People whose lives are ruled by too many shoulds and musts about how life should be or how other people should behave tend to get angry more easily than those who take the position that no one is perfect. When faced with someone who has made a mistake for the first time, do you:
(a) Think you should act in an angry manner so he or she will know not to do it again?
(b) Tend to think that the person may not have realised what he or she was doing?
Those of you who thought (a) was the right reaction are more likely to suffer from a case of “shoulditus”, seeing life in very “all or nothing” terms and believing that people “should” treat you a certain way. You are probably quite an irritable type of person. If this is the case then challenge your thinking – “why should people do what you think is right?” “is there any law that says just because you want something to be a certain way it must be?” Try and develop a more “three strikes and you are out” attitude to life – you will feel much better for it.
If you answered (b) you are more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt and your interactions with people are likely to be productive. You are not a pushover as if someone does something again after you have told them then you would think it a deliberate act and become more assertive in what you say.
The more you can develop a flexible thinking style the less likely you are to experience the unhelpful side effects of anger.
Walk Away, Count to 10 and breathe
When you first start to try and change your angry pattern of behaviour you will need some techniques that you can use to give yourself what could be called “cooling off time”.
Some people will say that they get angry so quickly that they act before they have time to think.If you are one of these people then begin to think about your anger manifests itself. For example, perhaps your very first experience of your anger is when your tummy feels tight, then perhaps your breathing gets faster and then your voice gets louder. The more you monitor yourself the more you are able to recognise what we could call your “early warning” signs. It takes time but you will be able to do it if you monitor yourself.
For example, if you find it too hard to control your anger at the beginning then start by walking away from the situation, taking time to calm down. If you find your tummy tightening then breathe slowly and deeply three or four times and visualise something that makes you feel safe and happy. These strategies have an impact on your biological responses by calming them. Some people find that counting down from 10 in their head also helps, as this is a way of avoiding an instant reaction.
Assertiveness training classes can be really helpful too. For people who are scared of allowing anger to show, such classes can help you develop a way of gaining confidence that you can be angry in an appropriate way. For those where anger is a problem these classes will provide you with additional strategies so you too can use your anger wisely.
Keep an Anger Diary
You may find it useful to keep what is called an “anger diary”. Your diary can be used to monitor any behaviour you wish to change and is used as a way of recording the details of:
- When you become angry
- The triggers for your anger
- How much anger you feel (using the 0 = no anger to 8 = rageful scale)
- What thoughts were going through your mind at the time and what you did
Keeping a diary where you make entries at least once a day for three weeks or more can help you identify any patterns to your feelings and behaviours and the types of situations that trigger your anger. The diary also gives you the opportunity to monitor how well you are dealing with your anger.
Change your lifestyle
Sometimes our lifestyle makes it harder to manage our anger so the more you can develop a healthy lifestyle the more control you will get.
Exercise helps prevent the accumulation of tension and offers a chance to get away from everyday stresses. Relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation have been shown to lower tension and change brainwaves. Make sure you make time to relax and make your environment as comfortable as possible as lack of sleep because you have an uncomfortable bed is likely to be a continual source of aggravation.
Here’s the earlier post: Learn How To Use Your Anger
I hope you have found these strategies helpful – you might also be interested in my book: No More Anger: Be Your Own Anger Management Coach