Chronic anger is that feeling of persistent animosity that prevails beyond the normally accepted emotional span. It is hostility that lingers in your heart and mind, and like a gangrenous ulcer, it eats away at your core and destroys your physical and psychological well-being.
Anger arises from disappointment, defeat, loss, or betrayal, or a combination of them. It is a response to an imagined or real threat. Recognizing that you are angry is helpful because you are prompted to confront your own intrinsic needs and longings, and deal with the perceived threats.
Chronic anger is characterized by the following signs:
1. The feeling is disproportionately intense.
2. It happens frequently.
3. It is long-lasting.
4. It is difficult to overcome.
While getting angry is a normal response to unfavorable circumstances, letting it build up and intensify long after the cause has gone is not normal anymore. Persistent anger is unhealthy for body and mind, not only for you but also for the people around you, especially those to whom your antagonism is directed at.
Dangerous Consequences of Chronic Anger
- Constant state of anxiety and irritability
- Increased blood pressure, higher risk for other cardiovascular diseases
- Inability to sleep well
- Diminished immune system
- Inability to maintain harmonious and stable relationships
- Increased risk of harmful behavior, leading to legal troubles
- Increased risk for arthritis, cancer, gastric disorders, and mental health disorders
Chronic anger affects many people. Extreme examples of this negative emotion are the mass shootings, road rage incidents, assaults and even manslaughter. The good news is, this type of anger can be managed before it gets out of hand. Here are age-old Eastern practices you can develop to help you control your anger. But remember, if you have had problems with law authorities, or have been fired from work as a result of your angry behavior, do not hesitate to seek professional help from psychologists, guidance counselors and mental health specialists.
4 Ways to Manage Chronic Anger
1. Practice mindfulness and mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation, now popular in the western world, involves being aware of your inner and outer senses without judgment. Find a quiet place to sit still for 20 minutes and focus on the present and on your breathing. If your mind wanders, bring it back. Cognizance of the present lets you look at your emotions without approval or condemnation. When you focus on your angry outburst in a nonjudgmental way, you are acknowledging it and you start to think of ways to handle it.
A study done by psychology professor David DeSteno found that meditation, contrary to helping control angry behavior, works the other way around. It increases principled behavior and inhibits you from hurting other people who have made you angry. Where the normal response is to strike back, regular meditation changes your behavior to reduce aggression.
2. Exercise regularly.
Physical activity works in two ways to help you get rid of anger. It releases all the hostility that is about to explode and turn it into something good for your health. Exercise also helps your body produce endorphins, the “feel-good” hormone that promotes well-being.
Caveat: A new study found that exercising while feeling upset increases the risk to three times for a heart attack. Hence, it’s not a good idea to head to the gym when you’re angry. Another study from Rutgers University in New Jersey found that regular exercise combined with meditation helps combat depression, which is a side effect of chronic anger.
3. Learn to forgive.
Forgiving is letting go of resentment and anger. But it’s a challenge to forgive someone who has wronged you; human nature demands revenge and retribution. Forgiving a person is not condoning what he or she has done. It’s not having to reconcile with the person you forgave. It’s not keeping track of the wrongs done to you. Forgiveness simply means you don’t harbor ill feelings and resentment towards that person. By forgiving, you open yourself up to love and feelings of happiness. The anger you nurtured gradually dissipates because learning to forgive releases you from the prison you have created for yourself.
On the other hand, don’t be too quick to forgive. It is counterproductive and opens you up to future abuse and maltreatment. You must show the transgressor that the behavior was unacceptable and have an open discussion to avoid a repeat.
4. Develop self-compassion.
While compassion for others is an admirable quality to cultivate, self-compassion is a foreign subject for most people. On the surface, it implies self-pity, selfishness, egoism, and weakness. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Self-compassion is being kind and caring to yourself, just as much as you practice kindness and caring to other people. It’s recognizing your own flaws in a nonjudgmental way and not castigating yourself for them but accepting your imperfection with love and tenderness.
When you are chronically angry and lash out at anyone who gets in the way, you feel ashamed of your actions afterwards. Self-compassion includes awareness of your behavior and forgiving yourself. By being compassionate to yourself, you recognize your anger and find ways to address the underlying issues that trigger the emotion. You develop resilience and become less reactive to negative situations. By being kind to yourself, you extend that kindness to others, thereby reducing the impact of negative situations and curtailing your normally angry response.