Anger Management 101 (Tips to deal with anger)
People tend to shy away from anger due to the misconception that anger is unnatural, destructive, and dangerous. However, anger is actually a normal and healthy emotion that serves to communicate in your body when you’re compromising yourself, when needs are going unmet, or when your boundaries are being crossed. Anger is a neutral emotion- it is not good or evil, but if paid attention too, can help you better understand and advocate for yourself. You have a right to feeling angry, it is HOW you cope with and MANAGE your anger that can be unhealthy, destructive, maladaptive, and self-sabotaging. Anger CAN be managed positively and people can learn self-control, compassion, and self-advocacy through learning to communicate with their anger.
Tips for Anger Management
Identify your anger:
What color is it? Where do you feel anger in your body? Is it hot or cold? What does it tell you to do? What does it ask of you? Can you take a moment to reflect on something you are/were angry about and attempt to figure out what about the situation triggered anger? It’s important to be curious about your anger, connect with your anger, since repression of anger will only exacerbate anger due to compromising even more of self. It can help to write down things, words, events that trigger anger to begin exploring deeper issues surrounding your anger so you can grow to understand yourself better.
Explore unresolved past childhood/relational/self-esteem issues.
When you are ready, seek a therapist to safely guide you into your inner world and explore the origins of anger. Have you experienced trauma or neglect as a child? How did you experience conflict resolution in your family growing up? Were you able to show emotions as a child or usually taught to withhold emotions, crying, shamed for being vulnerable, or forced to adhere to rigid gender roles?
If you allow resentment and other negative feelings to drive out positive feelings, you may find yourself engulfed in your own resentments and perceptions of injustice. When you are ready and willing, you might wish to begin the journey of forgiveness of others who have wronged you, and/or forgiveness for yourself. Forgiveness is breaking free from the chains that bind you and your betrayer together. It is an act of choosing freedom- it means that you will not allow yourself to be captive to your trauma, painful past, or to the people/person that have wronged you and will drop the burning coal of resentment that only burns the hands of the person that holds it.
When you’re temperature rises and you’re needing to burn some steam, practice deep-breathing exercises Take deep cleansing breaths, imagine your happy place or serene space, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, “Peace, Love, Calm, Slow, Breathe.” You can also choose to write in a journal, meditate, listen to music, take a nap, jog,— whatever it takes to facilitate relaxation.
Physical activity can help work through anger or rage, especially as you’re feeling like a volcano about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a speed walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities. Physical activity stimulates various neuro-chemicals that stimulate relaxation and peace.
Take Time Outs
If you’re feeling yourself about to explode (or implode on yourself), press the pause button, stop what you’re saying, thinking, or doing and begin taking deep breaths. Count to 10 if you can. Take a walk, or engage in the aforementioned relaxation techniques. Give yourself a time when you agree to return to the room/discussion ready for a levelheaded discussion. Think before your speak in the heat of the moment since it’s easier to say something you’ll regret. Take a Time Out to gather your thoughts before saying anything, as well as, allow the other person involved in the dispute to take a time-out when needed.
Externalize some anger through free-writing/journaling about your anger, or rip pieces of paper. This can be helpful in the beginning stages of trying to deal with anger in a non-threatening way to immediately discharge some negative energy from your body. Avoid the escalation of aggressive expression of anger that is threatening such as punching walls/doors, throwing or damaging furniture, yelling/screaming, self-injurious behavior, or physical, verbal, or emotional violence toward self or others. The ultimate goal is for you to eventually be mindful of your anger without needing to aggressively express it.
Utilize ‘I’ statements
Employ non-violent communication in conflict. There are several communication styles such as passive, assertive, and aggressive. Both extremes of passive and aggressive are not healthy and conducive to getting your needs met and healthy conflict resolution. Try your hardest not to criticize or blame the other person, as this will only create a dynamic in which the other person may feel attacked and will shut down, thus, decreasing the chances your feelings and needs will even be heard.
Use “I” statements to discuss emotionally charged issues. For example, I feel angry (feelings) when you leave your clothes thrown around the house instead of putting them in the closet (behavior), because I get the impression you expect me to clean-up after you and that is not my expectation of our marriage (why). As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive, but non-confrontational threatening way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to exert power and control over them.
Don’t forget to Laugh to release tension
Whatever you do, do not exercise sarcasm as a form of humor. Sarcasm is more of an indirect/passive-aggressive way of expressing anger. Own your feelings. Practice humor that the other person would enjoy that is not at their expense.
Lastly, practice acceptance and surrender your control as some things are really just out of your personal control. If acceptance is difficult for you, more work may be needed in exploring past unresolved issues related to discomfort or fear of vulnerability and not being in control.
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