Recognizing & Managing Anger

5. Recognize Physical Clues

Thankfully, you should be able to find physical clues to anger in your body. You are fortunate to have these signs exhibited. They tell you that you are angry so that you recognize that the anger is actually a different “state” than your normal, natural resting state. Tense muscles, increased heart rate, and a flushed face are a few of the body’s symptoms of anger. Everyone experiences anger differently. Self-monitoring can help raise insight into how you manifest anger in your body.

Emotions are a healthy human response to your environment, so be sure you pay attention and:

  • Look for withdrawal or aggression
  • Understand body indicators
  • Recognize defensive postures
  • Observe your energy

Look for Withdrawal or Aggression

Some people move away from anger, while others move toward it. Once again, the signs may be subtle. For instance, you might pull away from a regular social exchange, or withhold a compliment. On the other hand, you may become aggressive in ways not normally part of your exchanges with others.

How often have you heard someone blurt out a hurtful statement that did not fit into the context of what was happening in the moment? This is a sign of hidden anger. It is much easier to see it in others, but you must see it in yourself if you want to make progress.

Understand Body Indicators

Watch a child when she is angry. She shows no inhibitions. The clenched fists, flushed face, animated and exaggerated gestures are all body indicators of anger. Children just feel the anger and let it go.

Becoming aware of your feeling angry is important. Next time you know you are angry, turn your attention to your body. What are you experiencing? Everybody has his or her own signs indicating current, on-the-spot anger. Look for your body signals.

Recognize Defensive Postures

Once again, think of the child who has become angry. Her head is likely thrust forward, and she has an “in your face posture” when she is making a point. Sometimes she presents a side profile, which is a classic defensive stance when she feels threatened.

Body language gives excellent clues as to what you may be experiencing. What postures do you exhibit? Do you cross your arms in front of you? Do you stand with your hands on your hips? Do you turn away?

Observe Your Energy

The energy associated with anger can be difficult to identify because it’s not always easily observable. Depression, rooted in anger, is a way to avoid hurt and shame that arises with anger. It creates a negative drain on energy that keeps you from doing things that could help you out of the anger. It is as if your mind shuts down to protect you from this emotion.

Anger, no matter how it is expressed, takes a lot of energy to maintain. When you are using your energy to be angry, even silently angry, you don’t have enough left over for anything else. Your resources are drained by this negativity.

If you find yourself depressed or blue and don’t know why, think back over the past twenty-four hours and try to figure out who may have done something to trigger your anger. (Depression is usually the result of repressed anger.) Look for tension—a clear clue to repressed anger.