To Manage Anger You Have To First Understand It. Here Is How.

Anger has two qualities that we must be aware of.

James E. McGinley, PhD
4 min readJun 23, 2022


Car speedometer.
Photo by Pixabay

It is said that anger is a deadly sin. I have no doubt about that. It is lethal and corrosive. It harms our relationships with others and it harms our relationships with ourselves. Part of the problem with anger is that it leads us unaware into places that we did not want to go. Once we are there, we wonder how we got there.

Fortunately, anger has two characteristics that can help us manage it.

Anger is fast.

Have you ever been surprised at how fast anger comes on? Someone cuts you off on the highway, insults your hard work at the office, or disrespects you. How fast do you react? For most of us, it is incredibly fast. It does not take minutes, or even seconds, we often react immediately.

This is because anger is an emotion that is tied into our automatic fight-or-flight mechanism. We are built to survive, and survival requires quick reactions. We bypass cognition and rational thought and get on the superhighway to action. That was great ten thousand years ago, but it can get us in trouble today.

Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. — Ambrose Brierce

The essential problem is not that we react quickly, it is that we react without thinking. We are reacting, we are not responding. There is a critical difference. The difference is that we are not thinking and we are hitting the gas to take action at exactly the same moment we need to be assessing risk. We often find that when we have acted quickly without thinking, we regret what we have said or done later.

We can slow down our impulse to anger in a few ways. First, we can recognize it exists and take away its element of surprise. Second, we can anticipate and prepare for it. We can set new behavior patterns that give us time to think. This is the classis count to ten approach. But we can also prepare simple responses and have them handy.

When anger is rising, we may simply say something like, This situation is really frustrating and making it hard for me to think, can we talk about it in a few minutes once I have time to gather some thoughts…



James E. McGinley, PhD

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.