What is Anger? Anger is a secondary emotion. What is a secondary feeling? It is the emotion that others see, like sad, happy, surprised, Bad, Fearful and disgusted.

What sits under the anger? Let us look at an example, say road rage (meaning we have all had moments of this, maybe at different levels to others). Let’s start with waking up, running late, getting in the car, and halfway to work, you realise you left an important document at home. What do you think you would be feeling? They will vary depending on what experiences you have endured in your childhood. How you have seen others manage moments like this throughout your life. 

Some of the things that you could feel would be: Frustrated, cause now not only have you forgotten the documents, but the traffic is also going slow. Where do you focus that anger on? the other drivers. When you break it down, there is a frustration for forgetting the document; when you get to work, the boss will ask for the record, and you could feel either humiliated or annoyed. So at the moment, you are in traffic, and all these things are going through your head, the car in front is taking too long to take off, your mind is racing with thoughts or shouts like: OMG, hurry up, oh for fuck sake, drive your dick, what are you doing, some of these comments could sound familiar. Imagine what is happening to your body, like what is physically happening; do you notice the knuckles getting tighter, your breathing changes, your shoulders are tenser, and your jaw is clenching tight. On top of all of this, your emotions are getting even more heightened by Adrenaline.

If you have read this far, I would like you to stand up and loosen up your body, give it a shake, and see what you notice about how you reacted to that.

Right back to the car, now that you have stood up and had a shake, what was the cause of the anger? Was it the other drivers, or were you running late and forgetting the document that set it off to remember how your day started? What happened throughout the day? When did it change if it did? I know you correctly said well wouldn’t have been so bad if the driver was to hurry up. Maybe if we got up earlier or sorted stuff the night before, would the morning have gone differently? 

Self-awareness is a part of recognising when and how a situation has impacted us.

When we are Angry, we have Emotional, Physical and Mental changes. We feel, our body tenses, and our thoughts change in our minds. When this happens, do we see reason? Are we being realistic? What is it that we are Angry about in this situation?

When I work with someone with anger, I like to talk about the culture, environment, childhood, values and beliefs. Explore what ticks them off and what is it about that situation. Also, encourage acceptance and accountability. Cause let’s face it, our reaction is our responsibility. Correct, we can not control what someone else says, But we can manage how we react.

I am going to leave a list of different emotions that sit under anger and would like to challenge you to express those next time you are feeling angry and look at what it is that is sitting there.

Let down, Humiliated, Bitter, Mad, Aggressive, Frustrated, Distant. Critical. Betrayed, resentful, Disrespected, Ridiculed, Indignant, Violated, Furious, Jealous, Provoked, Hostile, Infuriated, Annoyed, Withdrawn, Numb, Skeptical, Dismissive.

Remember, this is my perspective, things I have noticed in my work. Anger is not a destructive emotion; what we do with it can make it a negative emotion.

Anger Management

Anger management

Anger Management starts by first acknowledging the problem. If you are uncertain if you have an anger problem, I encourage you to use one of the tools on this website called The Clinical Anger Scale. The Clinical Anger Scale was developed in New Zealand, so it will consider both universal and cultural-specific elements of anger. 

Anger can be thought of like this:

Trigger -> Internal Experience -> Outward Behaviour

Let us start with the outward behaviour, which is the anger itself. We are starting here so we can create some motivation to change. 

Think about a recent specific situation where you got angry and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What might be beneath your anger in that situation?
  2. What does that anger look like on a scale of 1-10?
  3. How long did that anger last?
  4. How did you feel afterwards? 
  5. What positive things came from being angry?
  6. What negative things came from being angry?

Now that you have taken a personal inventory of your anger, I would encourage you to think about what it would take for you to change this.

How to take charge of your Anger

One thing we can change is to avoid the triggers that create anger. Stop the cycle right at the start!

However, if they are triggers from our partner, where we live or work, these triggers become more unavoidable.

In this case, I would recommend changing the way we think about them – the internal experience.

A commonly held internal experience is the thought of injustice – that things aren’t fair.

Talking to a counsellor can help you rethink your internal experience. It can be a beneficial part of anger management. 

Think about your partner – what are her trigger points?

Often we know our partner’s buttons and triggers well.

When we want to win arguments, we sometimes push these buttons to help us win or to get them back for making us angry. 

Being aware of some of these things can help us change our behaviours.

Keep an Anger Diary.  

EventThoughtsFeelingsBehaviourAlternative Thought
What happened?What did you think?What emotions did you have? How did you act?What is another perspective on this?

Make a record each time you get angry. What were your thoughts on the situation, what emotions did you have, and how did you react? 

Anger isn’t going to just disappear, but working on it will help reduce the number of times you get angry each week.

Tracking your progress will help you see the improvements you are making.

People often talk about leaving or walking away from the situation.

