Anger Management Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 1 of 4)

‘The man who gets angry at the right things and with the right people, and in the right way, and at the right time, and for the right length of time, is commended’ – Aristotle –

‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.’ – Buddha –

‘To be angry is to revenge the faults of others on ourselves.’ – Alexander Pope –

Anger is a driving force and creative energy, which, if judiciously applied, becomes a motivation for change. Anger will be destructive only when it is used as a tool for controlling others through fear (narcissistic rage) or when it results in a total loss of control over your emotions.

Anger is never an issue. How you handle it is the issue.

Where’s the boundary here? Emotions deemed ‘negatives’ are classified according to their disruptiveness to your wellbeing and that of others (emotional and psychological), depending on their frequency and magnitude. Some people have frequent and loud outbursts that do not result in harm to self or others.  Why is this so?

Anger can be dramatic in its intensity, a true volcanic eruption. What matters is what is said and done to others during the burst, how long it takes you to come back to calm, and your ability to ponder about the causes of your anger. So, managing anger is a delicate balancing act, in which you need to assess whether you were righteous or aggressive and if your response was proportional to the slight or exaggerated. If you are the kind of person who represses anger or expresses it too forcefully in the eyes of others, the following might help.

Anger defined
An instinctual emotional response that ranges from mild frustration to explosive rage. A response to a perceived or real threat that releases a cocktail of stress chemicals in your blood stream and provokes various bodily responses. When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.

It is also a normal and healthy human emotion that is biologically wired to keep us safe from danger. The most instinctive, natural way to express anger is via an aggressive response.

Anger can be painful and disturbing, so angry people seek an immediate solution to the source of anger. They must force the obstacle or problem away, immediately, to get relief. This is how anger can become explosive.

There are three means to handle anger: express it, repress it, or calm it.

If negatively expressed, impulsively, irrationally or in out of control fashion, it can damage relationships, reputation, and health and even lead to issues with the law. This emotion can result in snap decision-making and self-defeating behaviors.

If positively expressed, it leads to appropriate action, relief, discussion and resolution.

If repressed, its energy must be expressed in an activity, because if turned inward, it can lead to anxiety, depression, somatic illnesses, irritability and a range of physical complaints, even to heart attack.
If calmed down inside, you are controlling your outward behavior and internal responses, such as lowering your heart rate, you are letting the feelings subside.

Reasons for being angry and the magnitude of the anger vary according to people. Everyone expresses it differently, which makes reading and managing angry people difficult because it is a bespoke task. Individuals who are easily angered have a low tolerance for frustration. They can’t tolerate much inconvenience or annoyance. They are particularly infuriated if the situation seems unjust. Causes may be genetic, physiological or sociocultural.  Some people are born with low tolerance levels. Others acquire it. Other get very stressed, and their tolerance lowers over time.

Reasons for being angry

Anger is caused by internal events, such as brooding about personal problems, or external events, such as being caught in a traffic jam or handling a difficult work colleague.

– Unfairness or injustice was done to self or others, rightful or perceived.
– Frustration at a situation, event or person (impatience)
– Being hurt by the actions of another
– Being harassed
– Sensing a threat to ideas and beliefs we value.
– Feeling dismissed (your needs are not listened to)
– Internal mood states (like the memory of past trauma springing up to mind)
– Fear
– Accumulated stress
– Use of street drugs
– Certain medical conditions
– Seeking revenge
– Getting attention
– Being unable to express other feelings.

Why we bottle up…. Until we can’t any longer

We’re raised with the belief that anger is ‘bad’ and we are actively discouraged from expressing it. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle it or channel it constructively, we suppress it and internalize it. Several assumptions underlie this behavior.

Part 2. > What we’re told about anger – the myths.

Anger Management Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 4 of 4)

Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 4 of 4)

Calm the anger: Humor is great!

Humor defuses anger because it helps you get a more balanced perspective. When you get angry at someone and call that someone a name, stop and visualize the word becoming alive. If your coworker is a “dirtbag,” picture a large bag full of dirt talking on the phone or going to meetings. As silly as it may seem, it takes the edge off your emotions.

If your anger arises from thinking that things ought to go your way and that you are morally right, then see yourself as a god with everyone around bowing to you. Is this reasonable? As you build up similar scenarios and scenes in your mind, you will realize that some things are not important to be angry about. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

A word of caution: don’t try to just “laugh off” your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Don’t give in to harsh, sarcastic humor; that’s just another form of unhealthy anger expression.

Calm the anger: Change Your Environment
Sometimes our immediate surroundings cause frustration and anger. Problems and responsibilities weigh on you, and you feel trapped.

Give yourself a break. Make room for some personal time during the day, especially those times that are particularly stressful. One example is when you come home from work. For the first 15 minutes have a brief quiet time, and now move on to being open to your family.
Calm the anger: Practice empathy.
As the argument builds up, try to see the situation from the perspective of the other person. Just as you feel it, their need isn’t being met. Ask yourself “what is going on with him/her and me”?

