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Home / Articles / Relationships / Overcoming Anger

Overcoming Anger

How to keep anger from interfering with new relationships

  • By
  • Nov 14, 2016
Overcoming Anger

After enduring any type of abuse, it’s natural to be angry. Maybe you’re angry with your abuser. The legal system. The world. Or maybe you’re angry at nothing in particular.

“As you regain physical safety in your life, you might also start feeling emotionally safer, and you might become angry about what you’ve been through,” says Shirl Regan, president and CEO of the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. “That’s OK. It’s part of being able to reconnect with the world. What’s not OK is being angry forever, because it will stop you from being able to go on with your life.”

Studies have found positive correlations between anger and incidences of heart disease, diabetes, eating disorders and car accidents. Anger can also make it challenging to connect with others should you have difficulty controlling the emotion or frequently become angry about what others feel are minor injustices. In short, people in your life may not want to be around someone who is angry all the time.

Residual anger may also creep up when you least expect it—weeks, months, years after the abuse. And it might not have anything to do with the person you’re currently interacting with.

“I hear a lot of women say the person they’re with now isn’t anything like their abuser and yet they find themselves getting angry with him or her for the smallest things,” Regan says. “What you’re doing is reenacting something from your past. It wasn’t safe for you to be angry about it before, so it’s coming to light now.”

What’s important is how you deal with your anger and to not allow it to overpower you. Try these prevention and coping techniques:

Determine reasonableness. “Ask yourself, ‘Is this anger I’m feeling appropriate for the action that just happened?’” Regan suggests. If it’s not, take a step back and evaluate why you’re feeling the way you are.

Take a break. If you feel yourself getting heated, call a timeout. Count to 10 or remove yourself from the situation to cool down before engaging in dialogue. Do something you know helps you relax like listening to calming music or taking a bath.

Breathe. Deep breathing helps you lower your heart rate, ease muscle tension and relax. Try breathing in for four seconds, holding it for four seconds, breathing out for four and holding it for four. Repeat as necessary.

Do something physical. “A healthy way to release tension would be to walk really fast around the block, run or do pushups,” Regan says. Or try lifting weights, doing yardwork or having a go at a punching bag.

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Talk it out. Taking a moment to calm down doesn’t mean you should suppress your feelings. If you’re angry, say so. “Women in particular don’t talk enough about our anger, and we’ve learned to hide it for most of our lives,” Regan says. “I don’t want women to feel afraid of getting angry. We just need to make sure we channel it in the right direction.”

Seek support. “I’m a big proponent of support groups as long as they’re positive and don’t make you angrier,” Regan says. “Those with a long history of abuse might benefit more from one-on-one attention [from a counselor or spiritual advisor].”

To learn more about the emotional side effects of abuse, check out “When the Feelings Rush Back.”