06/18/2012 05:30 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2012

8 Facts About Anger

Often we tell ourselves stories, half-truths or fiction about our emotional experience. For example, we might tell ourselves "anger is destructive" or "being angry means I'm out of control" or "anger is a result of a bad attitude."

We do this either because we have learned to think this way from others (our parents, teachers, loved ones or siblings, for example) or because we hope they will help us make sense of our complicated emotional world.

We often have many faulty beliefs about anger in particular, which can be associated with worries about negative consequences -- say, that an important goal will be blocked, or that you will fail, be criticized, hurt or abandoned. The intensity of angry feelings can leave you filled with resentment and rage fueled by worry, spiteful thoughts and memories of hurtful experiences.

The Facts About Anger

1. Anger is a normal and natural feeling

2. Anger can serve an important purpose
  • It can help us to overcome difficult obstacles, right wrongs and stand up for ourselves
  • It can communicate to others -- for example, an angry expression can say "don't take advantage of me" or "I won't back down."
  • It alerts us to those things that are important to us.

3. Anger can stick around long after it is useful: You may have had good reason to feel angry, but angry feelings can continue and be destructive rather than helpful in your life.

4. Tuning into your body can alert you to anger: Clenched teeth, a hot face and tensed muscles are all signs of anger.

5. It is possible to be angry and stay in control of how you behave.

6. Retribution or making threats rarely results in feeling good about yourself.

7. Thinking about a situation and putting yourself in the other person's shoes can cool your temper.

8. Sometimes, acting gently and expressing understanding (even if you don't feel that way) can lead to productive discussion and resolving differences.

When left unattended, strong emotions can lead to destructive behaviors. Attending to times that you feel hurt, belittled, let down, disrespected, insulted or threatened is key to dealing with the anger that often comes from those experiences.

You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book The Stress Response, and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

For more by Christy Matta, M.A., click here.

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