Calm the anger: Check your lifestyle.
Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, stress buildup and lack of self-care increase the frequency and magnitude of anger. Lack of hydration leads to irritability too, so drink plenty of water during the day.

Calm the anger: Use your social network.
Ask for feedback from friends and family. Do they notice your triggers? Tell them you are changing your behavior and you need their support and feedback. Take time to simply ‘be’ with people. No agenda, no bringing work into your relationships. Chat, do an activity with them.
Calm the anger: Trust!
Others do not necessarily do things on purpose to annoy or frustrate you. They often focus less on you than you might think! Build strong relationships with family, friends and colleagues. This way you will be less prone to interpreting their actions negatively. Be consistent with people, put your actions where your mouth is. As they trust you, they too will be come more reliable.

Calm the anger: Listen!
Frustrations often arise from miscommunications. Focus on what people say before you prepare your response, don’t get distracted until they’re finished. Ask if you don’t get a clear message such as by reflecting back on what you heard.
When people are angry, they tend to jump to conclusions, which might be inaccurate. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, slow down and think your response through. Hence the value of really listening carefully to what the other says.
Listen to yourself, through your bodily responses. When you start tensing up, something is triggering your anger. Identify what is going on. Sometimes people criticize you, and you become first defensive, then angry. The underlying words of critic by the other often means they feel neglected. Keep your cool and identify why they come to critics. Getting angry will lead a discussion spinning out of control.

Calm the anger: Is it worth it?
Life is short. You or your partner or any acquaintance with whom you are arguing could get ill or die tomorrow. If you spend all of your time getting angry, you’re going to miss many joys. Anger is known to be destructive of relationships. Is it worth it?

Calm the anger: Apologize
if needed, and let go if you didn’t start the argument.
If you blew out of proportion, make amends. If you hold onto your anger, you won’t relax. Sometimes walking away is best to your health rather than staying in and winning. So ask yourself again: Is it worth it?

And a tool for masters: Suppress the Anger

Anger can be suppressed, and then converted or redirected. Hold in your anger, stop thinking about it and focus on something positive. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. For example, if you are outraged by poor traffic conditions, lobby your local transport and planning authorities. If you argue with a co-worker far too often, go boxing at the gym or create that drawing masterpiece!

There’s a danger in this. If you do not allow an outward expression, you will turn the anger inward, and get ill. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Other tips

Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight after you are back from work, when you’re tired, or distracted, —try changing the times when you talk about important matters, so these talks don’t turn into arguments.

Avoidance: If a chaotic room or a place make you furious every time you walk by it, shut the door or don’t go there. Don’t make yourself look at what infuriates you. Don’t say, “well; it should be this or that way!” That’s not the point. The point is to keep yourself calm.

Finding alternatives: If doing something anger you, such as commuting during rush hours in the MTR, give yourself a project—learn or map out a different route perhaps by bus, or walk part of the way or ride the MTR before or after rush hours.

Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what man does with what happens to him” –  Aldous Huxley.

Anger Management Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 3 of 4)

Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 3)
If you feel that your anger is getting out of hand, and is damaging your relationships, and you are acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, explore how you can implement any and preferably all of the following. They fall into categories: expressing, calming or repressing.

Calming and repressing the anger involve taking care of yourself, building up your tolerance for frustration and changing your mindset, like maintaining a positive outlook. Expressing the anger means reviewing the way you communicate your anger.
Acknowledge you might need to learn how to manage your anger.
Listen if more than one person around you tell you that you have a problem. You are either angry too often or in too big a burst, or both. Let this mature in you, and organize to deal with it.


Express the anger: Learn techniques for assertiveness
There’s an art to saying no and not letting little things blow out of proportion. Assertiveness is about being self-assured without aggressiveness, that is stating your boundaries, needs, and rights firmly enough, without ever disrespecting the other by ignoring their rights and needs. In essence, you express negative feelings in an appropriate way. Some of us believe that assertiveness and aggressiveness are the same things. Not so. Plenty of social and communication training skills are available out there to teach you assertiveness such as CBT, conflict management, anger management and more. By being assertive, you do not build frustration and resentment; you do not bottle up upset. In turn, you won’t blow up later.
Calm the anger: slow down.
When you’re angry, you can’t think properly, and you can’t express yourself properly. Being assertive, that is expressing your boundaries, expectations and disappointments only happen when you have a measure of calm. You can choose to leave a situation immediately, as soon as you see it develop. You can also learn to slow down and relax over the long term and train yourself to remain calm:
There are plenty of tips for mindfulness and quick relaxation on the net, and books to teach you relaxation techniques. Here are some:
• Using the power of the breath is immensely helpful. Breathe deeply, and slowly, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won’t help. Picture your breath coming up from your stomach area.
• Slowly repeat a word or phrase such as “relax,” “breathe,” “let go,” “take it easy.” Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply until you feel calmer.
• Visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
• Practice gentle, nonstrenuous yoga-type exercises to relax your muscles.
• Check your pulse regularly: first, know your baseline or rest rate. If you exceed 90 beats per minutes without doing any exercise, chances are you are building up to an explosion. In that case, practice the above exercises.

