Anger Management

Give people the peace of your mind; not a piece of your mind.

Learning to manage anger is one of the keys to a happy and fulfilling life. Anger has its positive side, as it can enable us to set healthy boundaries and not become a doormat. However, we need to be able to manage, or control, our anger so that it does not control us. As part of this, we need to learn to be assertive in healthy and constructive ways as this helps diminish any tendency towards uncontrolled anger by diminishing the root cause of many potential anger incidents.

If we get very angry, or get into a rage, and are not able to manage our feelings, then we might do something which affects us significantly. If we just slightly overdo it then we can at least apologise and try to make amends. Making an apology can be hard, but it is often what can make or break a situation. If we seriously overdo it and don’t control our temper, we might; lose our job, find ourselves being divorced, or even end up being prosecuted as a criminal.  Even relatively mild forms of giving way to anger can damage our social reputation and leave us feeling embarrassed and shame-faced. Or, we might damage or wreck something important and valuable to us if we see red and get into a rage.  I know a guy who would get so angry at his computer that he would smash it to the extent that it was irreparably damaged. His wife got so sick of him doing this, and other situations where he would get out of control, that she became afraid of him and eventually left him.

Anger Issues

Anger issues can take many forms. Repeated and sudden bouts of aggression, impulsive violent behaviour, or angry verbal outbursts can be symptoms of what is called, “explosive disorder”. When our reactions are too extreme for the actual situation, such as in; domestic abuse, road rage, throwing or breaking things, this may well be symptoms of explosive disorder.

Some forms of anger can be habitual as they have become ingrained as a way of responding to life (more on that later). Other forms of anger have a physiological aspect to them. For example, some women, after the birth of a baby, may get Postpartum Rage rather than the more familiar Postpartum Depression (otherwise know as baby blues). Stress can exacerbate a tendency to get angry. Someone who has lost their job may more easily get into a rage until they find another one.

Anger Management Principles

Whatever the shape our anger takes there are some common themes as to the underlying causes and some general principles for learning to manage anger. If our anger issues are serious then it is best to consider help from a counsellor or therapist. They will help devise some suitable form of treatment or therapy specific to our needs. Often this requires us to become aware of what it is that is triggering our anger. We might think that the trigger is something outside of us; but this is only partly true. Often the real trigger is something inside of us. It is what we are telling ourselves an event or situation means, how we interpret it, that triggers our anger.

Only you are thinking in your mind. Only you are able to choose, perhaps after some practise, the thoughts you have most often have and therefore the feelings you most often have. Only you can make you angry; only you can give you peace of mind.  Only you can decide that you are ready to forgive and move on

Four Steps to Forgiveness imageIf someone seems to ignore us and we think to ourselves, “They seem a bit distracted. I hope that they are okay.”. Then we are unlikely to feel angry about it. However, if we tell ourselves. “They are disrespecting me. How dare they! I am not putting up with that.”, then we are likely to end up very angry about it.  We may even decide to do something mean or hurtful to them, because we have convinced ourselves that “they deserve it”.  If we don’t interrupt this type of rage inducing through process we can end of lashing out and expressing anger in extreme or inappropriate ways. This is why so many of the methods of managing anger encourage us to intervene and break out of the patterns of thinking which escalate anger.  Methods such as pausing to take a few deep breaths, slowly counting to ten or some other way of distracting ourselves can all be very useful in the heat of the moment.

Anger Management Methods

The anger issue we are facing is more serious, we may need to look at the underlying causes. We may have beliefs about life, or beliefs about certain types of people, or beliefs about people in general, that feed our tendency to anger. Perhaps we have a long-held belief that “life is not fair” or that “people don’t respect me”, or the like and this flares up and fuels the flame of an incident and causes us to overreact to a fairly mundane situation. In such cases, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or some other form of exploration into Self Talk, can be very helpful.

