The American Psychological Association emphasizes three primary ways anger may show itself: expression, suppression, and calming. (2)
When a person can express anger in safe, acceptable ways, expression is the healthiest way to cope. Anger shouldn’t be denied or ignored. It needs to come out somehow, ideally with appropriate expression.
The ability to express anger in a healthy way requires confidence and assertiveness. It’s not easy to communicate calmly in difficult situations. But, the skill is essential to anger management. Directly expressing anger is good when it can be done in productive and safe ways.
Anger can also be expressed in unhealthy ways. Lashing out at others, aggression, and behaviors that give free rein to angry feelings are destructive and counterproductive. While the release may feel good at the moment, it is a sign of an unhealthy relationship with your feelings.
Similar to expression, suppression has the potential to be a beneficial technique to manage anger. Suppression could mean acknowledging what you are feeling, deciding it does not need to be expressed, and choosing to focus on something else. This might be a good path when faced with minor, daily irritations that are not worth your time or emotional energy.
Suppression becomes a problem when acknowledging and exploring the source of the feeling are absent. Anger then becomes bottled up. Instead of being dealt with, it is avoided and suppressed. This type of suppression can turn the compressed rage inward onto yourself.
There is a big difference between wisely suppressing and releasing anger you can acknowledge as unnecessary, vs. denying the feeling and stuffing it down. Anger that is not given a constructive outlet will eat away at you and eventually leak out in unhealthy ways.
The ability to calm both the outward expressions of anger and the inward feeling is useful in daily life. Calming anger requires acceptance of things that cannot be controlled. In addition, there are techniques that can create a bit of space and distance from the emotion to provide an opportunity for calm.
Long-term management of angry feelings is only possible if you have the tools to manage your reaction and when needed, let it go.