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Anger is a result of thinking that we have been unfairly treated or disrespected, or that others have broken or fallen short of our rules, standards  or expectations, and we won't stand for it.

Thinking this way leads us to feel angry, which stimulates the body's adrenaline response which is our body's way of helping us to cope with either fighting, or running away ('fight or flight' response).    We respond to those thoughts and feelings, by acting, or feeling an urge to act, in threatening or aggressive ways.

Thoughts that often occur:

  • I'm being treated unfairly
  • I'm being disrespected
  • They're breaking a rule or standard
  • I won't stand for it

Physical Sensations - The Adrenaline Response

When there is real, or we believe there is a real, threat or danger, our bodies' automatic survival mechanism kicks in very quickly.  This helps energise us to fight or run away ('fight or flight response').  The action urge associated with anger is the urge to attack.  We will notice lots of physical sensations, which might include:

  • heart racing or pounding - enabling good blood supply around our bodies
  • breathing quickly - allowing more oxygen around the body
  • tense muscles - a state of readiness to fight or flee
  • shaking
  • hot, sweating
  • light-headed
  • stomach churning or butterflies
  • fist or teeth clenching
  • physical urge to go towards whatever is making us angry


Behaviours might include:

  • staring & facial expression
  • aggressive body posture
  • move towards what is making us angry
  • attack
  • hit out (or urge to hit out)
  • argue
  • shout
  • run or storm away
  • don't talk
  • sulk


The Angry Cycle


We all feel angry some times.  Some people tend to become angry easily (a "short fuse"), and some have problems controlling their anger.  Anger has consequences, and they often involve hurting other people - more usually their feelings, but sometimes physically.  Anger can cause problems in our personal lives, and affect work and study.  After an angry outburst, we can think very critically of ourselves and our actions, leading us to feel guilty, ashamed and lower our mood, which might result in our withdrawing from others, not wanting to do anything (see depression cycle).



Identify your triggers

What or when are the times when you are more likely to get angry?  If you can see the patterns, then maybe you can do something about those situations, and do something different.

  • Behind the wheel?
  • At work?
  • When stressed?
  • With certain people?
  • When you've been drinking or using other substances?



What to do when you feel angry

  • STOPP!  Pause, take a breath, don't react automatically

  • Walk away - you can come back and talk later

  • Ask yourself:
  • What am I reacting to?

  • What is it that's really pushing my buttons here? 

  • Is this fact or opinion?

  • Am I getting things out of proportion? 

  • How important is this really? 

  • How important will it be in 6 months time? 

  • What harm has actually been done?

  • Am I expecting something from this person or situation that is unrealistic?

  • What's the worst (and best) that could happen?  What's most likely to happen?

  • Am I jumping to conclusions about what this person meant?  Am I mis-reading between the lines?  Is it possible that they didn't mean that?

  • What do I want or need from this person or situation?  What do they want or need from me?  Is there a compromise?

  • What's the bigger picture?  The helicopter view?

  • What would be the consequences of responding angrily?

  • Is there another way of dealing with this?  What would be the most helpful and effective action to take?  (for me, for the situation, for the other person)

  • Visualise yourself dealing with the situation in a calm, non-aggressive but assertive way, respecting the rights and opinions of all others involved.


How to deal with the physical sensations of anger

Counteract the body's adrenaline response - it's readiness for action, by using that energy healthily. 



  • Practice calming or mindful breathing - this one act alone will help reduce the physical sensations, emotions and intensity of thoughts. 
  • Use NOW skill
  • Colour breathing:  Breathe in blue (for calm) and/or green (for balance), and breathe out red.
  • Go for a walk, run or cycle, or maybe do some gardening or housework.



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Download and print as .pdf (Adobe) document

MP3 guided imagery/relaxation downloads, including 'Defusing Anger'

Click here for ANGER - Quick Reference Sheet

Vicious Cogs of Anger - Vicious Cycle/Flower Formulation



Further help


Anger Self Help Books




Anger Self Help Books

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Carol Vivyan