Methods of Anger Management which include body awareness can also be very effective.  I found the methods of the Heart Maths Institute very helpful. They recommend taking time-out from your stressful thoughts and feelings and actually telling yourself “time out” and you step back from emotional triggers. The key is to recognise that you are being triggered, but disengage from your reactions. Just notice your reactions; don’t act on them.  Then focus on the area around your heart and feel as if you are breathing into your heart area and breathing out through your solar plexus. They also recommend telling yourself to “Go to neutral,” and to spend some time in this “neutral zone” until your emotions calm down and your perceptions ease.

Anger can fool us into thinking that we are absolutely right, and that since we are in the “right” the wrongs we do must be right. This is so wrong. Even when you are angry all you have is an opinion. When you are absolutely sure that you are right; you can be absolutely sure that you are wrong.

Part of learning to manage anger is also about learning how to assert ourselves in appropriate ways. Learning to speak our truth, about something we care passionately about, in calm and clear ways, as not always easy; but is an important life skill. Expressing our needs by being vulnerable about them can be scary as we risk rejection. In such situations, it can be tempting to get angry and judge the other person as “insensitive” or “uncaring”; instead of just asking for what we want. However, going through life expecting other people to be mind-readers, is not a good strategy. We need to face our fears and learn to assert ourselves in the times and places where that is appropriate and not expect others to jump through hoops out of fear that we will get moody or raging with them.

Changing Angry Habits

It is also important to get into habits which will help us stay calm, collected and able to deal with situations with greater detachment and even humour. Having a regular time for meditation, some deep breathing, using relaxing imagery, or yoga can help us retrain our nervous system to get used to being calm and unruffled by events. For example, spending even a few minutes re-imagining ourselves handling a situation, which normally upsets us, in a calm and mellow way can begin to cause changes in how we respond to similar situations in the future.

Learning to negotiate our way through life, without having to get argumentative, can be a big help in lowering our frustration levels and reduce the likelihood that we will overreact and escalate a situation. Going for a win/win rather than a win/lose can reduce our stress while it increases our chances of success. Also, picking someone we know who tends to be calm and at ease, as our mentor, or example to follow, can be a good place to start. We can watch how they handle situations and imagine ourselves being able to do the same. If there is no one suitable that we know, we can pick someone we know of, even if they are a fictional character, and think about how they would handle situations we find challenging. We can then imagine ourselves downloading those abilities into ourselves and behaving in better ways and taking things much more in our stride.

Learning to forgive ourselves is also very helpful as it helps us break out of the rage / shame loop where we get into a rage and later feel ashamed, then repress our feelings until till we explode into a rage again.

Anger and Personal Boundaries

Anger is often considered as sign that someone has crossed one of our personal boundaries. Yet, we do not need to take it personally when someone does this. We certainly don’t need to start judging them as “bad” and begin to get ourselves ready to hurt them in some way. Instead, we can begin to wonder how things look from their point of view and empathise with them and their situation. Then we can consider how we can best express our feeling to them with kindness and compassion.

One method, that I have had good results with, is to state what you observed in their behaviour (in a fairly neutral way), state how you felt, and then ask if they can understand why you might feel that way. You could say something like, “When you did not talk to me yesterday, it seemed to me that you were ignoring me. I felt hurt by that. Can you understand why I could feel that way?” Notice you are not trying to make them wrong. You are just saying how you felt and asking them if they can understand it. If the person gets defensive, you can say, ”I’m not trying to blame you or make you wrong I’m just asking if you can understand why I felt the way I did.”  This helps you to detach from your feelings and share them with the other person without attacking them. It helps establish a connection between the two of you where kindness and mutual respect can have a chance to flourish. If they can relate to how you felt, then you have a basis for moving forward; if they cannot then there are some underlying issues that need facing. Either way, you will gain a lot of insight into your current relationship with that person.

Whatever ways we explore Anger Management and whatever method, or methods, we choose, learning how to forgive ourselves and how to forgive others can help give us peace of mind and reduce our tendency to get angry. For a free ebook on the internationally renowned forgiveness method, The Four Steps to Forgiveness, which will download immediately, please click a link on this page. The Four Steps to Forgiveness

Written by William Fergus Martin, Author: Forgiveness is Power and The Four Steps to Forgiveness.

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