How to Control Your Anger

Uncontrolled anger can lead to many problems. In this article, we’ll explain some keys to help you control your anger.
How to Control Your Anger
Montse Armero

Written and verified by the psychologist Montse Armero.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

Do you know how to control your anger?

Anger is an innate universal emotion. Any human may experience it. It’s one of the six basic emotions that psychologist Paul Ekman identified as universally experienced by all human beings: surprise, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and anger.

These six emotions are associated with humans’ ability to adapt to their environment. Therefore, they’re part of our current emotional repertoire because they’ve been evolutionarily beneficial for us. Although some of these emotions are indeed more comfortable than others, all of them have a function and their reason for existing.

What exactly is anger?

Anger is an emotional state that a person experiences as a response to a real or fictitious threat. It causes irritation, feelings of outrage, and frustration.

It arises when a person feels vulnerable and its evolutionary role is to motivate you to fight against what might harm you. To do this, the body reacts at a physiological level by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure and secreting adrenaline and norepinephrine.

In the past, it was common for humans to feel scared or angry when they saw a predator that was trying to hunt them down or in front of a rival that threatened their survival by stealing their food. This emotion was totally adaptive. The mind and body reacted to face a real threat.

The problem is that, nowadays, not too many threats endanger us. However, people express excessive anger in many situations due to their inability to manage emotions properly.

An angry man.
Although anger is a natural emotion in humans, it can harm you if you don’t know how to control it.

Two types of anger

There are two ways to express anger: aggressive anger and passive anger.

Aggressive anger

A much more visible way of expressing frustration that doesn’t lead to misunderstandings. Some people act in the following ways. They:

  • Yell excessively.
  • Also judge others, as they feel superior.
  • Blame their frustration on someone else or an external issue.
  • Threaten others.
  • Destroy objects.
  • Are physically violent towards others.
  • Don’t show any kind of empathy.
  • Unfairly punish others.
  • Seek revenge as a way to solve problems.
  • Are unpredictable.

Passive anger

People express it in the following ways. They:

  • Don’t manage their anger well and repress it.
  • Feel resentment but don’t verbalize it.
  • Manipulate others.
  • Disregard others by showing indifference.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Feel superior because they seemingly “control” their emotions.
  • Criticize others behind their backs.
  • Play the victim.
  • Sabotage others.
  • Avoid conflict.

This way of feeling anger is more subtle and can go unnoticed. Nevertheless, both aggressive and passive anger are harmful.

A man who doesn't know how to control his anger.
The signs of passive anger are more subtle and may not be noticeable.

Strategies to control your anger

People who have a hard time managing their anger, especially when they’re more aggressive, often state that they aren’t able to control themselves. However, everyone can learn to manage their emotions in a much more appropriate way. Here are some keys that can help you control your anger:

1. Know yourself

Self-knowledge can help you improve your emotional management. We all unavoidably build up emotional wounds throughout our lives. However, knowing what makes your wounds bleed again can help you to resolve conflicts more adequately the next time a situation affects you.

2. Accept reality

In most cases, the suffering of people who feel angry and helpless stems from not accepting reality. Thus, the sooner you accept circumstances as they are and not as you’d like them to be, the sooner you’ll stop resisting them and suffering.

3. Detect cognitive distortions

Whether you admit it or not, your internal dialogue is full of irrational ideas and cognitive distortions. If you work hard to detect the thoughts that are harming you, you’ll be able to react in a better way the next time a situation affects you.

A person with clenched fists.
Anger management is based on self-knowledge.

4. Improve your social skills to control your anger

People who have a hard time managing their anger can greatly benefit from social skills training. It allows them to learn to react in an assertive and much more respectful and empathetic way when faced with conflicts.

5. Work on your self-esteem

People who don’t know how to control their anger usually have unhealthy self-esteem. Many times, they aren’t even aware of how they hurt others. And when they do become aware, they usually feel self-contempt.

Therefore, you need to know and value yourself well.

6. Feel compassion to control your anger

This point is related to the previous one, as people who have a hard time managing their anger have to learn to forgive and be compassionate with themselves. A deep acceptance and unconditional love will allow you to be able to heal all your wounds.

Final recommendations to control your anger

In short, it isn’t easy to learn to manage anger and all that it entails. You need to be humble to recognize your past mistakes and muster a lot of willpower to change.

Fortunately, psychology offers numerous tools to help you manage and control your anger. Use them today and say goodbye to negative reactions!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ekman, P. (1992). Are there basic emotions? Psychological Review, 99(3), 550–553.
  • Ellis, A. & Trafate, R.C. (2013). Controle su ira antes de que ella le controle a usted. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • López, B., Rodríguez, E., Vázquez, F. y Alcázar, R. J. (2012). Intervención cognitivo conductual para el manejo de la ira. Revista Mexicana de Psicología, 29(1), 97-103.
  • Roca, E. (2003). Cómo mejorar tus habilidades sociales, programa de asertividad, autoestima e inteligencia emocional. Valencia: ACDE

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.