Controlling anger means being able to decrease anger when it is inappropriate, unjustified, or uncontrolled. However, it also means being able to increase anger when it is appropriate, justified, and controlled. However, the increased level of anger must strictly controlled or it may become a liability rather than an asset.
Ways to decrease anger
Some ways to decrease anger include:
Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, may help calm angry feelings. Some simple steps you may try are:
- Deep breathing. Breathing deeply from your diaphragm will relax you while breathing from your chest will not. Picture your breath going down into and then coming up from your abdomen.
- Repeating a mantra. Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax" or "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
- Using imagery. Visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
- Exercising. Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel calmer.
Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that reflect their inner thoughts in an exaggerated, overly dramatic way. Try replacing these thoughts with more rational ones. Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix anything and that it will not make you feel better and may make you feel worse.
Be careful of words like "never" or "always" when talking about yourself or someone else. The words are inaccurate, and they serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there is no way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.
Logic defeats anger because anger, even when it is justified, may quickly become irrational. So, use cold, hard logic on yourself. Remind yourself that the world is "not out to get you;" you are just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life.
Angry people tend to demand things, such as fairness, appreciation, and agreement. Everyone wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when we do not get them, but angry people demand them, and, when their demands are not met, their disappointment becomes anger. Angry people need to become aware of their demanding nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other words, try saying, "I would like" instead of saying "I demand," or "I must have." Then when you are unable to get what you want, you will experience the normal reactions of frustration, disappointment, and hurt—but not anger.
Sometimes, anger and frustration are caused by very real and inescapable problems in our lives, so they are natural responses to these difficulties. However, not every problem has a solution. Sometimes the best thing to do is not to focus on finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem. Make a plan, resolve to give it your best, and check your progress along the way, but do not punish yourself if an answer does not come immediately.
Angry people tend to jump to conclusions and most of those conclusions are inaccurate. The first thing to do if you are in a heated discussion is to slow down, don't say the first thing that comes into your head. Think through your responses. At the same time, listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time before answering.
It is natural to get defensive when you are criticized, but do not get angry, instead, listen to what is being said and to the intent of the words. If it is constructive criticism, take it to heart; if it is hurtful criticism, deal with it in a rational, calm manner.
"Silly humor" may give you a more balanced perspective. When you get angry and want to call someone a name, stop, and picture in your mind how that word would look in action. Instead of calling the person a bitch, picture in your mind the person as a dog running around in heat. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury.
Angry people tend to feel that they are morally right, that any blocking or changing of their plans is an unbearable indignity and that they should not have to suffer. When you feel that urge, picture yourself as a god or goddess, always having your way in all situations while others defer to you. The more detail you can get into your imaginary scenes, the more chances you have to realize that maybe you are being unreasonable.
Be cautious in using humor. Do not try to "laugh off" your problems; rather, use humor to help yourself face them more constructively. Also, do not use harsh, sarcastic humor; it is just another form of unhealthy anger expression.
Change your environment
Sometimes it is our immediate surroundings that give us cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities may weigh on you and make you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen into and all the people and things that form that trap. Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some personal time scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly stressful.
If you find you tend to get angry at certain times, try changing the times when you talk about important matters, so these talks do not turn into arguments. If certain things tend to make you angry, avoid them as much as possible or find alternatives.
When something makes you angry, ask yourself
- Is there sufficient evidence to back up the interpretation you have made of the event that is angering you?
- Is there another way of looking at this event? Try to entertain one or two other explanations for what you have interpreted as "deliberate provocation."
- Will it amount to anything three hours from now?
- What will the outcome be? Thinking of potential outcomes of our actions is not easy, much less when you are in a state of anger. Anger is by nature "single-minded." Extreme anger almost always has negative outcomes.
- Where is the other person coming from? Anger creates cognitive myopia. Symptomatic of anger is a narrowing of focus on what we perceive as injustice. Therefore, it is more difficult to empathize with others when we are angry. Force yourself to empathize EARLY before anger is out of control. Even just momentarily considering the validity of the other person's feelings can be enough to ebb anger to the extent that it is manageable.
If you think your anger is out of control or if it is having an impact on your relationships and important parts of your life, you might consider professional counseling to learn how to handle it better.
When to get angry
As stated above, anger helps us survive. When it becomes necessary, we need to be able to get angry and use that anger to defend ourselves or others.
When you are physically attacked, get angry, but don't go into a rage and lose control of yourself, just get mad at the attacker. Tell yourself that this person is trying to hurt you and you are not going to allow that to happen. Don't worry about why the person is trying to hurt you or whether the person had an abusive childhood, lost their job, is drunk or on drugs, is mentally ill, or has been discriminated against. Your only concern is stopping the person from harming you. If the attacker gets harmed in the process, that is their fault.
The martial arts help their practitioners use anger responsibly. Martial arts training helps us control anger by training us not to get angry over trivial things. It teaches us when anger is necessary and how to use to accomplish good.
- American Psychological Association. [Online]. Available: http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/anger.html