Anger Management and Self-Control

Anger is an expression of a negative emotion that is felt within; and thus, is best controlled from within. Anger has various intensities ranging from minor irritation to seething fury, and therefore needs to be tackled in different ways ranging from self-control to seeking external help and counselling.

Self-control has been defined by The Century Dictionary as ‘self-command’, i.e., an order or direction that is given by one’s own mind. It is the person himself who first recognises the anger emotion and hence he can give a command to himself to control the anger. Once the self-command has been given, it can be demonstrated in several ways.


Patience as an attribute exits in all human beings though most do not use it effectively. It is the tolerance level that a person has against situations or other people. It is his endurance against a tough situation. When self-control is used to manage anger, patience is extremely useful as it allows a ‘time-out’ wherein the person endures the situation until he is able to reason it out with a calm presence of mind. For example, parents are expected to demonstrate patience when dealing with their children:

John was finding it difficult to do math problems as he was getting confused. His mother, though upset with him for taking so long, showed patience by repeatedly explaining the concepts to him.

Here, John’s mother could have gotten angry with him, but she showed patience and persisted in teaching him until he had grasped the concept. She applied self-control, was patient, and did not get angry.

Different forms of self-control

When anger strikes, there are different ways of applying self-control. The control can be applied intrinsically through the mind and body, or externally with the mind controlling actions, behaviour, and words.

Self-control, when applied within a person’s emotional system, envisages a command that is sent by the mind to the feelings and uses restraint on the feelings:

Susan left devastated when her heirloom vase fell to the floor and broke into pieces. She was angry with herself for being careless. However, she willed herself to calm down, as it was not the end of the world.

Self-control is also applied for control over external angry expressions and resultant derogatory behaviour. The mind sends signals to the body to apply restraint on negative actions:

Robert was angry with his son John who broke the television and was about to slap him. All of a sudden, his hand stopped in mid-air. Robert’s mind sent signals to his body that what he was about to do was devastating and he accordingly stopped his actions.


An important element of self-control is willpower. Unless there is strong willpower, it is impossible to self-command. The stronger the willpower, the better is the self-control. As the popular saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way”.

Using self-control as a technique for anger management utilizes the concept of diversion. The feelings of anger are diverted to other thoughts and actions in an attempt to repress the anger. It is easier to divert thoughts than to suppress them. When children throw a tantrum, it is impossible to suppress them or be logical in reasoning out the situation. It is easiest to divert their attention to something else. The same is possible with adults – depressive thoughts can be diverted towards happier feelings.


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