thinking can get exaggerated and irrational. Try replacing these thoughts with more useful, rational ones and you should find that this has an effect on the way you feel. This takes a lot of work. Develop a list of things to say to yourself before, during and after situations that may make you angry.
• "I'll be able to handle this. It could be rough, but I have a plan."
• "If I feel myself getting angry, I'll know what to do."
• "Stay calm, relax, and breathe easy."
• "Stay calm, I'm OK, s/he's not attacking me personally."
• "I can look and act calm."
• "I managed that well. I can do this. I'm getting better at this."
• "I felt angry, but I didn't lose my cool."
4. CALMING: Finally, you can calm down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behaviour, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.
What I do know is that, when none of these three techniques work, that's when someone - or something - is going to get hurt. If necessary, take time out by stepping out of the room, or going for a walk.
Remember, you can't eliminate anger - and it wouldn't be a good idea even if you could. Controlling your angry responses can help you and those you love to be even more happy in the long run. As for Sean, four years and two children later both he and Amy are happy, and Sean still works on managing his anger which is not toxic anymore.
Is your anger problematic?
...happen too often?
...is it too intense?
...does it lead to aggression?
...does it last too long?