7 ways to effectively express your anger without losing your cool, according to psychology

We all get angry sometimes.

And there’s nothing wrong about anger in and of itself. While uncomfortable, anger serves a purpose just like any other emotion – it signals to you that there is a deeper issue that needs addressing.

However, the way you express your anger matters a great deal.

If you let it consume you whole, you are endangering your close relationships because you could accidentally say words you don’t mean or act out of blind rage without thinking through the consequences.

If you express it effectively, though, anger can actually be a very good way to grow as a person, sort through conflicts, and get to know yourself better.

So, how can you let your anger out without losing your cool?

Here’s what psychologists have to say on the matter.

1) Recognize how anger manifests in your body

Effective emotional self-regulation begins with one word: self-awareness.

When you feel angry, it is absolutely vital that you try to unpack the emotion as much as you can before you let it all out – this way, you’re not going to act blindly and will have a much more rational understanding of how your anger functions and what causes it.

The clinical psychologist Monica Vermani C. Psych. says, “When anger shows up, we experience physical symptoms, like muscle tension, a knot in the stomach, and a sudden racing heartbeat.”

By taking a deep breath and scanning your body for physical signs of anger, you’re letting yourself get closer to its very nature.

Remember – you are not here to judge yourself for feeling a certain way. Instead, approach your anger like a curious observer who is only trying to understand you better.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time for step number two.

2) Look beneath the blanket of anger and explore your true feelings

According to Vermani, anger often functions as a “blanket emotion” – that is, it arises in order to cover up more painful feelings that we’re trying to hide from.

I still remember when I was going through a long-distance relationship and regularly picked fights with my then-boyfriend. Every day, I woke up angry. Every day, I looked for something to blame him for.

When it finally dawned on me that all this rage was only there to cover up my intense sadness and longing, I could finally let myself cry. It felt like a huge relief.

Here are just some of the emotions and sentiments your own anger may be channeling as per Vermani’s article:

  • Lonely
  • Bored
  • Misunderstood
  • Afraid
  • Sad
  • Unhappy
  • Betrayed
  • Unloved
  • Not good enough

Once you peek beneath the anger blanket, you may realize that anger actually isn’t the real problem here at all.

And if it is…

3) Express your anger through physical movement

I’ll be honest with you.

I’ve been processing a hell of a lot of anger in the last few months. And do you know what helped me most?

Exercise.

I find that every time I’m raging, the most effective outlet for me is going for a (very angry) swim, lifting weights, or running on the treadmill with angry songs blasting from my headphones.

I let my anger completely engulf me and I put all my energy into expressing it through movement.

After an hour of that, I’m totally spent. Sometimes I even end up crying (which is good – it’s a sign the anger has dissipated enough to let other important feelings come through).

This actually makes a lot of sense because, as the psychoanalyst Ken Eisold PhD writes, “Anger is a normal and adaptive response to an attack or a threat. It has been useful in our evolutionary struggle for survival. The brain detects the danger and the body is aroused and energized to react with fight or flight.”

By embracing that fight-or-flight reaction, you’re essentially letting your body process all the necessary emotions. 

Once the exercise is over, your body feels like it has actually done something real, something that makes a difference, and this allows it to return to a state of calm.

So, now you know what to do. When the anger bubbles up to the surface, get moving. This is the most effective way to express how you feel without losing your cool.

And if even that doesn’t help…

4) Write it all down

spiritual journaling 7 ways to effectively express your anger without losing your cool, according to psychology

When I’m mad, my anger is usually targeted at someone. 

And as my thoughts drag me down into a whirlpool of overthinking, I keep having imaginary arguments with that specific person, telling them how much they’ve hurt me.

Sometimes I even draft entire paragraphs in my head. Then I go over them about a hundred times to make sure they deliver a proper punch.

When I spoke about this with my therapist recently, she advised me to write all these thoughts down as soon as they came up.

By putting it all down on paper, you’re essentially validating your feelings, gaining a sense of control over the narrative, and creating a coherent picture out of the chaos in your head.

Go ahead and give it a try. Don’t censor yourself. Write exactly how you feel, no matter how ugly. You can even address it to the person you’re mad at if that helps.

But remember that this letter is only for you. No one else has to read it. It is a tool that helps you during your healing journey – it doesn’t necessarily concern anyone else.

You’re doing this for your own well-being.

5) State why you are angry in clear and respectful terms

Okay, now that you’ve named, processed, and expressed your anger, it’s time to talk about it.

The way you communicate how you feel is absolutely vital.

Sure, you could scream, point fingers, and throw hurtful words in all directions, but that would only hurt your relationships and wouldn’t help you reach any solution.

Therefore, try to:

  • Use “I” statements (“I feel upset because of this specific action”, “I see it in this particular light”)
  • Focus on the issue in question and don’t make sweeping statements (“It hurt me when you did X” instead of “You always do X, what’s wrong with you?”)
  • Use a respectful and calm tone of voice (no snickering or passive aggression)
  • Listen to the other person and try to understand their point of view so that you can both reach a solution
  • Remember that your emotions are valid and deserve to be acknowledged

6) Avoid passive-aggressive behavior

Many people think that as long as they’re not being outright aggressive, things are fine.

But that’s actually not true. 

According to Psychology Today, “Passive aggression can lead to more conflict and intimacy issues, because many people struggle to have a direct and honest conversation about the problem at hand.”

While it’s very tempting to let your anger out through subtle remarks and hints, it often makes the whole conflict even worse.

Try your best to avoid:

The best way to solve a conflict with somebody is to respectfully say why you feel the way you feel.

Passive aggression isn’t necessary once you embrace assertiveness.

7) Embrace a problem-solving mindset

Of course, we all know how difficult it is to act 100% mature and respectful when we’re absolutely raging on the inside.

However, the above-mentioned steps can help you take a step back from the situation, unpack your anger, validate your feelings, and hopefully come back feeling a little bit more grounded within yourself.

Now comes the part when you try to sort things out with the person who’s upset you and come to some sort of resolution.

The most effective way to move forward and leave the conflict in the past is to approach it with a problem-solving mindset.

Which practical steps can you both take to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

What can you do to get a sense of closure and to reassure one another that you mean well?

And if you’ve decided to cut off all contact with this person – which is completely valid – what can you do in your personal life to process your anger fully?

Drowning in the past isn’t going to help. What might help, however, is to do everything within your power to ensure you progress on your healing journey.

Lastly, remember that your anger loves you. It tries to protect you in the best way it knows how. And it can be used as fuel to heal, grow, and thrive.

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley

Eliza Hartley, a London-based writer, is passionate about helping others discover the power of self-improvement. Her approach combines everyday wisdom with practical strategies, shaped by her own journey overcoming personal challenges. Eliza's articles resonate with those seeking to navigate life's complexities with grace and strength.

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