Human emotions are key to our well-being, whether they are positive or negative.
Even though, many times, we want to get rid of the negative emotions because they can become a barrier to our happiness and well-being. For example, anger in its worst form can be destructive. Anger can lead to property damage, domestic violence, and even loss of life in extreme cases.
Any kind of pain, whether emotional or physical, is a sign that something is off.
Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with anger. Growing up my mother, she was abusive to me, not just verbally and emotionally, but physically as well. As a child to my teenage years, I felt helpless, and at times I would fight with my mom. Sadly, at other times, I would get depressed and scared. I never learned how to soothe myself. As a result, I became a people pleaser until I was in my 30’s. It was then that I was finally able to get professional help and start the healing process.
This personal journey inspired me to become a psychotherapist myself. Over the last 15 years, I have helped countless clients to heal and learn about handling anger in more effective and less damaging ways.
Here are 3 Common Ways of Handling Anger:
Escalating is an aggressive style of coping with anger, and it can become a quite heated and extreme reaction to a particular situation. It can lead to physical destruction. It can hurt relationships, and even spur on legal problems. It’s obviously not healthy. The same could be said for stuffing, which I’ll explain next.
Stuffing is a passive style of coping with anger. Basically, one doesn’t allow themselves to express anger openly, perhaps out of fear of confrontation and/or negative consequences. Many times, people fear being disliked. Also, many people have been taught that it’s not ok to be angry. Unexpressed anger can also lead to mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and gastrointestinal issues (this is precisely what has happened to me).
The only effective and healthy way forward is properly managing your anger. This refers to an open, honest, and direct expression of what’s bothering you, without any name-calling, yelling or getting defensive. We all know that’s easier said than done, however, just like most things in life, it takes practice.
Here are some helpful and practical tips:
- Remind yourself that anger is a normal human emotion, just know HOW to express yourself properly. For example, use “I” statements like, “when you come home late without telling me, I feel upset.”
- Consider what specific event or situation caused your anger and if the timing is good right then to discuss your concerns.
- Set a specific time limit for your anger discussion.
- Pay attention to your body language. Recognize your anger early, for example, pay attention to your body (feeling hot, tight muscles, shortness of breath).
- Avoid attacking or blaming.
- Check for possible compromises or solutions.
- Think about your reaction and if it is appropriate to the current situation. If you find yourself extremely upset, it probably has to do with your past, possibly even your childhood.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing.
- Utilize guided meditation/visualization, such as visiting your safe place (the beach or the mountains).
- Take time to exercise. The chemicals released during exercise create a sense of relaxation and happiness.
In their book, The Cow in the Parking Lot, A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger, by Leonard Scheff and Susan Edmiston, on pages 134-135 they encourage us to RESPOND as opposed to REACT. The authors provide us with several steps and tips to master this approach:
- Make space before speaking or responding. It also helps to take a few deep breaths to calm down.
- Check the face and body of the person you are speaking to. Watch for any signs that person has calmed down and they are open to hearing what you have to say.
- Consider the consequences of not doing anything. Many times, we react, and the consequences might be severe.
- Think about what assumptions you are making and consider your part in creating the problem.
- Respect and empathize with both your own boundaries, values, and limitations, and those of the other person.
- Speak with the right attitude and pay attention to not only what you say, but also how you say it.
- Make a conscious decision to not take revenge.
I would also add that if the discussion becomes too heated, you need to both agree to take a time-out and continue when you both have had a chance to calm down and re-evaluate the situation.
Want to learn more ways of handling anger? I invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation with me or call 561-299-1028.