Living with uncontrollable anger is difficult. The relationships of angry people are full of conflict and recrimination. Self-esteem takes a beating because our temper is likely to get us in trouble at work as well as at home. And the physical effects can include stomach problems and hypertension. For that reason, managing anger effectively is an important skill.
Everyone gets angry from time to time, and that’s not a bad thing. But if anger is getting you in trouble at the office, on the roads or at home, it’s time to tame the beast within.
First steps in managing anger
First, acknowledge that managing anger is your responsibility. Other people may provoke you, but that doesn’t let you off the hook. If someone in your life has told you that you have a problem with anger management, listen. Try not to be defensive. What information do they have for you about when this becomes a problem?
Second, stop criticizing yourself. For many of us, there is a constant barrage of negative self-talk going on inside us at any given moment. “I’m such a loser” is not encouraging self-talk. And avoid statements that include the words have to, should, must or ought. Rephrase the thought or statement making it a choice. “I have to keep my temper under control” sets up an argument in your head. “I want to control my temper” builds yourself up rather than tearing yourself down.
Notice what’s going on inside yourself. What are you feeling? Learn to recognize the emotions that may precede getting angry. Are you mad or are you sad? Are you scared? Take a deep breath. Don’t go onto automatic pilot. You’re a thinking being, and you can make choices. Consider the self-restraint option – much preferable to flying off the handle.
Decide if you need to withdraw for a while to cool down. This is key for managing anger. Go for a walk. Stretch or exercise. Talk with a third person. Journal. Remind yourself that it’s not OK to fly off the handle.
Learn to accept criticism without getting defensive. What would it be like to listen at work without needing to explain yourself – especially if you know you were wrong? Avoiding defensiveness in intimate relationships is often the first step in defusing a tense situation.
Learn to really listen whenever someone else is speaking, especially if they are speaking to you. Pay attention. Be interested and supportive. Resist the urge to criticize or offer unwanted advice or blame. Remember that part of the Prayer of St. Francis that says, “May I seek less to be understood than to understand?” Good advice.
Take responsibility for your own actions. Doing so will allow others to react to you less defensively. See if you can support and acknowledge other people. You will find that your interactions become more pleasant.
Practice generating good karma in little ways. Let someone cut into your lane while you’re driving. Hold the door open for someone.
Managing anger effectively ins’t all that complicated, but it does require a new mindset. Making change requires consistent effort over time. You can do it, and you’ll find that your relationships are stronger and happier and that you feel better about yourself.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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