This fourth in a series of blogs about anger looks at powerful ways of managing anger. Most people want to control their anger. Most, but not all, feel guilty after the outburst and want to stop. Indeed they may promise to stop, but “lose it” again and again. Modern brain science shows that when “triggered”, the brain produces anger in 1/50 of a second. The person has no control over the anger in that timescale. That is why it is so hard to break the habit. New skills must be learned and practiced over and over:
1. Get as much information about your anger as you can
This can also be called “having a mindful approach to your anger”. Do you often get angry and lose your temper? Does this happen weekly, daily, or more often? Does your temper cause problems at home or at work? Does your level of anger feel very, very strong? Does your anger last a long time? Do little things that don’t annoy others get you really wound up? Does your anger ever lead to violence? Does alcohol make your anger worse? Do others complain about your temper? Do others sometimes seem scared of you?
What causes you to feel anger?
Here are some events that can trigger angry feelings. Do any of these happen to you?
ie the relatively small things that annoy you or get on your nerves, like loud noises or someone bugging you, or even breaking things by mistake. Other hassles might be things that get in the way of you doing stuff. Or when you are in a hurry to get somewhere and you are held up. Or when you want something good to happen and then it doesn’t.
• Abuse or not being treated fairly or as an equal
Abuse might include like name calling, being put down or other unkind remarks made to you. Abuse can also be physical like being pushed or grabbed. Not being treated fairly whether it’s you or someone you care about can also trigger anger.
How do you react inside?
• Your nature – If you are hot headed now, it is likely that you always have been. Can you remember getting very angry as a child or teenager?.
• Thoughts – How do you view things? What things mean to you can affect whether you get angry or not. If you care more about something it is more likely that you could become angry about it. Do you take some things to heart? When some things happen you may think that people are trying to get at you, when perhaps they are not really. Maybe you jump to conclusions too quickly. Maybe you have not seen the bigger picture.
• Feelings in your body – How do YOU feel when you are angry? Can you identify the adrenaline rush? That feeling of tension before something big, exciting or risky happens. Adrenaline causes that feeling of red mist when you lose your temper. You become pumped up and ready for action. Your heart beats faster. Blood pressure goes up. Muscles become more tense. Breathing becomes faster. You may become hot, sweaty and flushed. You may have been feeling tensed for a long time without realising it – being tensed up makes you more likely to over react.
• Moods – Feeling miserable or depressed can have a big say in how angry you feel. Maybe you or those around you have lost your sense of humour. Maybe you take things too seriously. These things can make it more likely that anger will become a problem.
The things you do when you are angry
• Get aggressive:
Some deal with their angry feelings by getting aggressive. They might scream or shout, kick or punch people or objects, or threaten others. When you get aggressive with someone, this can lead to them getting aggressive with you and the whole process can quickly spiral. Anger fuels anger. If you can just walk away things will often calm down.
• Do nothing at all.
When some people get angry, they do nothing at all. They don’t express their anger. This can cause anger to lurk around and simmer away and there is a high risk that it will just explode out of them eventually. They can also start to get annoyed with themselves and think that they are weak or a failure for not having dealt with what made them angry. This can lead to low mood. Others practice what is called passive aggression which is the tendency to engage in indirect expression of hostility through acts such as subtle insults, sullen behaviour, stubbornness, or a deliberate failure to accomplish required tasks. They might say “I’m not mad”, or “fine, whatever”, and rather than express openly and honestly how they are feeling, they squash it down.
• Blocking it out.
Some people try to block out angry thoughts and feelings by drinking more, or by taking drugs. Some people get so angry with themselves that they give up caring what happens to them, and they start to take big risks.
2. Stay in tune with your body
• A balanced diet
Too much caffeine can cause anxious feelings which can in turn lead us to be more likely to erupt into anger so cutting back on coffee and diet coke can be helpful. Eating a reasonably balanced diet and not going for long periods without food can also be helpful.
• Alcohol and drugs
You may need to review your alcohol intake. People who rarely lose their control when they are sober, can do so catastrophically after a few drinks. Stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine and anabolic steroids and marijuana have been implicated in the precipitation of anger and aggression.
You’ve had a difficult day at work but you imagine that as soon as you walk through your front door you are fine. However, if your pulse is still racing, your emotional state may still be driven by your physiology. Even a quick ten minute walk each evening can be excellent in terms of emotional regulation – it sends a message to your brain to stop producing the stress hormones and helps you to refocus. Any kind of exercise whether its in the gym or a team sport or an individual sport like surfing, will have a powerful effect on your ability to manage your anger.
• Get enough sleep
Getting sufficient good quality sleep every night also makes it less likely that small stresses will cause us to spill over into anger.
My next two blogs will continue to look at more powerful ways to control your anger.
Need some advice and support?
If you would like to learn more about managing anger, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!
See also: Learning About Anger, Healthy and Unhealthy Anger, Angry Thinking Styles