Gregory Jaquet learned a few ways to manage those excesses of anger that can damage everyday life.
I am happy. I love my life, my wife and my kids. I still believe in the choices I’ve made and have a quality of life close to the reasonable dreams I had when I was a young man (far away from that particular dream, you know…anyway).
So why am I experiencing that regular anger that can kill part of me and my family?
There are those days when I’m suddenly surrounded by reminders of a hostile place, where everything seems hellbent on bothering me. Bills, cooking, cleaning, some stuff has been building for years. It’s neither buried nor forgotten.
I’ve been taught by psychologists in mens groups—and here’s to forwarding the impact of that learning.
Our anger is a natural emotion.
As is sadness, happiness and fear. We can understand and even dominate it by using the following steps.
Note: I cope with anger better now but there’s still a long way to go. I still crack after what could be seen as a futile and pointless quarrel. I still sometimes think: Everything’s over, I’ll lose her, them, my life (and my 27 inches of plasma TV).
1. Learn to Feel Anger When It Comes To You.
Seems silly. Too easy. But it’s awfully difficult. Sometimes others realize my anger before I do. Sometimes I know something is wrong but can’t identify the feeling. It takes practice (just like any sport) to know when anger is rising within you and to be able to bring your awareness to it.
When anger comes to us, it actually brings physical changes on the body. The idea is to simply learn to discover those changes and be ready to feel and listen to them when they happen.
Only after consistent practice — pausing to reflect and identify what we’re feeling when we feel it — can we identify anger before something or someone else takes the brunt of it. Your personal anger doesn’t just hurt you; it can have an impact on every part of your life, including every interaction you have with others.
2. Understand Your Anger.
It is a basic human emotion. This means it’s not only normal, but useful. We have to feel it, because it is part of the human brain function. Authorize yourself to be angry. It’s a way of defending yourself and a way of getting alert when we need it so that we can avoid immediate danger.
We really need anger, but we need to domesticate it, to learn an emotional process that leads us either to channel it in useful ways or to reduce it altogether. Ask yourself questions about your anger. Where did it come from? Why? When a similar situation arises how can I handle it differently and with a cooler head?
Once I began to recognize my anger I became more aware of what I had in life. In understanding my anger I became more grateful for what I had and this in turn created a cycle whereby I became angry less often. In essence, gratefulness can displace anger.
3. Tame Your Anger.
Once you are aware of when anger comes and what it actually is, you can begin understanding how to tame it.
It takes introspection and self-questioning; it takes the willingness to not just adapt but to, in some cases, entirely change.
One tip I’ve found helpful is to imagine I have a thermometer for my anger. How am I feeling now? What number would I give it? What strategies have I practiced that can allow me to lower that number? Numbers, for me, helped make my abstract anger into a tangible thing that I could learn to control.
<—-Example of Feelings thermometer (Image : Pinterest)
0 : feeling good, blue sky.
1-3 Green: Avoid ascension
4-6 Orange: Exit the situation/take long, slow, steady breaths
7-9 Red: Rage Stage. Could erupt into violence to yourself or others. Exit the situation entirely. Time out.
10 Danger: Follow guides for Red.
Working on anger should be completed long before you actually feel anger. For example, write in a notebook how often you are at a Level 3. When does this situation most occur? Sitting in traffic? Late at night? Rank your life situations and daily habits in terms of what level of anger you may bring to them. This is practice. This is shooting that pullup jumper thousands of times out in the backyard before you ever have the opportunity to do so during a game.
4. Timeouts Are Required.
When I think of the thermometer readings I think of how cars function and it helps me identify where I am and what steps I need to take. My thoughts are like this:
– If it’s warming, find a way to avoid it warming up more.
– If it’s really warm, stop in a safe place and wait until it cools down to a bearable temperature. Take the road again.
– If it’s burning up, take a timeout. It’s time to call* for help (friends, family, etc).
A timeout in my case means getting out of the situation and going to a special place. That special place is somewhere you like to go that takes you from the tense situation. This can be somewhere physically or even somewhere through meditation. Just get there. Take long, slow, deep breaths. Sometimes this means simply leaving a meeting to use the restroom so you can wash your face, sit in the stall and breathe.
*Talk to the people on your go-to list beforehand. There’s no shame in letting them know that they are your calming outlet. Explain to those people that you are trying to work on managing your anger. Ask for their support. People need to be needed and I have been surprised by the immediate relief of my wife when I simply announced rather than cloaked my intentions.
5. Back On Ice
You’ve escalated, handled it and you’re stable. Don’t forget about what happened. Now’s the time to go back to the former situation and cope with it. If you’re back to a comfortable situation, fine. Thank the person(s) that accepted you. Express to yourself and those who know you are practicing what you understood from your problem, being sure to start every sentence with I + verb (I think, I feel, I believe, I regret, I ask,…).
Once you’re familiar with these steps and actually begin to incorporate them into your life you may be able to lower your temp well before it gets into Orange or Red. There’s even a chance (I know because it happened to me) that you’ll be able to discover new and more productive ways of organizing your days so that they bring the greatest amount of joy and the least amount of anger to your life.