anger 101: some anger management tips

People make us angry all the time.  Whether we are  driving behind someone who is just not moving fast enough or fighting with a family member over who's turn it is to empty the litter box, our feelings of anger often work their way into our interactions very quickly and stay with us for too long after the aggravating situation subsides.   

The lingering effects of the anger often dissolve into other uncomfortable feelings such as sadness or regret.  While it is not possible to get rid of anger all together, there are certainly steps we can take to reduce its intensity, duration, and frequency.  The steps below are a good place to start.

Usually our feelings of anger towards other people are based on our individual perception that someone else is preventing us from getting what we want.  When you first notice this feeling, pause and ask yourself, "What am I fighting to get? Is it something that I need? Is there another way to get it? Are the consequences of attaining it too severe? "  Often we only have to answer the first question or two in order to identify whether or not to pursue the situation further.

Use this momentary pause to take a few deep breaths, or a lot of them, and try to think of the physical feelings your anger is stirring up.  Paying attention to these internal responses, allows us to attend to them and reduce the discomfort of our anger.  If you are unable to focus on your physical sensations try thinking about anything besides the aggravating situation.  If you identify that the situation is worth pursuing, this forced break can serve as enough of a distraction to prevent you from reacting out anger.  

Walking away is always an acceptable strategy.  I often tell client's it is easier to return and apologize for walking away than to apologize for the potentially harmful and detrimental behaviors to which anger can drive us.

Remember that anger is a powerful emotion that fully grown adults struggle to manage. This fact should not be forgotten when dealing with children who struggle to control their anger.  Children are immature and limited in their own understanding of themselves and the world they live in. Children also reflect much of the emotion that they see and feel around them.  Anger often serves as a powerful tool to help children gain some sense of control over a fully uncontrollable world.

Be patient with your child who is angry and give them opportunities to walk away.  Model for them appropriate ways to deal with your own anger.  Shift the focus from the anger and related behaviors to the process of deescalation and praise self recognition of inappropriate behavior.

Anger management is a life long process as it is part of the overall act of gaining a deeper mastery of our emotions and behaviors.  It also ties in closely to our feelings of fear and survival, these tips are a good place to start. For more information on mindfulness based cognitive therapy and other approaches to anger management strategies call or email me or another mental health professional for an appointment