The following series on how to control anger will discuss over 30 different natural/self-help (complementary and alternative) ways to help a person relieve and cope with their anger problem. Part 1 of the series will cover the following points:
- Choosing anger
- Seek opinions
- Be objective
1. Choosing Anger
Understanding that we chose when and where to be angry is an essential component regarding how to control anger. An example of this is how a person can react differently to the same stimuli. On a given day, if someone ‘cut you up’ during a car ride, you might think the person acted like a complete idiot but then return to listening to the music on the radio. On another occasion, you might react to the same type of incident with aggression and rage. You chose to be angry and lose self-control on the second occasion.
Anger is how we respond to another’s action – getting angry is letting someone else control you. The key to a healthy emotional state is controlling our own emotions. Put simply:
I make myself angry, and you make yourself angry too.
Take responsibility for it.
This is the first step to a healthy emotional state of being.
When you accept this (the notion of you making yourself angry) you can then start to cultivate mental and emotional well-being.
This is not to suggest that you should never allow yourself to feel angry ever again as that would be unrealistic and unhealthy. There are healthy and unhealthy emotions and we need to recognize them when they occur and react appropriately by exercising emotional responsibility. Allowing small things to effect our mood strongly is an example of unhealthy anger.
It’s important to recognize that there will be certain circumstances when you should expect to feel healthy anger. For example, if you or a loved one is being attacked or if someone abuses your trust in a deplorable way, a natural human reaction will be to feel some degree of anger. Aside from extreme situations, such as acting in self-defense, one should exercise enough self-control and not express it through aggression or violence.
In more usual circumstances, the best way to end an argument is not to allow things to escalate in the first place, but if they have, learn to bite your tongue. That’s not admitting fault, it’s controlling the anger. Take back control. Besides, even if you win the argument, you still can’t enjoy the present if you’re angry about the past.
Finally, one should be aware and remember that anger can arise through/or exist and be expressed in many forms, including: low self-esteem, perfectionism, lying and gossiping, having unrealistic expectations, blaming oneself or others, acting a martyr or making someone feel guilty.
Make a conscious decision to ‘draw a line in the sand’ regarding putting an end to unhealthy anger. Go to a mirror and just look at yourself for a while and then say, in so many words:
The past is the past and although I can’t alter what has taken place, I can learn from my experiences.
Today is the day when I take the first step towards freeing myself from the chains and misery of unhealthy anger.
Day by day and with no more excuses, I will become the person who can look in the mirror and feel proud of.
If you have a bad day, accept responsibility for it and move on; no longer blame someone else for your anger. Whenever you do something well or perform a good deed, consider giving yourself a little reward. This promotes a positive attitude about yourself and over time, feeling good about yourself will raise your self-esteem and lead you to a new, positive view on life.
Less complex problems could have a simpler approach. Not every angry outburst falls under the criteria of being a ‘psychological case’ requiring professional diagnosis and treatment from a psychiatrist. Though a normal emotion, it becomes problematic and a cause for concern when a pattern of angry behavior develops, especially when aggression or violence is increasingly likely.
For low risk people who occasionally feel the early signs of anger developing, the risk of any problems can be reduced by altering one’s perspective. For example:
- Maintain a more positive attitude and don’t get worked up about the small stuff.
- Learn to adjust unreasonable expectations.
- Be honest about disappointment, hurt or irritation. Aim to develop a constructive means of expression through sensible dialogue when anger rises.
- Divert your attention to things that would less likely make you mad.
4. Seek Opinions
Seek others’ opinions about whether your temperament might benefit from anger management training. When an individual becomes angry they are incapable of seeing the other side of the problem. Talking to someone may help you by allowing them to share their side of the story. Speak to a friend or family member who is understanding and easy to talk to. It is definitely better to ‘lay your cards on the table’, set aside one’s pride, accept there’s a problem and attempt to find a solution. The friend or family member may be able to help you sort through your issues and make you look at the situation from a different perspective.
Some may suggest anger management exercises that can be done at home. Others might advocate anger management counseling with a licensed, professional therapist, or anger management classes that can be worked into any schedule. If you are genuine about overcoming your anger problem, consider the advice given with an open mind.
5. Be Objective
Let’s begin by counting how many times you got angry today. Did you honk a tad bit extra to get people out of your way as you were late to work? Did you throw a fit because your son wouldn’t drink his glass of milk, and you wondered “Why God, why me?” Were you upset because your spouse spent the evening at work and missed dinner? Little things seem to irk you beyond belief, you feel like the universe is conspiring against you. You think Murphy’s Laws were written just for you. Life seems exasperating, and the only way to get through to people is to shout and scream. But hold on and think whether your behavior is becoming unacceptable and on a downward spiral.
Some people who are normally mild-mannered dramatically turn into yellers or screamers during a conflict. It can happen suddenly, whereby one moment they are self-controlled and soft-spoken, but the next finds their voice several octaves higher and many decibels louder. If that sounds like you, make a conscious decision to observe your vocal tone and pitch, along with the words that come out of your mouth.
Another aspect to keep in mind when monitoring your mood is body language. Your fists may clench, your jaws tighten and your muscles become tense as your ire begins to build. The next time anger develops at home, head for the nearest mirror and study your profile. You may see things like bulging eyes, a frowning face, dilated pupils and a pale pallor or even reddened complexion. Serpent-like eyes and a frozen expression, coupled with a racing pulse may suggest the need for anger management assistance.
Also, think through whether anger issues have already made an impact on your life in some way. For example, have you ever been written up at work for a problem stemming from your failure to practice anger management? Has your anger impacted a serious relationship in a negative way, whether it is with a spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend or romantic interest? Therefore, begin to observe yourself as though you were an onlooker – be objective about the anger problems you experience and make a conscious decision to put an end to their negative impact.
Part 2 in the series of How to Control Anger will discuss the following:
- Keeping a journal
- Say how you feel
- Communication skills