Self Help Skills

Anger Management: How To Control Your Temper (Before It Controls You)

Anyone can become angry, that is easy...but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way...this is not easy.

- Aristotle


What is anger?

Anger is described as 'an intense emotional response' to a perceived provocation, and often arises when we think someone/something has crossed 'limits'. Anger is considered a primal human emotion, and psychologists say if we use anger correctly, it helps us survive ('I am angry and I am not going to take it anymore!').


Anger becomes a problem when the intense bodily reaction such as 'increased heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of adrenaline' combine with our spontaneous feelings, resulting in negative emotional and physical outbursts.


To prevent this spiralling down of negative outbursts, we need to use anger management methods to keep clam and composed, keeping the temper checked in time.


Part 1: Basics of anger


1. There are two main kinds of anger:


- Passive anger

Dispassion: Giving cold shoulder, fake smile, looking unconcerned, 'sitting on the fence' while others sort things out, dampening feelings with substance abuse, overreacting, oversleeping, not responding to another person's anger, frigidity, indulging in sexual practices that depress spontaneity and make objects of participants, giving inordinate amounts of time to machines, objects or intellectual pursuits, talking of frustrations but showing no feeling.

Evasiveness: Turning one's back in a crisis, avoiding conflict, not arguing back, becoming phobic.

Defeatism: Setting yourself and others up for failure, choosing unreliable people to depend on, being accident prone, underachieving, sexual impotence, expressing frustration at insignificant things but ignoring serious ones.

Obsessive behavior: Needing to be inordinately clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking things, over-dieting or overeating, demanding that all jobs be done perfectly.

Psychological manipulation: Provoking people to aggression and then patronizing them, provoking aggression but staying on the sidelines, emotional blackmail, false tearfulness, feigning illness, sabotaging relationships, using sexual provocation, using a third party to convey negative feelings, withholding money or resources.

Secretive behavior: Stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people's backs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact, putting people down, gossiping, anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, and conning.

Self-blame: Apologizing too often, being overly critical, inviting criticism.


- Aggressive anger

Bullying: Threatening people directly, persecuting, pushing or shoving, using power to oppress, shouting, driving someone off the road, playing on people's weaknesses.

Destructiveness: Destroying objects as in vandalism, harming animals, child abuse, destroying a relationship, reckless driving, substance abuse.

Grandiosity: Showing off, expressing mistrust, not delegating, being a sore loser, wanting center stage all the time, not listening, talking over people's heads, expecting kiss and make-up sessions to solve problems.

Hurtfulness: Violence, including sexual abuse and rape, verbal abuse, biased or vulgar jokes, breaking confidence, using foul language, ignoring people's feelings, willfully discriminating, blaming, punishing people for unwarranted deeds, labeling others.

Manic behavior: Speaking too fast, walking too fast, working too much and expecting others to fit in, driving too fast, reckless spending.

Selfishness: Ignoring others' needs, not responding to requests for help, queue jumping.

Threats: Frightening people by saying how one could harm them, their property or their prospects, finger pointing, fist shaking, wearing clothes or symbols associated with violent behavior, tailgating, excessively blowing a car horn, slamming doors.

Unjust blaming: Accusing other people for one's own mistakes, blaming people for your own feelings, making general accusations.

Unpredictability: Explosive rages over minor frustrations, attacking indiscriminately, dispensing unjust punishment, inflicting harm on others for the sake of it, using alcohol and drugs,[23] illogical arguments.

Vengeance: Being over-punitive. This differs from retributive justice, as vengeance is personal, and possibly unlimited in scale.


Other types of anger include:


Repressive anger (deliberately keeping unpleasant memories out of our conscious mind, slowly feeling more an more vulnerable, and avoiding interacting with others, all the anger raging inside);

Passive aggressive anger (showing anger in subtle ways, thinking they cannot do anything about the things they are angry about - slowly becoming cynical, excelling in 'sugarcoating their hostility'), and

Constructive anger (the good side of anger - letting people know what is making you worked up, and what you need - very useful in negotiations/discussions etc - just being upfront and meta with things - constructive anger is how humans being political animals).


