Anger Management - Part 2: Tips for Anger Management

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The second installment of a three-part series on anger management, today's article provides some tips for anger management.

Recap: :Last week I discussed how chronic anger issues can have serious repercussions for your health, work, and relationships. Anger is a perfectly normal emotion, and you should expect to feel some anger when you’ve been treated badly. Anger is simply a message from your body that you believe something is wrong. The initial emotion isn’t the real problem. It’s the actions you take in response to your anger that have the potential to be damaging.

I discuss four common myths about anger: 

  • Anger should always be vented. No, expressing your anger in an excessive manner only creates more anger and hostility. The person on the receiving end of your anger is likely to become frightened or even angry themselves.
  • Being aggressive, angry, and intimidating is just a way of being strong. No, Bullying people never results in real power or respect. True strength is being able to control your actions. Others are far more likely to respond positively to your needs and requests if you treat them appropriately and respectfully.
  • My anger is beyond my control. I can't do anything about it. Wrong again, your responses to your anger are almost entirely under your control.
  • Myth: Anger management is all about suppressing my feelings of anger. Nope! Anger management is about realizing that you’re angry and consciously choosing to direct the anger in the proper direction.

Then I discussed the importance  of controlling you anger to your physical health, your mental health, your career, and your personal relationships.

Today's topic is entirely devoted to four tips to help you to manage your anger response.

Anger Management Tips

Tip 1:  Discover the Root Cause of Your Anger

Understanding the root of your anger is crucial to addressing your anger management issues. Understanding your anger greatly improves the probability of improving the situation. It’s difficult to examine our flaws and shortcomings, but it’s the first step to finding a viable solution.

Anger as a learned behavior

Frequently, unhealthy anger has its roots in childhood. As children, we learn how to interact with our environment from the people around us. If our significant caregivers yelled or acted violently when angry, we likely have incorporated these responses into our own behavior as we deal with our own anger.

In addition to learning anger as a response to negative emotions, many people are often angry because their childhood needs were not adequately met. It is quite challenging to release the pain experienced during childhood abuse or neglect. It is often said that we spend that last 60 years of life recovering from the first 18. If you have experienced childhood abuse or neglect, it is extremely helpful to work with an experienced counselor or coach to enable recovery.

Anger to express negative emotion

Often, we are taught as children that expressing negative emotions is not acceptable. As adults, when we experience fear, insecurity, shame, vulnerability, or other uncomfortable feelings, we respond with anger rather than more appropriate emotions. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think an inability to handle negative emotion might apply to you:

  • Is anger your immediate response to difficult circumstances?
  • Are you able to feel and express negative emotions other than anger? Many people believe that the expression of anger means that they are strong, tough, and aggressive – which is seen as a good thing, a source of pride. In fact, the ability to handle difficult emotion with grace and self-control is a sign of true strength of character and maturity.
  • Are you able to lower your guard around others?
  • Are feelings of guilt, fear, or shame foreign to you? Everyone feels these difficult emotions from time to time. If you don’t experience these emotions, you might be using anger to avoid them.
  • Are you in touch with your emotions? Emotional intelligence is important to success in life.

The ability to deal properly with the wide range of human emotions is the key to happiness and success.

Anger to control

Using anger as a way to try to control situations and other people is common. If you can’t accept that others think differently than you, you probably have control issues which lead to the expression of unhealthy anger. Here are some questions to help you assess if your anger stems from the desire to be in control.

  • Do you have difficulty compromising?
  • Do you have difficulty admitting that you are wrong?
  • Do you struggle to see other’s points of view?
  • Do the viewpoints of others feel like a threat to you?
  • Do you have difficulty receiving constructive criticism?
  • Do you get angry when others disagree with you?
  • Do you get angry when situations seem out of your control?
  • As a child, did you learn that the loudest, angriest person always got his/her way?

Anger in response to stress

Do you notice that you are more easily upset and angered when you are under pressure, tired, or physically ill?

Does your anger result from current situations that remind you of unresolved challenges from your past?

Do you become angry when you observe a negative trait in others?

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.

- Thomas a Kempis

Tip 2: Learn Your Triggers and Warning Signs

You might think your anger is a sudden response that occurs without any warning, but there are many physical indications that you are beginning to experience anger. If you can learn to recognize these warning signs, you have a much better chance of controlling your anger and responding more appropriately.

Understanding your warning signs and trigger points will help you to recognize when you are becoming angry. They will also help prevent getting angry in the first place. Make a list of the things that really push your buttons.

Which of these triggers and warning signs are applicable to you? 

Physical feelings

Anger is the label you give to certain feelings that you experience in your body. It’s important to learn what those physical feelings are for you. Do you experience any of the following?

  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Clenching your jaw or fists
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Headache
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea or knots in stomach
  • Tense neck or shoulders
  • Any other physical sign that is out of the ordinary for you

Thought patterns

While it might seem like external events are triggering your anger, the truth is that your interpretation of the events is the actual cause. Here are several negative thought patterns that can increase anger. 

