Adaptive Responses To Anger

Adaptive Responses To Anger

Someone slides into the parking spot you had your eye on. A coworker takes credit for your work. Your spouse charges $200 on the credit card without discussing it first. These are experiences that might generate anger.

And that’s okay.

Anger is a natural response to many life events. Like other emotions, anger helps us understand our world and how we feel about it. When navigated adaptively, anger can be a motivator for action, behavior change, or transformation. When navigated maladaptively, anger can can have stinging consequences and lasting ramifications.

The Brain On Anger

When anger reaches a very high level, our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for cognitive behavior and decision making – is at risk of being hijacked. The amygdala, the more primal, emotional, or instinctual part of the brain that regulates the “fight or flight” response, takes over rendering us less capable of rational responses to our circumstance.

When aroused to anger, our brains are less able to take in or make sense of new information. This means we are less likely to respond positively to calmer, more rational perspectives and more likely to react with irrational, emotion-fueled behavior.

How To Control Your Anger

Given this brief overview of brain function, consider these techniques to cope more adaptively with anger.

Take A Breather

When angry your brain is less able to process information effectively or accurately. As such, continuing dialogue or interactions with others is less likely to be productive or aligned with goals or values. Consider calling a time out or stepping away from the situation.


The body’s “fight or flight” response releases hormones intended to help us fight or run. Without such physical activity, these hormones can linger in the body and continue to influence behavior. Going for a walk, run, or lifting weights can be an effective outlet for these hormones.

Seek Out Counseling

Coping adaptively with anger can be challenging. Working with a skilled, experienced psychologist, therapist, or counselor can be helpful. If you are interested in therapy to explore your relationship with your anger, I invite you to call or email me to get started working together. Telehealth appointments are available.

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