Anger, says Bernard Golden, “is not a sign of emotional instability...It is just one of the many emotions that are a part of our daily lives”. It may range in intensity from mild annoyance to rage. The latter may express itself in verbal outbursts, physical violence or aggressive behavior, resulting in strained relations. Rage also results in a host of physical reactions such as rapid breathing, muscular tension, high blood pressure, weakening of the immune system and the escalation of certain illnesses like asthma and arthritis. According to the US health department, anger becomes a problem when it is “ felt too intensely or too frequently or is expressed inappropriately".
To keep anger within healthy limits, it is necessary to “challenge” our response to “anger-inducing scenarios” and to “re-evaluate irrational beliefs”, as a recent article in Readers Digest emphasizes. Some of the important elements of this “cognitive restructuring” could be:

1. Self Esteem
Strange as it may seem, anger is more often than not a sign of a diminished self-esteem. Individuals with a healthy confidence in themselves are generally able to laugh away minor insults or provocations from others. On the other hand, if certain circumstances, especially those of childhood, have created in us a lack of self-confidence, we become acutely sensitive to what others say or feel about us. The desire to please becomes prominent and, at the same time, our ability to take criticism in its stride is greatly compromised. Any hint of criticism can then leave us feeling insecure, miserable or worthless. This in turn leads to angry feelings towards those who make us feel this way. If such angry feelings are allowed to simmer inside for a long time, they could eventually assume the form of rage. On the other hand, a person with a healthy self-esteem would be in a better position to ignore unjust criticism.
In the firm belief that nobody is perfect, our approach to criticism should be cool and analytical rather than angry and emotional. If criticism directed at our shortcomings is justified, let it be used as a tool for self-improvement. On the other hand, if we sincerely believe it to be untrue, we should be in a position to either ignore it or to rebut it in a cool and assertive manner, rather than feeling angry about it.

2. Self acceptance
Several researchers have emphasized the importance of “constructive expression of anger,” as it promotes self-acceptance and the development of positive self-esteem. They further feel that anger tells us a lot about our needs and wants, so that we are able to identify our concerns and decide how to best address them.
What does this mean for us? First, that in spite of all our efforts, we cannot help feeling angry from time to time. We should be able to accept our anger as a normal part of living. Feeling guilty about it, or allowing others to make us feel so, is only going to reinforce the feelings of shame, worthlessness and lack of confidence that lie at the root of most cases of anger. Moreover, not accepting our anger prevents us from recognizing those unfulfilled needs and wants that might be causing it. On the other hand, by assertively working towards the satisfaction of these wants we may be able to rid ourselves of the anger.
'A' was being greatly inconvenienced because one of his boxes, containing important papers and books, had been shifted to a corner of the house difficult to approach. This had been done by his dominating sister. For fear of annoying her, he kept putting up with the difficulty, but the resentment in him kept rising, till one day he was himself frightened by its intensity. He then decided to politely take up the issue with his sister who surprisingly appreciated his difficulty and decided to restore the box to its original place. Thus, by recognizing his anger and using it to meet his needs assertively, 'A' was able to get rid of it before it could turn into rage.
A twelve year old girl Carol, who was resentful of her mother having taken up a part-time job during evening hours, had started suffering from headaches. The girl had never revealed her feelings to her mother, and when she was encouraged to do so, her suppressed anger and the headaches subsided.
However, even an appropriate expression of a desire or need may not always lead to its satisfaction. It is then that our ability to let go of our anger should come into play. This may involve re-appraising the need or desire, and also seeing things from others’ point of view.

3. Avoiding Unrealistic Expectations
Angry people often have unrealistic expectations that cannot be satisfied and thus lead to frequent frustration and dissatisfaction. Such unreasonable expectations generally arise when we attach too much importance to our needs and desires, treating them as being essential to our happiness and well-being. We may then feel that others, especially near and dear ones, have an obligation to satisfy our needs or desires, even without our telling them. Since these expectations cannot be satisfied, they predispose us to quickly respond with anger.
Sometimes, even legitimate expectations can become the cause of sudden intense anger; for example, where we hope that we shall get recognition from the boss for work well done, but he, on the other hand, unfairly picks faults. The best policy is to cultivate detachment, and to have least expectations from others, recognizing that people often behave irrationally and unpredictably.

4. Realistic Appraisals
Our appraisal of an event may be either accurate or distorted. If the event has resulted in our expectations not being met, then our distorted appraisal of it may lead to acute anger. For example, a sixteen year old girl appraised the birth of a new sister and her parents’ pre-occupation with the infant as signs that her parents did not care for her as much as before. This misinterpretation of events led to continued angry and rebellious behavior on her part.
An acquaintance of mine has the unrealistic expectation that his car should always remain new. He further appraises even minor mishandling of the car by others as a disaster, and is thus constantly lashing out at people who as much as shut a door with slightly greater force than needed.

5. Assertive Communication
The ability to communicate assertively is a shield against attacks of intense anger, as such communication serves to defuse the anger-provoking situation. It also enables us to defend ourselves against unjust criticism, condemnation or allegations. People who can argue in a courteous and cogent manner without getting irritated, not only succeed in getting their point of view heard and even accepted at times, but they are also able to keep their anger at bay.

Author's Bio: 

I am from India, retired as Principal Controller of Defense Accounts, and now working as an advocate. I have about 30 years of experience of working in various Governmental organizations where I had ample opportunity of interacting with a wide variety of people. I also acquired knowledge and skill in human resource development and organizational behavior. I am an MA in Modern History, LLB and MPhil in Social Sciences. I have been writing articles and poems in my spare time.