Anger is a normal and healthy emotion. It is the emotion we express when our needs are not met. If we have some history of anger being unacceptable (in some families anger is not allowed) or destructive (mother or father was angry and violent), we may grow up to have an unhealthy relationship with anger. Symptoms of problems around anger include aggression, uncontrollable outbursts, controlling behaviour, road-rage, depression and anxiety.
When a client comes to therapy/counselling because of anger I/the therapist find it useful to first explore the relationship s/he experiences between anger and hurt. Often anger is covering terrible hurt. For many of us it is intolerable to feel hurt and vulnerability; anger feels so much better/powerful. Conversely when hurt is covering anger it is likely we are struggling with low self-confidence and we lack the ability to act/speak out assertively (sometimes using controlled anger) as and when this is needed.
Understanding what our anger is expressing emotionally is an important part of therapy.
On a practical level it is helpful to learn to recognise physical indicators that anger is getting out of hand, eg rapid heartbeat, clenching/tightening of jaw, fists and shoulders. Recognition of these symptoms allows us greater choice to remove ourselves from trigger situations, take some space, calm ourselves and subsequently choose how to manage our feelings and also the situation.
Useful self-calming methods include various breathing techniques, self-expression through talking, writing and creativity, and also relaxation and exercise. It is also helpful to attend to general everyday stress levels that can make us more susceptible to anger.
Further information: The internet provides lots of useful information about anger and anger management including specific projects, courses, workshops and books. Your GP may also be able to help. Therapy/counselling with a well-qualified/skilled practitioner is helpful in managing and reducing anger. Research shows that it is the safe, attuned, empathic relationship with the therapist that contributes to the exploration and recovery from this distress.