Don’t Get Mad OR Even: Tips to Anger Management

Scott Sulak
Change For Good,® Inc.


When we are driving down the highway and the traffic isn’t optimal. And we had a bad day at work. And we are anticipating an argument with our family when we return home. And the person in front of us allows someone else to get in front of them. What is our reaction?

Perhaps we quickly begin cursing the person. Perhaps we get closer to their bumper in hopes of making them close the gap in front of them. Maybe we try to pass them so we can yell through the window at them.

Later when we are calm at home or at work tomorrow, we might think about that event and say to ourselves, “That wasn’t me.”

That’s anger. Anger is the feeling we get when we want to be in control of the world about us. However, does that feeling of control make us happy? Does getting what we want at whatever expense make us happy? Does it make you happy when you win a battle, only to have to start up the same behavior patterns at the next situation and the next situation?

What Really Causes Anger?
Anger can be caused by both external and internal events. We can be angry at an event in our life, a person in our life, or we can simply worry about different aspects of our life.

Feeling out of control causes anger. When we feel as if we are not being listened to, or that others’ values or morals are incompatible with ours, we try to rectify that situation by instilling our own values, morals, thoughts and actions
upon them. As you can imagine, that sometimes causes friction among those we are trying to control.
The ensuing outbreak turns from us trying to control a person or situation to them feeling controlled and pushing back. We can’t understand why our advice is not being taken and feel personally rebuffed, becoming angry and pushing our original point more vehemently.

When you dissect anger down to its simplest form, some psychologists would have you believe that it is people with low self-esteem who are more prone to outbreaks of anger. But a recent article in the Scientific American magazine entitled “Violent Pride” suggests that it is not those with low self-image issues, but rather those with a grandiose view of themselves who are more easily provoked to anger and eventually violence. Perhaps by taking a deeper look at ourselves and our motives, we can devise alternative ways of expressing the feelings that routinely come out as anger.

Better Ways of Expressing Anger
As shown above, the natural tendency towards the expression of anger is an aggressive outburst. If you are in a parking lot with your turn signal flashing, indicating you are about to take a spot, and someone from the opposite side slips in really quickly as the car backs out, what is your response? Your blood pressure may be rising simply thinking about that example.

Let’s take a look at some other options besides getting out of the car and provoking a fistfight in the grocery store parking lot.

There are seven ways to dissipate your anger and turn it into something else:
1. Express your anger in terms of your needs.
2. Redirect the anger into something besides anger.
3. Use better communication skills.
4. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
5. Look into changing the timing of regular irritants.
6. Understand what is actually heard and said during arguments.
7. In some situations, touch might be a good antidote to anger.

Try expressing your anger in terms of your needs:
First look inward to yourself and examine the situation from a clear point of view. This may take learning some breath work to lower your blood pressure and get you out of your head momentarily. Is having this parking spot the most important thing in your life? Can you take another one? Will your life be ruined if you allow this person to sneak in and take your spot? Perhaps this person is from out of the country and doesn’t realize the protocol of this area, so the turn signal meant nothing to them.

Once you see that it’s not the end of the world that your spot has been taken, ask yourself what you need to do to feel comfortable in the situation. Perhaps you would like an apology, simply for the person to admit to you they saw you waiting? That would help your esteem. You would feel “seen” instead of “invisible” in the situation. Perhaps just the realization that it’s not the end of the world is enough for you to feel okay in the situation. Remember that expressing your anger does not mean to demean or demoralize the other person in the event. Expressing is about being assertive with your feelings while being respectful of not only yourself but also the others in the situation.

Try redirecting the anger:
If possible, try to redirect your anger into a more positive flow. For instance, if you really feel you need an apology from this person or if you couldn’t get that clear and still want to cuss them out for stealing your space, try to take that anger and turn it into humor. For instance, if you are thinking this person is a real slime-bag for taking your space, see how it feels to visualize what a slime-bag might look like, oozing out of it’s car into the store. Think about the trail of ooze it would leave behind itself while sliding slowly down the parking lot towards the store. Allow that image to take your mind in a totally different direction, away from anger and into laughter. Visualize the situation as a brief comic experience instead of the end of the world.

