Anger is one of the most challenging emotions we experience and a lot of us struggle with. It is one of the most difficult to understand and manage. This post addresses simple techniques to better manage your anger and ways to facilitate a healthier way to respond to it. As discussed in my previous post, the concern is not with experiencing anger, it is with understanding what makes you anger, why it makes you angry and how you choose to respond to it. Anger management begins with understanding your anger and what makes you angry. To better understand your anger, refer to my earlier post 'Why Do You Get Angry and How Well Do You Manage It?'.
Let’s look at what does and does not help us manage your anger better:
- Venting DOES NOT help, ever!: Screaming, shouting and reacting in the hope that venting will help us feel better is a myth! Venting your anger only worsens the emotional intensity and does nothing to help. In fact, it may cause more damage to an already difficult situation. Especially if you find it difficult to manage your anger, reacting to it only escalate the feeling and adds fuel to fire.
- Time Out: Learn to catch your early signs of getting angry. Some people may experience tensing of muscles, some may feel an increase in their body temperature, few others may experience their heart racing, some may find themselves get easily irritable etc. Learn to step out of situations where you observe these early signs coming in. Take a time out and calm yourself down before engaging with the situation again.
- Preparing for difficult situations: Know your triggers and the situations you easily feel angry in. Think about how you would ideally like to respond and prepare yourself to respond accordingly. Changing the way you respond to challenging situations also alters the feedback and responses you get from others in the situation. You cannot expect a different outcome if you continue to approach the situation in the same manner as always. Hence, go over the situation, prepare yourself in terms of what you would like to communicate and go over the best possible ways to do so.
- Knowing what you can influence and what you cannot: A lot of anger is experienced in situations where people tend to influence change where no real change can be brought about. This eventually leads to frustration and anger outbursts. An important thing to understand about challenges in life is to know the ones you can really take up to change from the ones where the real challenge is of acceptance. Learn to differentiate between the two.
- Using Distraction: This technique works best in situations where escape is difficult and you know they bother you enough to elicit an unpleasant reaction. Learning to use distraction at such a time can be a very useful technique. Zoning out or thinking about something pleasant or simply focusing on your breathing will help one tolerate being in such a situation and even take away the need to react.
- Being assertive: The biggest problem with managing anger is that people think the only way out is suppression. This cannot be farther from the truth. Suppression of an emotion is as detrimental as its exaggerated and out of control expression. A lot of anger generally emanates from feelings of being treated unfairly, not feeling heard or understood by others. However, lashing out and losing control is definitely not helpful and neither is suppressing the emotion. The healthy way out is learning to be ‘Assertive’ – learning to express one’s dissatisfaction, concern or worries without getting abusive or threatening the other person. It is the ability to set boundaries and learning to say no when required without humiliating the other person, crossing their boundaries or belittling them. This is an important characteristic to learn when managing a challenging emotion like anger.