You may feel sick about what you said. You might be embarrassed by what you did. You may still be anxious, uncertain you won’t fly off the handle again.
It’s okay. You can still make choices that will help you change the way you manage anger.
Learning to manage anger means widening that small space that exists between the triggers of a pressure-cooker lifestyle or relationship problems and the same old unproductive, damaging responses. There is room in that space to choose differently, thoughtfully, and kindly.
Working with a counselor is an excellent way to gain a truer understanding of what causes your conflicts or distress, learn to tune into your body, how to breathe rather than blow up, and process the impact of your response before it gets out of hand.
You can do this. You can choose to turn things around.
First, Determine Why You’re Really Offended
When you are getting angry with your partner, family member, or co-worker can you distinguish what deep, unmet need was pricked by their annoying actions? Can you put your finger on what is really worrying or frustrating you?
It’s okay if this doesn’t come easily. After all, for all this time you believed something or someone external was “making” you angry.
Emotional awareness takes work and commitment. It’s a choice to courageously concentrate inside instead of out. Talking about issues of disappointment, abandonment, resentment, or a lack of acknowledgement can be daunting at first. Persistent uncovering, sharing, and valuing of the emotions connected to some of your unmet needs provides a more productive release, reducing the need to lash out so spontaneously.
Self-examination and reflection lead to valuable insights, clearer thinking, and healthier responses. It also helps you communicate your needs in ways that build trust and safety in your interactions. Soon, you’ll find you can better resist the impulse to blame or berate another person for letting you down.
Second, Learn to Take a Break, Breathe, and Back Away
When anger starts to rise inside you, something important is happening in your body. Deciding to pay attention to the telltale signs of out of control anger may make all the difference in how intensely you respond to aggravation. What happens to your breath, your muscles, or your pulse when you’re angry?
Likewise, you can use this awareness to teach your body new, calming techniques meant to abbreviate the anger response. Learning to mentally break from the tension and breathe deeply gives you the presence of mind to physically back away if necessary, to get a hold of your emotions, and to safely assess the situation. Choosing to be aware and in control of your body will play a significant role in your ability to be responsible, respectful of others, and kind to yourself in moments of anger.
Third, Accept Responsibility and Communicate Compassionately
The healthy space between trigger and reaction is also where you can choose to resist blaming and judging. You can own your part in the tension and empathize with the other party. That knee-jerk anger response becomes less automatic as you work to develop new perspectives and habits.
Accepting responsibility will help ease the regret and frustration as you open avenues for communication. Cultivating compassion will interrupt the aggression and change the way you see and hear other people.
Anger management is a life skill, one you can choose to learn. It may be hard to imagine right now, but you can change how you manage the pressures, irritations, and offenses in your life.
Anger can be put its proper place and you can regain control.
by Laura Olsen