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The anger cycle is the process of anger for an individual person. In many cases, this process follows a regular and predictable trajectory, although the stages may not be apparent to people other than the person experiencing them. When looking at patterns of anger, understanding the anger cycle can help alleviate some of the negative qualities associated with dangerous or inappropriate anger. Theoretically, a person can learn to intervene when he or she sees the anger cycle beginning in order to prevent violent outbursts or acting out.
There are many different types of anger, and each of these has a fairly regular cycle. People typically do not appear to be angry all the time, and this phase of apparent peace is often called a rest or normal phase. This can quickly and often without provocation move into a build-up phase, which in turn erupts into an angry outburst. After the outburst, there may be a guilt or a remorse phase, after which the person typically returns to the normal or rest stage.
Each stage of the cycle involves different activities and emotional experiences. The guilt stage, for example, may be characterized by apologies or may be entirely internal. Rage and anger are guided by different cultural conventions, and the display of a man's anger process may be different than a woman's. It is also important to recognize what qualities attach to each stage in each individual case.
One of the interesting parts of the anger cycle is that it often matches stages identified by victims of emotional abuse. Knowing that anger moves in a cyclical pattern gives victims of abuse the capacity to predict an outburst long before it occurs, and even the build-up phase often terrorizes victims of abuse. Even when anger is not violent, it can still be part of an abusive situation.
Resolving anger using the anger cycle is problematic because it requires the angry person to overcome his or her emotional state and take a step back. Typically, individual intervention must occur before the outburst stage is reached, although there is no point of no return with anger. Exercising willpower is key to stopping the cycle before it becomes a major problem.
Although anger is not always a negative emotion, it is typically considered healthy to have a non-destructive outlet for anger. In most cases, this will involve talking about the problem or physically exercising the problem away. Most people find they can appropriately control their anger with practice.