  • Over generalizing. When you start thinking in absolutes, anger can result. Some examples include: “You always do that to me.” and “You never help me.”
  • Being overly focused on expectations. Having an inflexible view of the way things ought to be (or ought not to be) can create anger.
  • Judging or assuming you know more than you do. No one can read minds. If you don’t have all the facts, avoid assuming you know the truth.
  • Not letting go of issues that can be easily overlooked. Small issues can build up over time. If you never let go of the past, things eventually become overwhelming.
  • Blaming others. Don’t always look to blame others for everything that goes wrong in life. Sometimes things just happen, and no one is to blame. Sometimes it’s your own fault, which can be a good thing. At least then you have the power to fix it. 

Triggering circumstances

Are there aspects to your daily routine that seem to trigger your anger? Are there certain people and places you could avoid? 

  • For example, do you always get upset when you go out with certain friends?
  • Do you lose your temper when you are driving in heavy or slow traffic? 

Consider if there are parts of your routine that can be altered to lower the likelihood of becoming upset. 

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.”

- Wayne Dyer

Tip 3: Learn How to Manage Your Emotions

It’s great to able to recognize the warning signs of an impending meltdown, but recognition is only the first step. You are now ready to learn healthy, constructive ways to manage your emotions. There are many ways to keep your anger under control. Try these excellent strategies:

  • Focus on your physical feelings. While it might seem like this would increase your level of anger, it lessens them. When you become aware of the physical signs of anger in your body, pause and take notice of what your body is experiencing. For example, my chest is feeling tight, my throat feels constricted, there’s a knot in my shoulders, my head is throbbing and feels like it’s likely to explode.
  • Concentrate on your breathing. A few slow, deep breaths can help greatly. Consider that your breathing is the only physical process related to anger that is under your control. You can’t always make your heart rate slow down, instantly lower your blood pressure, or make your headache go away, but you can control your breathing.
  • Do something physical. Exercise is a great way to manage feelings of anger. A brisk walk, a challenging run, or some simple calisthenics can do wonders for your mood.
  • Become aware of your surroundings. When you become angry, you have turned inward to focus on your thoughts. Instead, turn your attention outside yourself. Describe to yourself what you see, hear, smell, and physically feel. By focusing on your immediate environment, your anger will diminish.
  • Take a time out. Count slowly to ten while taking 10 deep breaths. If you can slow the escalation of your anger, your rational mind has time to catch up and take back control of the situation. Then, if you need to, count to ten again, and again.
  • Assess your situation. Ask yourself:
    • How important is this issue?
    • Am I responding appropriately to this issue?
    • Is there a better option than getting angry?

Controlling your emotions is an important skill for everyone to develop. Learn to prevent your anger from getting out of control in the first place.

“When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”

- Thomas Jefferson


Tip 4: Learn to Express Your Anger in a More Constructive Manner

Sometimes the situation really does justify feeling angry. In this case, it’s important to find the best solution to resolve your anger and rectify the situation. Ideally, your response will also reduce the likelihood of the issue from happening again in the future.

Some positive ways to express yourself include:

  • Get specific with yourself about why you’re angry. You might be getting upset because someone is 5 minutes late, but is that really the reason? Maybe you’re actually upset because it’s another example of that person’s lack of respect for you. Ask yourself what is really driving your anger.
  • Take 5 minutes before you move forward. If you can sense that your anger is getting the best of you, be strong enough to walk away for 5 minutes and regain your composure. Take a moment to ask yourself why you’re getting so upset.
  • Be fair in your arguments with others. You can be upset, but if you express your feelings in a disrespectful way, the relationship may rapidly deteriorate. Express your needs without being disrespectful. The relationship should be the priority. In many cases, you have the option of being right or being happy. Those who choose to always be right, frequently find themselves alone. Resolving the issue should be the priority. Winning the argument is rarely winning.
  • Keep things in the present. When anger takes over, it’s common to bring up unrelated issues from the past. Leave the past in the past. Focus on the current issue and finding a resolution.
  • Not every battle is worth fighting. Emotional conflicts are exhausting and stressful for everyone involved. Is it really worth the time and energy? You’re much more likely to be taken seriously if you get upset 3 times a year versus 3 times a month. People who are frequently angry find themselves being ignored after a while.
  • Know when to drop it. Sometimes the best resolution is to agree to disagree. Choose to stop arguing. If there isn’t a resolution in sight, it might be best to just let it go.

Expressing your anger appropriately is the real goal. An appropriate response shares the fact that you’re upset but does so in a productive manner. This means the issue has a good chance of being resolved in a way that is respectful to the other party. It also means there is less likelihood of it happening again in the future.

If you think you might need some help implementing any of these tips, I invite you to get in touch with me to discuss how coaching might be beneficial to you. Here at The Lifest, we specialize in helping people to manage their emotions to increase their level of happiness, and to improve their personal relationships. You can click on the link below to set up an appointment directly on my calendar!

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“When you are offended at any man's fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.”

- Epictetus



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