5 Positive Tips For Dealing With Anger
(Credit: iStockphoto/Thomas Perkins)
Think about the last time you were really angry—I mean punch-a-hole-in-the-wall angry. You know, the kind of anger where you want to scream at the person or offending thing, and you vent to anyone who will listen. Maybe you had a moment of road rage, were betrayed by a loved one, or angry at yourself, or someone you love was hurt.
I recently read an article about a man who came home to an apartment that his puppy destroyed in his absence. He was attempting to bathe the energetic dog and ended up punching the dog in the face repeatedly until he killed the dog. Most of us don’t take things to that extreme, but we all experience anger that we allow to affect our actions and our logical thought process, and most importantly, our inner peace.
Ask yourself, what was accomplished by your angry words, actions, or thoughts? Did it resolve the problem, improve relations, help the other person “see the light”, or magically make you feel peaceful and calm? When we are honest with ourselves, we can agree that the vast majority of the time, the things we say and do when angry create more problems and accomplish nothing. As a-matter-of-fact, we allow anger to rob us of our peace. Can we excuse actions and words simply because we were angry?
There are many times when anger is justified. In fact, emotions, including anger, are gifts that put us on alert and tell us it is time to start putting our minds and thoughts on what is happening to trigger these feelings. It is how we respond to anger (or any other emotion) that may be unjustified or simply wrong. Responding appropriately requires maturity, selflessness, and rational thinking.
So, how can we experience the natural emotion of anger without acting in a way that we will or should eventually regret? This is the hard part, right? Here are some tips or ideas that lend themselves to appropriate anger responses and can help maintain logical thought and inner calm.
1) Avoid quick or automatic responses. Think before you act. Reflex responses typically include lashing out either physically or verbally. Keep quiet and do nothing until you can process what just happened and what the best way to respond may be.
2) Ask yourself “Why am I angry?” Often, the answer to this question is actually another emotion. Maybe you are hurt, feeling out of control, frightened, surprised, inconvenienced, frustrated, or a plethora of other possibilities. Before you can decide how to respond, you need to know what the source of your anger truly is. A sample response may be “I am angry because I am hurt.” Then, explore why you are hurt. Maybe what was said or done was insulting, or the car that cut you off frightened or inconvenienced you.
3) Alter your perspective. Ask yourself how serious this situation is in the grand scheme of life. My father used to tell me all the time, “Is this a hill to die on?” Can I just overlook the insult, let it go, or ignore the comment/action? Maybe it is serious. Consider the perspective of the other party or entity. Can you be certain about their intentions? This is an interesting question because it is a win-win for you. We can never know all the factors that are in play in others. If their intentions are honorable and they were simply careless or unaware, letting it go is the obvious choice, though, in a calmer moment, perhaps you could discuss the matter with them and share your own perspective respectfully. If their intentions, in your estimation, are not honorable and causing you anger/hurt/etc. was the goal, you want to keep the power to control your emotions yourself, so the logical choice is to forgive and let go also. Maybe they are acting in anger, or are distracted by some battle they are fighting in their own lives right now. Have compassion for the other person, even if you don’t think they deserve it, as they are human too. Forgiveness is a powerful tool and it does more for you than for the offending party.
4) Avoid dwelling on the negative aspects of the situation. Anytime we dwell on the negative, we create a downward spiral into misery. Things get worse and bigger and before we know it, we have recalled a multitude of other offenses to add to the tally. Processing through the situation is very different than dwelling on the negative. Be careful.
5) Delay responding to the situation or reacting until you have had adequate time to process, are confident you have a calm mind, and know you can respond unemotionally and in a manner that is productive. Firing off an email or text message immediately does not work very well in my experience. The same is true for debating the topic immediately. If the situation requires an immediate response, consider saying: When do you need my response to this? I need to think about this. Can we talk later? Maybe you need to take a day or even a few days because you are so emotional when you think about it. Take as long as you need, but don’t procrastinate. The situation will usually not disappear. If you are unable to truly let it go, you MUST address it. No one can hold on to anger or hurt without addressing it and avoid serious consequences to themselves and others.
This is certainly not a complete list of ideas or options, but it is a start. If one’s goals include self- love, self-acceptance, self-improvement, to have healthy relationships, to experience forgiveness and healing, and to have inner peace and a calm mind, one has to learn how to control anger. Remember your emotions and feelings are yours alone, as are your words and actions. Use them with extreme caution.
Elisa Pokorney has a B.S. in psychobiology and an M.S. in Special Education. She is a high school special education math teacher and athletic coach. Elisa lives in Southern California with her husband Tony their two canine children, Wimbley Sue and Lola Mae. She enjoys any outdoor activity–especially hiking and gardening–cooking, and painting.