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February 11, 2020 Tuesday 04:17:31 PM IST

No Anger Zones!


Recently, there appeared in the media a news item which stated that CBSE schools are going to be declared, “No Anger Zones”. The overall intent of this project is to make a collective effort by the management, teachers, parents and students to develop a healthy approach to handling anger. This program intends to develop in the young minds positive attitudes in resolving conflicts, differences, etc. ‘Anger-free school system’ is impossible ideal but teaching how to handle anger is a realistic and vital need for the integral development of the youngsters. Needless to say, the best way to teach anger management is by the modelling of parents and teachers.

 We all react with anger, both consciously and unconsciously. Excessive or chronic anger, on the other hand, is what has repercussions on your health, where it brings about physiological and biological changes affecting the heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety levels, etc; and hampers relationships with near and dear ones as you end up hurting their sentiments.

 The Physiology of Anger

The amygdala is so efficient at warning us about threats, that it gets us reacting before the cortex (the part of the brain responsible for thought and judgment) is able to check on the reasonableness of our reaction. In other words, our brains are wired in such a way as to influence us to act before we can properly consider the consequences of our actions.  Getting control over your anger means learning ways to help your prefrontal cortex get the upper hand over your amygdala so that you have control over how you react to anger feelings.


There are multiple ways that people learn an aggressive angry expression style. Some people learn to be angry in childhood by copying the behavior of angry people around them who influence others by being hostile and making threats. Chronic anger and aggressive response styles are learned from significant adults, from early childhood on.

         Psychologists have described four of these communication styles, each possessing its own motto:

The Aggressive communications style says:
"I count but you don't count."
The Passive communications style says:
"I don't count."
The Passive-Aggressive communications style says:
"I count. You don't count but I'm not going to tell you about it."
The Assertive communications style says:
"I count and you do too."

The Assertive communications style is the most useful and balanced of all the styles as it is the only style that communicates respect for all parties.


People can and do control their aggressive impulses and you too can, with some practice. This means that learning to manage anger properly is a skill that has to be learned, instead of something we are born knowing how to do automatically. Getting control over your anger means learning ways to help your prefrontal cortex get the upper hand over your amygdala so that you have control over how you react to anger feelings.



Three Approaches to Anger


 According to experts at American Psychological Association, there are three main approaches to deal with anger and they are expressing, suppressing and calming. 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.

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected into more constructive behavior. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive. But it is important to express how you feel because unexpressed anger can create other psychological problems.

And finally, calming. “This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.”

Tips to Handle Anger

           Easier said than done; managing anger requires skills and some serious effort on your part to handle it. If you have been struggling with recent swells of anger, here are some tips that can help you:

 Physical activity is one of the best outlets to release all the negativity from your mind. When your mind is clouded, trying even some basic exercises such as stretching can help you feel lighter. Just try to go for a jog or a long walk, even a stroll can make a difference.

 Express your anger in a productive way. Anger, if expressed productively, can have a positive function. Remember, it is normal to get angry, but we must be able to channelize it in the correct direction, rather than simply suppressing it. Most experts also suggest addressing the issue and expressing yourself by using “I”statement. Example: I am angry because so and so forth…

Breathe, and Breathe. There’s a reason why yoga helps in calming us down. Focusing on our breathing helps to channelize the energies within us, thus bringing about a change. Savasana, also known as the corpse pose, is considered to be one of the most effective tools to curb anger.

Count Till 10. Most experts often suggest counting till 10 before expressing one’s anger. Neurological anger response lasts less than two seconds. Therefore, that little time frame is enough to suppress one’s anger, helping him or her to think before reacting at the heat of the moment.

The Power of Water. “Anger is like flowing water; there's nothing wrong with it as long as you let it flow. Hate is like stagnant water…” – C. JoyBell C.
Anger needs to flow out of your body for you to function properly. And what better way than using water’s calming effects to cool down. Diving into a pool of water and swimming, or just going in for a nice long shower to de-stress and unclog your mind. Tell yourself, ‘let it flow’.

Take a Break. Move yourself away from the heated situation (if possible). In times of crisis, or in the moment of a heated discussion or anger outburst, it is best to take a time out and temporarily walk away from the situation. Giving a break will also help you reinterpret the situation, where maybe you spot your own mistakes and deal with the situation in a better manner.

Learning how to stop anger from destroying your life and putting it into good use is a valuable life skill. Moving away from aggressive style of expression to assertive style will make a world of good. Don’t forget that this is a life long learning process.

Dr. Jose Cletus Plackal

Licensed clinical psychologist, BET-MRT, Jeevas Centre, Aluva, Kerala.

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