Relaxation techniques also allow you to develop empathy through mindfulness or consciousness of what is going on around you. Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you’re in a tense situation.
Calm the anger: Change the way you think.

Thinking gets exaggerated when you’re angry.

• Replace self-talk such as “this is terrible, “awful”, “ruining the day” by words and thoughts such as “it is frustrating.”, “I’m upset about it.”, “it is not the end of the world,” and so on.
• Remove the words “always” and “never” from your speech. These words help you justify your anger but are hardly ever true. So instead of “this *#$ car never works,” choose “the car’s not working.” And instead of “you’re always late”, select “you are late.” The previous sentence alienates and humiliates people. The latter states a fact.
• Remember this mantra: “getting angry is not going to fix anything”.
• Remind yourself: “ no the world is not out to get me. I am just going through a rough spot. “
• Remember that when angry, you are demanding that things go your way. You want fairness, appreciation, agreement, in essence, you must obtain what you want. Is this “always” a rational expectation? We all want that, but, we also know that we may be disappointed as not all our desires can be met at all times.
• Interrupt your thought cycles. Anger start when a small situation is blown out of proportion. Ask yourself: “am I giving it too much importance?” Smile at the situation when you realize you have overblown it.

Express or calm the anger: Journaling.
• To stop the anger from taking hold, you need to know your triggers, what events or persons cause you to react. An event (trigger) brings an emotion (anger) and thoughts (such as measuring the unfairness of the moment), which in turn lead to behavior (screaming, etc.).
• Write down what was happening around you every time you got angry. The more you know about the causes, the more you can act.

Calm the anger: Interrupt your anger cycle.

• Practice slow breathing as soon as you feel your tension rise. Don’t breathe deeper, but longer than usual inhales and exhales. Breathe from the diaphragm, not the chest ( the latter is too shallow).
• Take 3 to 20 minutes to do a physical activity. A brisk walk is enough.
• Distract yourself.
• Ask yourself: does this situation truly require my attention and my energy? (most of the outbursts start with a very small thing)

Calm the anger: Problem Solving
Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very real problems in our lives. Anger, in that case, is often a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. Not every problem has a solution, so don’t add to your frustrations by seeking a solution that doesn’t exist.
Instead of focusing on finding the solution, concentrate on how you handle and face the problem. Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. Resolve to give it your best, but do not punish yourself if you can’t solve the issue immediately.

Next > Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 4)



Anger Management Strategies for keeping anger at bay (part 2 of 4)

 What we’re told about anger – the myths.

“Getting angry is destructive and harmful”.
We believe that we will be damaging to a person or a relationship. Anger is the way to make a person take notice that you have a grievance. Anger is natural and can be an appropriate response, that is justified if you are betrayed, physically attacked, or subject to major social injustice.
→ Express your complaint immediately, as it happens if you can refrain from blowing up. Otherwise, wait a bit. Say “ I feel angry, when…..” or “I feel angry, because…..”. It will feel less destructive to the other as it does not involve tantrums, punching or shouting.

“Anger and love don’t mix”.
Hence you would believe that you should never feel anger toward someone you love. We can be angry at our love ones. What matters is to be firm, assertive about the grievance.

“If I show my anger, I’ll destroy her.”
People who appear frail and unable to cope with your burst might be manipulating you. You think they can’t deal with it. This is seldom so (unless of course, you express your anger destroying things, or the person is seriously raw on a particular topic). This might lead you to bottle up anger or to show your resentment at this situation through passive aggressive actions.
→ Express the anger to open the reality of your relationship with the other person. Subsequent anger will be less explosive.

“Getting angry is not the proper way to behave.”
This is impossible. We are biologically wired for anger. We need to express it when felt. The real question here is “how will I express that I am angry in a proper way”?
→ if your grievance is genuine, anger brings it to the notice of others. If properly handled it then leads to a resolution of the problem through discussion.

“If I allow myself to get angry, I might lose control and cause injury.”
Expressing anger directly does not necessarily lead to catastrophic results. Permitting the release of this emotion allows you to get in touch with it and less frightened by it, leading to better control over it.
-→ if your grievance is appropriate, express it. Assess the magnitude of its expression and how it is expressed (e.g., does it lead you to criticize or diminish the other?) Self-control is everything, which means to have the ability to calm down, on your own.

“If I get angry, they will retaliate.”
This is a childhood belief from seeing adults express anger and punish you.
→ Not likely to happen in adulthood unless you are dealing with a disordered or vindictive person.

“If I get angry, they will behave.”
No relationship ever can be based on fear. If you use anger to manipulate another into submission, people will avoid you.

“If I get angry, I’ll be rejected.”
A negative response to your anger does not imply reject.
→ While negative reaction might happen in a social or work relationship, an indication of closeness with a partner is their acceptance of who you are as a real person.

“We inherit anger”.
It doesn’t matter if dad or mom were angry people. You might have been born with a more reactive temper. This is not the issue. Anger is a learned behavior and can be changed.

Next: Being Angry without being destructive – Strategies for keeping anger at bay. (part 3)