In the last post, I outlined some ideas about why some of people suffer from anger issues (if you missed it, just click here to catch up). In this post I will talk about ways in which you can manage your anger.
Although I do see many individuals who have anger issues I am going to focus on do-able strategies you can be successful with without the help of a therapist in this post. If you want to tackle the route cause of the anger which may be buried somewhere within your childhood, I would recommend you work with a therapist to support and guide you in this process – it’s what they spend years of their life training to do.
Step 1 – Stock take your anger
It’s difficult to sort any problem out on your own unless you know the extent of it. If you were in financial trouble and wanted to get yourself out of debt, doing an audit of your spending would be a good idea. What are you spending your money on? Where can you cut down on spending? How much do you owe in total? The same holds true for anger. Keep a daily anger journal. Focus on the following things:
- Who is stimulating angry feelings in you?
- What situations cause you to feel angry?
- What other things trigger anger for you?
- What thoughts are going through your head when you feel angry?
- What physical sensations in your body do you feel (e.g., chest feels tight, headache arrives)?
- What do you do when you feel angry?
Step 2 – Analyse your journal for patterns
You are looking for common themes. If you know when you are likely to feel angry and can tell the signs of oncoming anger you can take steps to move around the problem. It’s like avoiding a hole in the road. If you know it’s coming up you can change lanes to avoid it or take another road all together.
Step 3 – Break the anger down into phases
Chances are your anger will involve different components all of which you will have written about in your journal. These components are as follows:
- Cognitive – your thoughts
- Physiological – how your body feels
- Affective – the emotions you feel
- Behavioural – what you do
You have the power to catch the anger when you notice any of these components come into play. These components usually go in a predictable order too. We are going to go back to Johnny from part 1 of this post. Johnny can see the following pattern:
Johnny sees others not measuring up to his unrealistic expectations -> Johnny feels the adrenaline pumping in his body and his muscles feel tight – > his anger starts to rise -> Johnny starts shouting and pointing aggressively
Step 4 – break the sequence
This is the tough part! Make a choice now. Do you want to sort your anger out or don’t you? Don’t mince – commit! Think about what it’s costing you. Do you want to keep paying or do you want to change? If you truly want to change you can hijack the negative pattern at any of the stages:
Cognitive – Are your thoughts about what should happen realistic. Be aware of the “Parent” words you may use in your head. “should”, “must”, “have to” are all words you have probably received as Parent messages from your caregivers as you grew up. The reality is that there is no one way of being or doing things as long as you hit your target. If Jenny at the office chooses to leave her work to the last minute and then furiously type it up at the end of the day, that’s ok as long as she gets it done. Also remember that your thoughts are just thoughts. They have no power. It’s what you do that counts not what you think. Thank your mind for the thoughts that have come into your head and decide to behave in a calm way. I discuss this as a technique in much more detail in my post on anxiety.
Physiological/affective – Your body and your emotions can both be soothed using similar techniques. It’s a bit of a cliché but it really is about counting to ten! If you have time you can use a grounding technique to bring yourself under control and back to the here and now. If you don’t have time and you feel the red mist rising then breathe, count to ten slowly and remember that long term anger is bad for you and you don’t want to do it that way anymore.
Behavioural – Do it differently. You feel like kicking off but it’s getting you nowhere and causing you problems. If you can, explain to the other party that you are feeling angry and you need to take yourself away to calm down then do it. Go for a walk, refocus, hit a pillow or other (non-living) soft object to get the energy out or do something else that is going to allow you to calm down. If you can’t get away then a great way of dealing with it is to express it in a straight way without shouting or screaming. Tell the other person how you feel using action/feeling statements. Johnny might say to his boss “when you give me work to complete at the last minute I feel angry so I would like you to build reasonable deadlines into your requests”. That might sound a pretty challenging statement but it’s miles better than “bloody hell, you want me to get this done by tomorrow? Are you joking you idiot?!!” and less likely to get you sacked. To read about emotional literacy you can read my book review of Claude Steiner’s book.
Easy eh? Well, no it’s not – but it’s all doable if you commit to it. You are not going to get it right all the time. There will be some techniques you like better than others. You may want to use a combination of them all and go with the flow using the technique that seems most appropriate at the time. Understand though that you can change. You have the power. Good luck, and if there’s any way I can help, just get in touch.
If you are interested in coming on my anger management course please click this link to read more about it or phone me on 07966 390857.
What do you think of the techniques mentioned here? Do you use any of them now? Are you unsure about how to do it? Ask your questions or make a comment in the box below.