(Source: Adapted from Wikipedia)


2. What kind of people get too angry

Psychologists say that people who are easily frustrated, annoyed or inconvenienced, not surprisingly, tend to get angry more often than rest of us.


Why are some people more angry than others: There is no conclusive answer for this, but research points out these causes often. Take your pick:


- Some people are born irritable, touchy, and are easily angered.

- Other people just don't know how to control and channel uncomfortable (inconveniences, annoyances etc) properly, having never been taught to control anger.

- People coming from disruptive and chaotic families are not that good with emotion handling (knowing outbursts had done the trick most of the time).


Part2: Anger management tips

How to control anger (dealing with angry emotions constructively)


1. Relax, Take it easy.


Breathe deeply. Do the 4-4-4 breathing a number of times, chanting some soothing words (whatever works for you - a name of your favorite thing perhaps?)

Use positive imagery; visualize pleasing images and situations.


And that golden favorite: 'Hit pause. Count to 10 before you do anything rash.'


2. Change the way you think (psychologists call it Cognitive restructuring)


Start by reminding your mind that anger has never solved anything, ever.

Replace your curses and other dramatic expressions and actions during anger with rational thoughts (e.g. 'This is not the end of the world!'). Improve the quality of your self-talk. Cheer yourself up.

Delete negative words from your life ('never', 'disgusting', etc).

Be more logical, like a doctor of your own soul. Remove 'everyone is out to get me!' kind of thoughts. No one has the time to think about you, my friend. They are just so busy with their own lives.

Give up your child-like 'demands' and 'wants'. Pick up adult-like 'it would be nice to have' kind of more reasonable expectations. Why should anyone care what we 'demand' or 'want'?

Forgive. It is not easy letting go of past hurts and resentments but the only way to move past your anger is to let go of these feelings and start fresh.


3. Solve the problem

'If you are not part of the solution, then you are the problem'.

If your anger is because of some deep-seated problem in your life, the responsibility to fix is only yours, no one else's.


4. Communicate better


Slow down your rash thinking style, work through what's bugging you. Restructure your thought (see above) and then communicate stuff that you won't regret later. Never rush to conclusions.


Listen carefully when others criticize you. Don't respond harshly, but listen closely, repeat what they are saying, think about the words. Ask for clarifications. Chances are 110% you will respond better when you really listen.


Listen carefully too, when someone complains to you. Focus on what they are saying. What do they want from you? Find out, instead of bursting with indignation.


Empathize. If another person is the source of your anger, try to see the situation from his or her perspective. Everyone makes mistakes and it is through mistakes that people learn how to improve.


Assert yourself. If you learn to assert yourself and let other people know your expectations, boundaries, issues, and so on, you will have much more interpersonal success.


5. Change the environment

If your workplace, house, group of friends, commute etc is making you angry often, change the environment immediately. Why waste precious hours obsessing about the things you can't control? You hate the sound of traffic in your crowded locality. Why waste your time cursing at motorists? Why not instead change the location to a quieter place, as soon as you can?


6. Find alternatives/Avoid things altogether

This is similar to 'changing the environment'. Stop doing things that ultimately result in you getting angry. For example, stop going to the restaurant where looking at the obnoxious manager makes you angry every time you go there.


7. Seek a proper time to argue/discuss

If you want to discuss something with someone (spouse, business partner etc), find a time when both of you will be physically and mentally rested enough to engage in a productive one-on-one talk.


8. Start to laugh more

Think about the words you were going to use against the other person. How does a champion of a rat race would really look? When you start to visualize your words, it will make you laugh (and other too, breaking the tension.)


Laugh about your kiddish 'I demand', 'I want' ways.

Using humor helps us get a perspective.


9. If nothing works, get some counseling with a trained mental health professional who can work with you sorting out your anger issues.


Thank you for reading.
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