Anger Management versus Anger Choice

I was thinking the other day about when and why people come to see me for anger management, and how I actually dislike saying “I teach Anger Management”.  I would rather call it something like Anger Choice, because that is how I prefer to see it: I want to help people have more choice about when and how they choose to express their anger.   I’ve said it before, there is nothing wrong with anger; it’s an emotion we have that let’s us know our needs are not being met.  It’s how we deal with our anger that can get in the way of what we want.

Present Stimulus versus Past Triggers

When we get triggered and frustrated over something that happens and we react in anger we can sometimes surprise people with our reaction.  Have you ever had the experience of others being surprised and baffled about your anger outburst?  That’s probably a good indication that the anger is a personal trigger and may not have a lot to do with what is currently happening.  Something in the present stimulated something in us that triggered a reaction.  Have you ever stopped to think about what might have been really happening?  Stepping back from our reaction can allow us the ability to see what else might be going on.  When we react so quickly we aren’t allowing ourselves the time and space to see what may actually be happening.  Often it can be a mixture of old hurts that add fuel to present circumstances and amplify them out of proportion.  Later when we calm down we often see we over reacted.

Space, Time and Breath

Giving ourselves space and time can help us have a clearer perspective.  When we have a clearer perspective we can make choices about how we want to respond rather than react.  Typically, we will have a better chance for getting seen and heard when we aren’t so reactive.  The irony is that often when we are yelling it’s because we don’t feel heard and understood and yet the act of yelling at someone and blaming them does the opposite of what we want-it usually results in the other person blocking and defending and not listening to us at all.

Creating more choice in handling our anger takes work, especially if we have spent years reacting in particular ways.  However, if we start doing things like noticing when we are starting to get irritated and making a choice to take a breath or stop and check in with what is really happening for us in the moment, it can help to bring perspective.  Remember the saying “Would you rather be right than happy?”  Or “Would you rather be right than loving?”  It’s a great question to ask ourselves, especially when dealing with our loved ones.