Is your temper getting you into physically violent situations and trouble with the authorities? Are work relationships deteriorating and your performance suffering from your anger? Are you feeling like you can’t control your temper? Maybe even avoiding people or situations because you know you’ll lose control? Do your family, colleagues or partner walk around on pins and needles when you’re around?
If these sound like you, anger management is likely something you should consider sooner rather than later. There are techniques and actions you can implement to learn to control your anger. Your anger may, in fact, be a substitute for other emotions such as shame, fear, insecurity or embarrassment. It may be a defence against vulnerability. Seek the support of an experienced psychologist to co-create a customized anger management plan and to provide you with some objective feedback.
Recurring anger is a sign that something in your life is out of balance. Often, one area of your life (career, finances, family) is overemphasized while other areas (health, intimacy, time for self) are neglected. Escapism through addictive or impulsive behaviours with alcohol, drugs, food, sex, and shopping may be in place to help you cope or take the edge off. However, as you likely already know, these are only temporary mood elevators and bring with them a host of other self-directed emotions – fear, frustration, anxiety, stress.
Learning how to manage and express your anger constructively is important in creating less volatility in your life. Understanding the sources or triggers for your anger is an effective anger management strategy. How much of your anger results from your own thoughts, perceptions and beliefs? Maybe you are holding the bar and expectations so high for yourself and others that failure is a likely outcome and so you have a ‘reason’ to be angry. You may have a habit of imagining the worst and getting yourself into a state of anxiousness rather than looking at what’s realistic and most likely to occur. When the focus is external and on people or events you cannot control or influence, then frustration is easily triggered.
When you bring your focus internal to yourself and on those things that you can control, your ability to influence and manage your reactions successfully increases. Things within your span of control include learning the real source of your anger and behaviour. It could be from a traumatic event or learned behaviour from when you were young. Figure out what events, people, places, sounds, scents trigger you and avoid them. Know your triggers and warning signs that your anger is brewing. These might include clenching your teeth, withdrawing from the conversation, tensing, pacing and increased heart rate. The symptoms are unique for everyone. Learn what yours are and use these cues to manage your anger proactively. Create a list of cooldown methods that work for you and keep them handy – perhaps in your phone or in your wallet – until you use them regularly and automatically. Some methods include stopping and counting to 10 or 20 or 100 – whatever it takes for you to feel the pressure release. Going for a walk or run. Stepping away from the situation and letting it cool down. Singing works for some. The more successful methods seem to have movement of some sort of a degree of focus that forces you to move your concentration away from the trigger.