For most of us anger is a familiar emotion, one that goes back as far as our early childhood. When we did not want to eat our broccoli, or our parents insisted we stop watching TV or when someone snatched the toy we were playing with and it made us unhappy, we experienced anger.
Anger is neither good nor bad. Anger is one of our basic emotions – alongside joy, sadness, disgust, surprise and fear. Eckman has suggested that these emotions are universal and experienced by all human beings regardless of cultural or ethnic backgrounds. Children become angry when they don’t get what they want; parents become angry when someone threatens the safety or wellbeing of their children. We can experience anger when we don’t get the promotion we think we deserve, when something is stolen from us, when we are lied to, when we are made to wait (for our early morning coffee) or when we see great injustice. We can become angry in many situations, big or small.
We all know what being angry feels like. The sensations in our body include feeling hot, with tensed muscles, a clenched jaw and palms that are turning into fists, and being unable to think straight. Your reactions might be: “It’s so unfair!”, or “He can’t treat me like that!”, or “I deserve better!”. But the problem actually starts when you start expressing your anger. For those people who can say calmly: “I believe this is unfair. I would appreciate it if you don’t raise your voice when you speak to me, otherwise I will have to leave,” anger or aggression management is less of a problem than it is for those who shout, hit the table, throw things, break their own or someone else’s property, grab or push the person who seems to be causing their anger, who hit or intimidate others.
So, anger is not a problem but the aggressive expression of anger is. So your anger has great implications when it is expressed aggressively and with damaging consequences for yourself and others. Your ability to control yourself when you are angry is essential for you to ensure that you give yourself the best possible chance of success in life – to have great relationships, to live longer, to feel proud of yourself, to progress in your career and to avoid legal troubles.
Anderson and Bushman (2002) defined aggression as ‘any behavior directed toward another individual that is carried out with the proximate intent to cause harm’.
Some researchers differentiate between two types of aggression:
- the controlled-instrumental subtype
- the reactive-impulsive subtype.
The controlled-instrumental subtype is considered to be indirect aggression, premeditated and outcome focused; the reactive-impulsive subtype has been associated with anger.
Aggression and impulsivity are not synonymous, however, when we talk about impulsive aggression, “impulsivity defines the nature of aggressive behaviour”(Coccaro, 2015).
James did not mean to hurt his friend but he did…
As you see, even without a direction, a reactive or impulsive aggressive outburst can result in a disastrous outcome. When James became extremely angry during his argument with his friend Mike, and in the heat of the argument pushed him out of his way, he never intended to or even imagined he might cause physical harm to his friend. But it so happened that Mike fell on a glass table and it resulted in him having a broken wrist. Mike was taken to the hospital, the police were called and charges were laid. Not only did it ruin the friendship and result in legal troubles, but James found it difficult to deal with the fact that he had caused physical harm to his friend.
Was his response premeditated, or intended to hurt his friend? James felt ashamed and embarrassed that his split-second decision had resulted in such a horrible consequence. He did not want to see himself as an angry person, or as someone having issues with anger management or even see himself as a “criminal”.
Jane loses so much more when she loses her cool…
Jane reacted aggressively when her boss gave a promotion to another colleague after he had promised it to her for the past 6 months. Overwhelming feelings of betrayal, rage and hurt all surfaced at the same time. For a brief second she thought of the unfairness of the situation, of 12-hour days at work and coming home after her kids were already in bed, or missing her son’s first day at school because they had a project deadline. All that had been in vain. Jane ‘lost it’.
Jane soon regretted her reaction, as she did not know that they intended to promote her to another division, where she had always wanted to be. But after that incident she was considered “unstable” and she eventually had to move to another company, as she could no longer see a future with the organisation.
Everyone who knew Jane could not believe that she had lost her cool, as she was always considered to be in control of her emotions, but continuous stress and pressure at work, missing out on her family life, feeling exhausted and lacking sleep made her vulnerable. She did not realise how vulnerable and exhausted she was until the day her friend got the promotion.
Famous people lose their cool too…
There are many more examples of people behaving impulsively and then regretting their behaviours greatly:
Kanye West, the well-known recording artist, reacted impulsively when he believed that Beyonce should have won the best female video award in 2009. Some people said that he experienced regret immediately as soon as he did it.
Zinedine Zidane, a player of exceptional class, lost his cool and head-butted Marco Materazzi, and some sceptics believe that Zidane will be remembered more for this head-but than for his exceptional skills and play during the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final.
Numerous outbursts of disappointment and anger can be seen during the Australia Open tennis matches as well. When stress and tension become unbearable, when so much is at stake, some of the best tennis players lose their cool. Remember Marcos Baghdatis breaking his racquets, Jerzy Janowicz getting into a heated debate with an umpire, or David Nalbandian arguing with an umpire and even disparaging his intelligence?
The point of these examples is – don’t compromise your talents, hard work and integrity with one impulsive outburst. Don’t be remembered for something that does not define you. Surely you should be remembered for your achievements, good character and contribution to society – not for losing your cool. We can help you manage your anger so that people focus on the real you.
How many lives have been ruined by a split-second reaction?
Don’t ruin your life, stay in control of your behaviour at all times.
The good news is that you can learn how to manage your impulsive angry outbursts. It requires that you reflect and understand the habits that have been created, manage your stress triggers better, learn new skills and implement new strategies where you are always in control.
We can help you to learn to control your behaviours at all times. Of course the world will always be challenging, with people often unreasonable and unpredictable, and what seems certain liable to change in a minute. There are many stressors you cannot predict or ‘future-proof’. However, we can give you the tools to understand and manage your emotions as well as learn how to manage your behaviour at all times.
Managing your impulsive outburst does not mean that you are a doormat and will put up with anything. It is actually the opposite – you can learn to always be true to yourself and to stand up for yourself in unfair situations, but in a dignified and strong way.
You really don’t want to wait until you have dealt with the negative consequences of your impulsive behaviour, so learn more about our program today. Simply register to start learning about impulsive behaviour and how to control your urges.
After registration you can start learning straight away at your own pace and in the convenience of your own home.
Through the program you can access recorded webinars and access templates and material that help you to master your impulsive behaviour so you can be in total control at all times. We understand that your journey might require some additional support, so send an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will help you to master your impulses.
Coccaro, E. F. (2015). The nature of impulsive aggression: Commentary on “Aggression in borderline personality disorder – a multidimensional model”.
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