Your anger always gets the best of you. No matter how hard you try, it seems you’re always blowing up. It comes from nowhere. One minute you’re fine, listening to your spouse, and the next, the dog has traipsed mud through the living room and you're screaming at your wife to get him under control.
Or you’ve lashed out at your partner one time too many, frightening her to the point where she fears for her safety and has called the police. She doesn’t want you to go to jail, nor does she want social services involved, but she is desperate for you to get your anger under control.
Or, your husband is researching Anger Management courses for you. The police have told you you need to attend one or else you’ll be at risk of having access to your child restricted.
These are all stories of clients of mine. I’ve changed the details slightly to protect their identity, but the essence of their stories is the same.
They each recognised they had anger issues, but they seemed manageable. They didn’t want to reach out for help – until things went too far and landed them in a lot of trouble.
Anger Management is one of my specialities and I worked with all these clients to help them beat their anger. I typically use a 5-step process to guide people through their journey to becoming irritation free. It’s essential to cover every step even if some steps resonate with more people than with others.
Anger can be overcome. It doesn’t have to be a problem for life.
You can beat it. You don’t have to live in fear, wondering when your next outburst will be or continually worrying if you’ll go too far the next time. I know this, as I’ve seen many clients make this journey.
You can too.
Step 1: Forget About the Truth
In Ireland there is a beautiful saying, “There are three truths: my truth, your truth and the truth.”
When you stop and look at the big picture, you can see things from other people’s perspectives, which are often entirely different from your own.
The inability to step back in this way almost guarantees you will carry a heavy burden of anger with you through life.
When you can’t see circumstances through other people’s eyes, you may experience them as threatening – and react to the danger with anger.
You’ll react before you have taken the time to see what is happening in each situation. You’ll jump to conclusions and say hurtful words that can’t be taken back.
Instead, remember the words: “Back Off.”
It’s an anagram that goes like this:
B - Breathe
A - Adapt
C - Calm Down
K – Keep Cool
O – Organise Your Thoughts
F – Feel Your Feelings
F – Forgive Yourself and the Other Person
'Back Off' is crucial as you most likely tend to deal with situations while you are still in a hyper-aroused emotional state. This first step of Anger Management makes you stop, step back and take time out before acting in the heat of the moment.
Give yourself breathing space and time to think through the potential consequences of your actions.
When you start to feel anger remember – BACK OFF.
Step 2: Find Shades of Grey
Opinions are not facts and trying to impose them on others is aggressive and abusive. Your thoughts are your subjective realities based on our own life experiences, belief system, values, and judgments. They are not universal truths and they are neither right nor wrong.
Anger often results from having rigid values, ideas, and beliefs about how you think others should be, or about how you should be, or life should be.
Your thinking may be black and white. You may experience events as either right or wrong, positive or negative, good or bad. There’s no room for a middle ground and shades of grey.
If you’re struggling with this second step, try remembering the following statements when you’re in the heat of conflict:
•I don’t have to defend my point of view and win the argument.
•I don’t have to let someone else’s opinion irritate me.
•Our differences of opinion do not need to affect our relationship.
•We can agree to disagree.
•Opinions are not facts.
If you can do this, it’ll help you ride the initial indignation you feel and stop you from confronting the other. You’ll recognise that however wrong someone might be in your eyes, they have a right to their view.
Step 3: Learn a New Skill
Listening is one of the crucial requirements of Anger Management. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. You’re not taking in accurate information that enables you to make sense of the situation.
Listening is an art. We all know how difficult it is to listen to someone when we feel angry with them – particularly when your primal instinct has been activated and your body is preparing for fight or flight.
When you’re in this state, you hear what is spoken through a filter of fear or anger, with the result that you make up what the person is saying rather than hearing what is actually said.
The angrier we become, the more difficult it is to hear the other person accurately and remain empathetic and open-minded.
Here are some of the critical components of being a good listener:
•Good listeners concentrate.
•Good listeners are open-minded.
•Good listeners try to stay calm.
•Good listeners try to understand before sharing their opinion.
•Good listeners ask questions.
Good listening is a skill and takes practice. You won’t get it right straight away. Over time, with a bit of effort, though, it’s possible to improve. Next time you feel your anger rising, “Back Off” and use the time to listen to what the other person is saying.
Step 4: Make Foreign Friends
Your support network is a group of people that you can call on when you need to talk so that your anger doesn’t get out of control. You can visit, call, text, or email them. They are the people that will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear.
It is essential to have a support network if you want to befriend your anger and build healthy relationships in your life. After all, when you’re faced with a lifetime of destructive and self-sabotaging habits, you need all the help you can get.
When you’re going into meltdown, it helps to know that there are people in your life who represent an anchor to sanity.
One of the primary reasons why people continue to struggle with their anger is that they do not have enough emotional support to enable them to come to grips with their anger in the moment.
When you’re angry, you tend to frighten people away, thus becoming insulated and depressed – which are two more activators for anger. It becomes a vicious cycle.
How about this?
Make a list of eight people you can ask for support. It is essential to consider that anger issues don’t always occur between 9 AM and 5 PM, so choose someone you can ring at 3 AM. Consider recruiting anger buddies who live overseas, so you can ring them late at night without getting them out of bed.
Don’t try to beat anger alone, get the support you need.
Step 5: Keep an Anger Management Journal
Journaling about your experiences of conflict is another powerful way to de-escalate your anger and bring it into proportion. It’s a space where you can express your feelings safely.
Defining how you feel is vital. Sometimes you wake up happy, sometimes grumpy, and sometimes you’re unsure how you feel. But you can choose how you’ll experience each day and, if necessary, change your attitude accordingly.
This takes practice but it’s worth the effort. You’ll find your days more balanced and relationships more harmonious as a result.
Avoiding your feelings doesn’t change anything. Writing about your feelings is a great way to explore them – a process that is essential if you’re to accept and heal yourself. When you look directly at your feelings, you’re less likely to feel overwhelmed by them. You learn to handle them and thus increase your emotional literacy.
You can keep your journal on a simple notepad or even on a tape. You don’t have to write in it every day; instead, use it as and when you need to. Nor do you need to write pages – although you can if you find it useful. Some people find it beneficial to write down all the details of their experiences with anger. Your journal is a way of logging what’s happening in your life and how you feel about it.
It can be hard to get started, but once you get into the habit of writing, you’ll soon realise what a useful tool it can be.
Beat Your Anger
A leopard can change its spots.
Even if you’ve had a lifetime of being angry and blowing up when you don’t need to, it’s possible to change your ways. I know this, as I’ve helped many clients conquer their anger.
Anger Management isn’t easy, especially at first, but it can be taught and learnt.
In my Anger Management sessions with clients, the above 5 steps are just some of the tools and techniques we discuss. Read through them again and select 1 or 2 that might be suitable for you and give them ago. Reach out if you have any queries.
I’ve worked with many Anger Management clients now and would be happy to share my experience. To ask any questions, book a free 15-min consultation online, or by calling 01733 639 040.
You don’t have to be blowing up at the smallest thing. You don’t have to be continually regretting your outbursts and causing distress to those you love. You don’t have to live in fear that your children may be taken from you.
It’s time to beat your anger.
Decide on your next step and take it today. You’ll be glad you did.