This is an excellent thing to do; it gives everyone a chance to cool off! One thing to think about when leaving the situation is that the person may follow you. So it’s a good idea to discuss this idea of “getting some space” with the people around you before it happens. If everyone knows that leaving is an option to avoid arguments and that you or the other person will be back later to discuss the issue, it will work much better for everyone involved.

When getting away from the situation – Any kind of exercise is a great idea, as the brain will release chemicals that will reduce stress levels.

Counselling also helps some people become more aware of what they are doing and encourages them to think of options for change.

Listening is not about agreeing or disagreeing with the other person’s position, it is about understanding it! Once you understand their position, repeat it back to them in your own words, and this can help improve your understanding of what they are saying.

Strategies to help you deal with your anger around children. 

Take time out! By this, I don’t mean leave your kids at home –but you can safely do this by telling them you will take a ten-minute break in the other room.

Remember your goal! A common goal most parents have is to; be better parents than their parents were. Is what you are currently doing moving you closer to this goal? If not, ask yourself what you can do differently.

Don’t punish your kids! If it drives you crazy, chances are your kids know it, so it’s better to ignore it! Research shows that rewarding good behaviour is much more effective than punishing bad behaviour.

Being Misunderstood & taken for granted can lead to anger.

Here are four ways to communicate more effectively:

  1. Listening
  2. Nonverbal communication
  3. Managing Stress
  4. Emotional Awareness

We can all work towards improving in these areas but choosing one to focus on at a time helps.

Managing Stress 

When stressed, we are less able to listen to others and less aware of our nonverbal communication. In a stressed state, we are unlikely to have an excellent emotional balance. All of this comes out in our communication.

In a stressed state, the focus is more on what is stressing us and less on the other person.

How we can be less stressed

One effective way we can reduce stress is through better planning. Better planning means we would also be considering when is the right time to talk about it. The right time is vital so that the conversation has privacy and we do not embarrass ourselves or the other person. It also means that we will have enough time to talk about the issue.

Benefits of forgiveness

There are a lot of benefits to forgiving someone. Forgiveness is not always an easy task, but when we remind ourselves of the benefits of forgiveness, it encourages us. I don’t believe there is anything you can do to obtain forgiveness from somebody else. Forgiveness is like a gift that you will need to patiently wait for.  

We must also remember to forgive ourselves; we all do things wrong and make mistakes. Focusing on things we could do differently has much more value than focusing on things we have done wrong.

Anger and the internet

When we speak to someone face to face, a large proportion of what we communicate is non-verbal. This leads us to tailor what we say and how we say it depends on the other person’s body language. When the internet is used, there is none of this non-verbal feedback, so our messages can come off as very harsh to the other person. It can be a little like adding fuel to a fire because then the other person replies to us without the use of these filters, and the whole situation has just become more escalated. Once a real mess has been made out of the situation, and everyone’s tempers have flared, the internet is a place where it’s all out there publicly and is there to stay!

“If you speak when angry, you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” Groucho Marx

Family violence

Family violence is considered a learnt behaviour – if your parents were abusive, you are likely to pick up and learn abusive behaviour too. Frustrations from poverty and low education also correlate (are connected) with higher levels of violence.  Another contributing factor may be NZ’s binge drinking culture, which is likely to provoke further violence.

Family violence affects children.

Boys tend to see the abuse as a sign of strength and attempt to control their environment by being an abuser too.

Girls may enter into many self-doubts and believe there was something they could have or should have done. They also may believe that such violence is expected in a relationship and are more likely to become victims in their relationships. 

If violence is a problem in your family, there is a national network of family violence services that you can contact for additional support and resources.

Making changes happen 

Education – Abusers must first acknowledge their problem. This is key for any kind of change. Next, they need to learn new ways to respond to situations and then finally, they need encouragement and support for new behaviours to become consolidated (strengthened as normal behaviour).

Although abuse is not the victim’s fault, they do need to address problems such as how they view themselves (often blaming themselves) and their self-esteem.  They also need to learn what they can do to break the cycle they find themselves in.

What can you do if your partner is in denial that they need help?

You can involve yourself in a course (or support group) designed for people to get help with abuse. Your partner may or may not take an interest in it. However, most abusive relationships go through an apology stage after the abusive stage. The apology stage is when your partner has little or no denial and is open to help.  

Acknowledging the problem means that you have the opportunity to do something about it. People who don’t acknowledge the problem – often use blame and say it is someone else’s fault, i.e. they might say, “They made me, or they deserved it”.

Trigger points: Things like jealousy and mistrust are often mentioned. Perhaps you have caught your partner lying to you? This gives you a valid reason to have these feelings. But what do these feelings do for a relationship? NOTHING! Remember when you started the relationship, the feelings of Love and Trust?


This article about Anger Management has presented a few tools and strategies to help you better manage your anger. We have focused on the trigger and outward behaviour areas of the anger management model. If you are serious about managing your anger, I suggest you engage in one-to-one counselling to better understand your internal experience and reinforce new behaviour changes.