Anger is a perfectly natural emotion and one that comes and goes when a situation or thought stimulates the response in you, the same goes for any other emotions whether it be sadness, happiness, fear or discuss. Anger is an easy emotion to go too and was very handy when our brain was initially developing thousands of years ago when threats to our lives were frequent. However, times have changed, and what set anger apart from many other emotions and the reason why it’s is often viewed as one that should be better managed is its potentially destructive nature in today’s world and its ability to destroy relationships, work, future plans and many other aspects in your life, including your own self-development.
I’ve seen first hand the impact of anger and its power in limiting a person’s potential; every time they build something up, eventually it comes crashing down!
Now, what I am about to discuss isn’t about understanding where your tendency to move straight to anger comes from, which can be explored through counselling. I am writing to hopefully provide a few thought-provoking ideas to help you to control your anger better so that it no longer has control over you and your future plans.
The list below is techniques/skills/attributes I have learnt through theoretical study, seen clients use that helped them to manage their aggressive outbursts better, and also ones that I use myself when feelings of anger are starting to arise.
I have broken it into 2 sections: Reducing the chance of angry eruptions and Long-term coping strategies. I hope this helps to offer you in the moment support when your anger is bubbling up, plus, other ways to help with taking control of your anger.
Reducing the chance of angry eruptions
Here we will discuss ways to reduce the likelihood of anger turning into an outburst of aggression.
Notice signs you’re getting angry
I think that becoming aware of your anger is probably one of the most important points in helping to mitigate it before it erupts. You will have a physical reaction when you are becoming angry. Common signs include breathing faster, heart beating quicker, body feeling tense, clenched or fidgety. Noticing these signs will give you a chance put in steps to prevent you reacting aggressively. This can be hard to do when put in a challenging situation. However, the more you practice checking in with your body, the faster you will be able to notice the signs.
You may be thinking, I’m not 5 why would I want to do this. Nevertheless, counting up to 10 in your head will give you a great chance to analyse the situation, helps you notice your bodies reaction, slows your breathing, and helps you to react more appropriately to the situation. So counting shouldn’t be taken lightly when it comes to anger.
Do something to take your mind away from the situation
This may not always be appropriate but if you can it may be a good idea to distract yourself for a bit until you are in a better position to handle things. It will offer you a chance to reflect on the situation and help stop you from saying something you may regret later. Should you notice you are getting angry with your boss, partner or friend, it may be as simple as saying “I’m getting angry, so I’m going to walk away and will continue this discussion with you when I’ve calmed and can think clearly”. Going for a walk, colouring or doing an easy task can help offer you that space to calm down and reflect on your current circumstances.
Long-term coping strategies
We’ve looked at a few strategies to help reduce the chance of an angry eruption. Now, we need to look at long-term strategies that, if implemented into your life, can help change your anger completely.
When we talk about anger and aggression, appropriate communication is often not present. Communication is so important in improving mental well-being, which is why it is the first in my list of long-term coping strategies. I have broken communication into two groups:
Sharing how you feel. It is really important to express yourself with others and not bury it deep inside. If you can imagine a cup being slowly filled up, eventually, it reaches the top and overflows. When this happens, it can lead to feelings of shame, stress and behaving either aggressively or passive aggressively. Let people know how you feel, it will help to empty the cup.
Another thing to consider is that by sharing how you feel you may have a benefit in improving your circumstances with people, it doesn't mean they are going to change, but at least it opens the floor to a discussion that can be handled without aggression. Maybe your boss has said something you're not happy with, have a talk with them about the situation, how it makes you feel and see if it can be resolved. Don't allow yourself to sit with the negative feelings to have to deal with something similar the following day. It important to be proactive in mitigating anger, frustration and stress.
Talk to a professional. Naturally, as a therapist, I think speaking to a counsellor is a fantastic way to tackle anger. However, I also think it important to realise that talking in depth about anger can lead to you actually becoming angry. In my opinion, if you are looking to explore your anger in depth, it is safer to this in a professional setting where it can be explored and new skills can be developed, rather than offloading on friends and family who may not be equipped to handle it. Let your friends and family know how you feel but think about the depth that they need to be aware of.
It may be a great idea to find ways to relax your mind and body. A great choice is to look for a local holistic therapist who will look at helping to restore your natural balance through different techniques. Another great option can be looking for relaxation tools online such as breathing techniques and mindfulness; both mindfulness and learning breathing techniques takes practice and time. Nevertheless, it offers great benefit in helping you to calm the body and mind, becoming more aware of your body's reactions and reducing angry eruptions.
Change your thinking
When you begin to get angry you might have noticed that your thinking can be very direct and negative towards other - “Why are they acting like that”, “they never understand”, “It’s their fault” “they shouldn’t be doing that” and/or to yourself - “Why do i keep doing that”, “I don’t understand”, “It’s my fault” “i’m stupid”. However, there are often many ways the circumstances can be viewed, it’s very often not as black and grey as how we perceive things when angry. This sort of thinking can keep the anger around for a long time. Thinking like this is likely deep-rooted but it doesn't mean it can’t change with a bit of practice and little self-compassion.
Figure out whether it’s definitely anger you're experiencing
If we take into consideration that people who have been told they are angry or need anger management have shown signs that their behaviour is aggressive, we need to consider more than just anger as what they’re experiencing. People are often confused anger and aggression as the same thing and don't realise that anger is an emotion, whereas aggression is a behaviour. Sure, anger is often the reason why someone will become aggressive. However, you can also become aggressive in relation to other emotions including anxiety, sadness and fear. It’s really important to figure out if it's actually anger you’re experiencing, or whether it's a different emotion that you hadn’t even considered. By knowing the emotion that is triggering the aggressive response, you can - 1.) explore the actual cause of your behaviour and 2.) develop skills and internal resources related to the emotion to help reduce the behaviour. This can be done without professional support if you are very self-aware, emotional intelligent and emotionally resilient. However, seeing a counsellor or other professional is likely to be required.
(Image's sourced from pixabay.com)