Boiling over with Anger? Here’s how to Cope.

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“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

-David Banner, aka The Incredible Hulk

A friend of mine confessed to me that she recently had an angry outburst she was feeling really embarrassed about.

She ordered a new refrigerator, clearly specifying that the door needed to open on the right in order to accommodate the available space. When the refrigerator arrived, however, the door opened to the left. Though she was annoyed that her specific instructions had been ignored, she calmly explained to the delivery man she had explicitly requested a right-opening door. To which the delivery man responded: “That’s you problem, not mine. Call customer service and they’ll send someone else out to pick up this fridge and deliver another one.”

Now my friend happens to be one of the nicest people I know, but this really made her mad. What a disrespectful waste of her time, not to mention an exercise in utter stupidity. Unable to contain her irritation, she got loud with the delivery man in what escalated into a full-fledged argument, finally prompting him to ask her to calm down because she was “getting hysterical.”

And then, he fixed it. He got out some tools and in less than 10 minutes the refrigerator door opened to the right. She wasn’t proud of her outburst; in fact, she felt really bad about her reaction, and wished she had handled the situation differently.

When operating in the moment, we’ve all become overwhelmed by anger at one time or another (God knows it’s happened to me), and we all feel badly after the fact. The untoward expression of anger carries consequences ranging from coming off like a rude unlikeable character to finding yourself embroiled in dangerous life-threatening disputes. Expressing our anger can upset others, and feed scenarios we later regret. When we unexpectedly unleash our anger, it can spread to others like a ripple-effect, causing them feelings of upset that they carry with them for portions of their day.

And yet, stifling anger is bad for you. Internalizing your anger can actually cause a myriad of health problems, and unrecognized anger left to fester can lead to depression. Repressed anger often remains hidden below the surface, and then the next thing you know you’re yelling at delivery men and sassing out older women at the Beverly Hills Public Library (one of my more un-ladylike maneuvers).

For the most part, we boil over in particular situations because we’ve stifled anger related to the issue at hand. My friend’s situation is a perfect example – she got angry because she’d done everything right, only to be told she’d have to do more work to compensate for the company’s error in not heeding her request. This may speak to other issues in her life, where she does what she needs to do, but others don’t respect her actions and in fact make things harder for her. I got mad at the lady in the library parking lot because I felt she was being rude and inconsiderate. She struck a nerve in me because I’d been ignoring the fact that I felt other people in my life were being rude and inconsiderate of me. This feeling hearkens back to unresolved anger over rude and disrespectful treatment in my childhood.

Dealing with your anger over life circumstances on a regular basis can help keep you from exploding over the minor issues that are linked to larger ones. This anger release CD by Louise Hay is a great way to relax, go inward, address and release your anger. You can also look at areas in your life where you’re not happy with the way things are going, and think about how this makes you feel. Are you frustrated, irritated, and/or downright angry about anyone or anything in your life right now? If so, how can you assert yourself and change that situation? Do you need to speak up for yourself, or just leave a person, place, or thing along and move on? Or both?

Anger is a valid emotion, one that’s healthy to feel and release from your body. The trick is handling it in a manner that will not directly hurt other people. The next time you’re in a situation where you’re about to blow your stack and make an embarrassing scene, it might help to just take a deep breath and pause. Ask yourself if what you’re going to say to the other person about how they’re behaving badly or irritating you, is really worth it. Will your angry statement hurt him or her? Is there a nicer, calmer, more dignified way to assert yourself? It may take some practice, but in the long run, you’ll find that you are able to deal with situations with an effective sense of ease and grace that will make you feel proud of yourself.