Editor’s note: This article should not be interpreted as medical advice. You should seek professional support if you are experiencing severe anger or mental health issues.
Anger is destructive
According to Alcoholics Anonymous’ “Big Book”, it is claimed that the number one offender for relapse is resentment.
I concur: anger can turn the best of men into self-sabotaging and destructive beasts. I for one used to have some issues myself, as a former angry young man.
Studies report that men are significantly more likely to have problems with expressing inappropriate, intense, or poorly controlled anger. Of course, women too can be affected by anger, though they may be more likely to contain their anger through passive aggression rather than rage.
Here are a few steps on how to manage anger to avoid it spiraling out of control:
Step 1: Acknowledge the anger.
Admitting you are feeling angry is the first step. It’s best to admit that you have been triggered so you can take appropriate and defensive action to protect yourself and others. Remember that you are not your anger and this too shall pass!
Step 2: Safely defuse the anger.
When children have tantrums, they will cry and rage until they are tired out. Until then, trying to reason with them, is like trying to reason with an angry chimp who will beat you with its superior strength.
Thus, we want to tire out our angry inner child. Here are a few ways to do this:
• Scream into a pillow
• Go for a run
• Get on a punching bag
• Vent to someone who will just listen (eg. therapist, coach, friend)
Step 3: Apply anger reduction tools.
Once you have a tired out inner child, try applying one of the following tools to the situation or trigger that you reacted angrily too.
• OWNERSHIP: Who is responsible for how you feel right now? What part do you have in creating the anger today?
• EXPLORATION: Anger is often a protection mechanism for fear. What fear is your anger covering up?
• COMPASSION: Everyone is doing the best they can with the resources they have available, and everyone is fighting a battle that you may not be aware of. Is it possible those you are angry towards are spiritually and/or mentally sick? Is there such thing as a perfect person? Are we all imperfect beings who have made mistakes in our lives? Is it possible this person has had a troubled past that has led them to commit a wrong against you? How might you practice compassion?
• UNDERSTANDING: Nobody is truly broken; everyone has a reason for the way that they are and the way that they behave. Their past programming may be helpful or unhelpful. What reasons may have driven this person’s actions?
• PERSPECTIVE: How might your actions be perceived by those you are angry towards? How may have you harmed them?
• PRIORITIES How much will this resentment matter at the end of your life? What other things might be much more important than this resentment?•
* GRATITUDE: Those who you may be angry with may have helped you learn something about yourself. Perhaps they have shown you what core values matter the most to you, such as integrity, loyalty, humility. How might you thank them for the lesson?
• EMPOWERMENT: It disempowers you to let others control how you feel. How could you take back this control?
• ACCEPTANCE: We cannot change the past. How can you accept what has happened? How would it feel to let go of this anger?
• ECONOMICS: If you are going to get revenge, then you’d better dig two graves. What might be the cost of getting revenge? Eg. money, time, energy, a prison sentence. And what might be the gain of letting go? Eg. more time, more money, more energy.
• STORY DECONSTRUCTION: What story or meaning might have you made up about yourself because of this person’s actions? For example, perhaps you might believe that you are a weak, that you are a victim, or that you are not good enough. Is this story really true? If not, can you let it go?
• MIRROR: This quality or action you resent in this person – have you ever been guilty of this yourself? If so, can you forgive yourself? And if you can forgive yourself, can you forgive this person?
STEP 4: Prevent future anger.
In order to avoid going into a blind rage, it’s best to avoid the following:
• Caffeine (can make you wired and irritable)
• Alcohol or drugs (can make you lose inhibitions totally)
• Sleep deprivation (can make you irritable)
• Hunger (low blood sugar can make you “hangry”)
• Sugar (crashes after sugar binges can make you irritable)
• Self-righteousness (remember that we are all imperfect)
• Unconstructive arguments (there is very little point)
After applying these steps, you should be on your way back to emotional equilibrium.
If anger is something you struggle with, it may be worth working with a life coach to help you improve on this.
– Hurt people hurt people. Cultivating compassion for the reasons behind why someone behaves will transmute your anger into acceptance and love.
– Forgiveness is a gift to your own heart; resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
– Trust and relationships take years to build – and seconds to destroy. Thus, exercise restraint of pen and tongue!
What’s Next? Talk with others. Take action.
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