Make sure that you are not keeping some feelings inside that should come out.  While anger pops up at inappropriate times, if it is our only way of communicating our feelings, we need to make sure we find another way to express ourselves.  One danger to using humor without other means of expression is that it quickly turns to passive-aggressive attempts in other aspects of our lives. Passive-aggressive behavior is a way we get back at people without telling them what is really going on with us.

Try using better communication:
When having a heated debate (or a battle, as the case may be), how many of us stop to make sure we are using our best communication skills? The first step in assuring you are saying what you actually mean is to slow down. When you take a deep breath and logically think about what your intention is you might instead speak from a place of feeling instead of anger. For instance, look at why you are angry and use statements that utilize “I.” Use “I” statements or “When you say (blank), “I” feel (blank). For instance, “I feel hurt,” instead of, “You hurt me.”  No one can argue with how you feel, but they can argue with what you accuse them of. Try, “When you tell me to shut-up, it makes me feel small,” instead of, “I can’t stand it when you (blank).” Then you go off the handle about every little thing in your arsenal of insults – such as the way your hair looks when you wake up in the morning, the way your breath smells, when you leave your shoes in the middle of the floor, etc.

And it goes both ways. Listen for the underlying anger in others’ statements. It is hard to be criticized, but if you look underneath and help the person get to the root of the problem instead of the surface annoyance, you will have a
deeper understanding of each other and much more fruitful relationship.

Try not to take yourself so seriously:
Since we now know that anger is derived from needing to control a situation, take a step back when you are feeling angry and try to ease up on yourself. Think about why you want to control this situation. What do you get out of it? Why is it important for you to always be in control? When you have the answers to those questions, it would be doubtful that you would still be angry about the situation.

Try looking at the timing and adjusting if necessary:
Sometimes we will notice a pattern to our mood swings. Perhaps after thinking about the traffic jam example at the beginning of this report, we find we are getting highly agitated every day in the same situations. Instead of putting yourself in that position, perhaps try to find an alternative way home or change your hours (either come in earlier or leave later), so you avoid the majority of traffic. If you find that you end up having conversations that turn heated with your family before bedtime, and you realize that you are too tired that late at night, perhaps you should begin the conversations earlier in the evening or on the weekends to avoid getting angry and upset due to your tired state of mind.

Remember, during an argument nothing said is really heard:
When you are acting out of anger instead of rational logic, it makes sense that you wouldn’t be open to rational and logical thinking. That being so, it makes sense that when your emotions are high, you are flying from thought to thought, not really appreciating what anyone else thinks or says. But in that light, they aren’t necessarily paying attention to you either. Instead of embracing that type of high tension situation, step back and realize that you are not being heard and that you are not listening.

If the situation is appropriate, try a light touch to dispel someone’s anger:
Another good technique if someone you are close with is having an anger episode, is to touch them lightly – perhaps on the arm or shoulder. Next time you are sensing someone is angry, try to touch them and ask them how they feel. You will find instead of blowing up, they will most likely take a deep breath and tell you how they feel instead of who they’d like to give a talking to and why.

The “deeper” anger:
Perhaps you have had some experiences in your life, maybe as a child, that have demonstrated how to deal with things when people make you angry. These might be programs rooted deep in the subconscious mind. If you feel that you simply cannot deal with things on the surface, seek out professional help to learn more about what is “really” making you mad. Hypnotherapy may be a good solution as it can get at the root cause of anger. You may also want to try some self-hypnosis audiotapes designed to subconsciously dissolve anger.

Remember, anger is a natural response when we are being threatened in some way. It triggers our flight or flight response, which protects us from attacks and assaults. The trick is, we can’t react with anger in every situation in our lives.  We need to know when it’s better to modify our behavior with some behavioral techniques and when to express to the full extent of our wrath!

How might we deal with the driver during rush hour who allows someone to cut in front of them? Maybe we take a deep breath and realize that we aren’t going anywhere anyway, so what’s the big deal? Maybe we notice there is an exit up the road and that person needed to get over to make the exit, so the person in front of us is actually being quite civil. Maybe we immediately realize we are nervous about an anticipated disagreement at home and start thinking about ways to solve that problem before we get home. What would your husband, wife or partner say if you walked in with a list of possible solutions to the problem instead of arguing and not listening to each other?

Life looks a lot different when you aren’t trying to control the outcomes. Let go of anger and see what new colors arise.

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