Most of the experts you read in books and on the internet tell you that you need to control your anger. This is true if you are hurting others or doing things that end up hurting you.

What you do when you are angry is always a choice and is always your responsibility. If you tend to act inappropriately when angry, you need to control, manage, or adjust your behavior in every case.

For the rest of you, this is old advice! There is a better way.

The best approach to your anger is to learn how to USE your anger as a tool to improve your personal life and your relationships. Controlling your anger only puts a temporary lid on the expression of the feeling.

Think about it for a minute. You do not control your car unless it is in some type of emergency situation.
Rather, you learn to use the power of the car as a tool to get you where you want to go.

If you have a dog, you do not need to control it unless its behavior becomes inappropriate. You do need to learn how to work with your dog to get the most out of your relationship with it. As an example, I have learned to “understand” my dog when she attempts to alert me that she hears something outside my house and to distinguish these alerts from when she is telling me she needs to go outside to do her business.

Use the message and harness the power of anger..

You can learn to understand the message of your emotions. You can also learn how to harness the power of your emotions.

A Working Definition of Anger..

1. Anger is an emotion.
2.The message of anger is that you perceive a threat in your environment that you can overpower.
3.Anger is a tool that can push you to accomplish your goals. (This is the power of anger.)
4.Anger can help you improve your personal life and your relationships with others when you learn to read and use it.

Anger, the emotion.

•The job of anger is to keep you alive. Your emotions are the way your brain informs you about your situation and prepares your body to survive.
•Anger is the way your brain prepares you to deal with and overpower a personal threat.
•Anger gives you the opportunity to make a choice regarding what you DO about the perceived threat.
•Anger and all emotions are a normal and natural part of your functioning.

The Emotional Reaction.

Everybody constantly (and unconsciously) scans their environment for any threat.

When a threat is perceived (seen or heard), the amygdala in your brain broadcasts a message to your body. This message moves very fast and causes the release of chemicals into your blood. These chemicals prepare your body to fight, fight, or freeze. Your body instantly reacts (as you want it to in a real emergency). Once they have done their job, the chemicals are reabsorbed to be reused later. The whole emotional process starts, completes, and is over in 90 seconds and is totally automatic as it should be if your survival is at stake.

The reaction of your body to the perception of “threat” is what you experience when you get angry.

The Emotional Response

At the same time, though much slower, the thinking part of your brain, the cerebral cortex is alerted to think about how much of a threat actually exists. Your emotional response is the decision you make about how real the threat is and what action you will take to deal with it.

If you decide that there is a threat that you can do something about, you keep the emotional process going, the anger intensifies, and you take action.

You can also decide that there is no threat and then allow the anger to go away.

This is how you use your anger as a tool to guide your actions.

Your emotional response always involves a choice.

Two examples of an emotional response and choosing a behavior

Example #1: Desire

Here is the situation…

•You have just finished dinner in your favorite restaurant.
•The waiter brings you a dessert tray.
•You reluctantly choose not to order dessert.

Here is what happened…

•You immediately focused your attention (sight and smell) on the double chocolate cake.
•Emotionally, you wanted the cake and you began to salivate.
•The thinking part of your brain kicked in and considered the "facts" including the calories in the cake, the extra cost of dessert, and your ongoing "diet".
•You chose not to buy the chocolate cake.

Would you say that you controlled your desire for the cake? No.

You clearly wanted to consume that delicious double chocolate layer cake. You could even taste it as soon as you saw it. Your brain and your emotions did their jobs. The emotion of desire informed you that you wanted the cake.

When your logical brain brought you to your senses, you made your decision not to act on your desire.

You also could have chosen to ignore or rationalize away the logic. You would then give in to the desire and order the cake. People do this all the time and many regret it later.

If you were not on a diet or a restricted budget, that cake would have been yours. And, you would have enjoyed it to the fullest.

Example #2: Anger

You come home after work and your spouse is “critical” of you. You cuss her out. Or, you shut him out by ignoring him for the rest of the evening.

Here is what happened.

•You heard the criticism (your senses).
•You perceived a threat (psychological).
•Your brain prepared you to deal with the possible threat.
•You “decided” that your ego, your intelligence or, maybe,your integrity was threatened.
•You made your choice and you acted on it.

The job of anger, as an emotion, is to alert you to the existence of a possible threat. Your anger and your brain did their jobs! (Whether a threat actually exists is a different question.)

The critical issues in each of the above examples were your decision about the validity of the message and the choice about what action to take. The emotion was the messenger.

Attempting to control your desire only intensifies the desire. This is why most diets do not work.

The emotion of desire informs you that you see yourself in a situation in which you really want the object of your desire. Your “job” is to decide whether or not to listen to the desire and take action.

Attempting to control your anger without looking at the underlying message of the anger (the perceived threat) only intensifies the feeling and resolves nothing.

The emotion of anger informs you that: (1)you see yourself being threatened, (2) you have the power to overcome the threat, (3) you need to look at the threat and decide how valid it is, and (4) you need to do something to protect yourself and make the threat go away or do nothing. All four are part of anger. Your “job” is to decide how real and how important the threat is.

By the way, if you didn’t have the ability to fight off the threat, you would have experienced fear or anxiety not anger. We’ll talk about fear and anxiety (which are not the same) in another article.

Using emotions as tools…

•Involves understanding the message of the feeling.
•Means you use the information available to you to make effective decisions about your behavior.
•Does not suggest you control the tool (your feelings).
•Always involves control of your actions.

Author's Bio: 

Ed Daube, Ph.D. is the author of Emotions As Tools A Self Help Guide to Controlling Your Life not Your Feelings.

Dr. Daube developed the Emotions as Tools Model while working with young men and women in the California Youth Authority. These incarcerated adolescents all had emotional issues but had no way to understand or effectively use their emotions other than to hurt others or themselves.

Dr. Daube has successfully applied the Emotions as Tools Model with law enforcement personnel, college students, passengers on cruise ships, and other diverse groups.

So that you can begin using YOUR emotions as tools to improve your life, you are invited to go to http://www.emotionsastools.com and claim your FREE report entitled Emotions in Motion:A Primer to Harness Your Feelings.