Anger management is a term used to describe the skills you need to recognise that you, or someone else, is becoming angry and take appropriate action to deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management does not mean internalising or suppressing anger.
In today’s society there are so many ways we can lose our temper, a forgotten anniversary, a job loss, road rage, pressures at work, home and in relationships are all things that press that stress button and can turn into anger when things feel out of control.
What is important to note is that anger like any other emotion is not bad in and of itself. Anger has its place in the emotional spectrum of life and serves its purpose well when used effectively and in a healthy way. For instance being angry about past childhood abuse and expressing this by picking up the phone and venting to a trusted freind could release repressed anger. Or going to the gym after an argument and exerting yourself physically as a way of releasing negative emotions is a constructive way of managing anger.
There are instances when anger is needed for instance in a survival situation, if a person was physically attacking you, the natural instinct is to fight back, anger would form part of the necessary emotions that would be present. Feeling angry is a human reaction to something that happens, such as someone scaring you, it is natural. Feelings are not the same as actions, most people feeling angry do not abuse others. Identifying and expressing your anger directly can help you to protect yourself and others.
Being open and honest about how you feel inside is a way to raise your self esteem and to let others know where you stand whilst still respecting others. In contrast supressing anger can use up energy, cause physical problems, or burst out in a way that wasnt meant to happen.
What helps is finding a safe way to express your anger, and controlling your anger by recognising your own triggers, reactions and patterns when getting angry. Anger becomes destructive and harmful when out of control.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you the type that holds their anger until you burst? Or do you get angry in a flash but then calm down just as quick?
- What makes you angry?
- When angry what do you do?
- What do you say?
- How do you behave?
- Do you know your triggers?
- Do you feel out of control or can you hold your temper well?
- What techniques do you currently use to calm down?
- Can you manage your anger, expressing it whilst remaining respectful of yourself and others?
As children we learn how to cope with life’s challenges from our parents and other significant adults in our lives, this can help or hinder our progress into adulthood depending on how they managed their anger. If being angry was a scary volatile thing we may shy away from expressing it. If anger was used to get things needed in life we may use it to assert ourselves. If anger at home growing up was the cause for violence or substance misuse we may follow through in similar patterns as parents are often role modelled by children. It is about recognising that patterns can be changed and that you dont have to react in the same way. You can learn new ways of managing anger that are healthy and not abusive. Anger is a powerful emotion but more powerful is the way you choose to manage it.
- Always think before you speak –Often we do a lot of damage in the heat of the moment, what is said cannot be unsaid. Try not to say something you’ll later regret.
- Fresh air and physical exercise-Going to the gym, or taking a walk for some air can help reduce stress, and help you to calm down. Whatever works, for some it may be putting on their favourite song and having a moment, for others it could be going for a jog around the block thus removing themselves from the situation long enough to reset emotionally.
- Express your anger once you feel calmer and more in control-In order to communicate your message so that others can hear it do so once you are thinking clearly, and can express your frustration in an assertive but non-threatening way. Share your concerns and needs clearly without hurting others or trying to control them.
- Own your feelings- Try not to use accusatory language that sounds like you are blaming or criticising (even if you feel like it) “you never help me you just come and go as you please using this place like a hotel!” Sound familiar? This may antagonise the situation. Flip the script try saying “I feel upset that the house is in a mess and would like some help with clearing up.” It’s about being respectful and specific and owning how we feel using “I” statements. Also try to avoid over exaggerating issues by using seeping statements and over generalising, like “you never remember my birthday” it can have the opposite effect and cause more tension.
- Explore possible solutions-Try to think of how to make things better instead of getting worked up over what went wrong. Work on resolving the issue at hand. What caused the anger, how can it be managed if that same scenario played out again? For example: Feeling overwhelmed with household chores? Ask for help- draw up a schedule and delegate tasks to other family members so that the pressure is not upon you alone. Remember that anger won’t solve any problems, it may make things worse.
- Humour helps- It is possible to use humour to diffuse tense situations. It can help to explore what’s making us angry. Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations for how we want things to be, in recognising this we can address matters. Be careful that any jokes, or humour used do not come across as minimising the issues, sound sarcastic or offensive. This could hurt people’s feelings and make things worse.
- Breathing and Relaxation- Try practising mindfulness techniques of deep breathing, meditating and imagining a calm scene. Maybe a favourite holiday destination sticks in the mind- lying in a hammock on a sunny sandy beach beneath palm trees with the ocean lapping at the shore and fresh cocktails and exotic foods within your reach. (works for me) Music helps so if you like put on your favourite song. Some people like to write so if poetry is your thing then read or write some poems, pen some lyrics for a song, or journal as a way of putting thoughts on paper. Do whatever works for you.
- Improve communications by agreeing to disagree- Sometimes we just cannot reach a resolution due to differences in opinion but this doesnt mean that there is no way forward. Learn to respectfully agree to disagree and not force ones opinions on another. We are all unique and operate at different levels. Variety is the spice of life so dont feel that your way is the only way forward, be open and receptive to try new things. Most of all respect that everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
- Forgive and move on-Try not to hold grudges, it takes up so much more energy to hate than to love. Forgiveness is freeing and can release you and the other person from the grip of negativity. Re-hashing over events can cause stuck-ness in relationships and result in an unhappy bitterness that feels horrible to live with. Be open, honest and share how you feel, ask how the other person feels-in this way you can work together to find a resolution, do so respectfully- you may both learn valuable lessons from the experience.
- Recognise when to ask for support-Controlling anger is a challenge for us all and every now and then we could all do with some additional support, tips and techniques. It might be worth considering help with anger issues if your anger causes you to say and do things you regret, if when angry you become violent, aggressive or hurt others, and when angry you feel out of control.
If you feel you need support with managing your anger dont hesitate to contact me for therapeutic support.