Sydney Hills Counselling Blog

Anger Management: 10 Tips to Control Your Anger

Anger management

Vince (not his real name) stated resolutely, “Next time this happens, I’ll stay calm. I won’t say things off the cuff that I’ll regret later on. I’ll either hang up the phone, not respond to texts in an aggressive way or hang up the phone before I lose it. I won’t hurt her again….”

If this sounds familiar, perhaps you may be one of many people who despite all good intentions and really wanting to be agreeable, just can’t seem to avoid being triggered into responding with anger when you feel frustrated, become impatient, feel unappreciated or feel that someone has been rude or insensitive towards you.

We all feel angry from time to time and this is far from unusual, and when used productively can help us to set boundaries, communicate how we feel and work towards achieving a mutually satisfactory resolution. Rage, on the other hand, is anger’s out-of-control kinsman and can be dangerous and destructive.

Anger stems from our survival instinct. When we feel threatened, there are two things we can do; we can either run away (flight) or we can ‘attack’ (fight). Anger generally propels us to ‘attack’ our opponent.

If a person feels angry most of the time or if they have a temper which tends to flare up often and quickly, this can be a major concern for them, their family, friends and those they work with.

Anger is a physical, mental, emotional and behavioural reaction to what has affected us; either from something that has happened outside of us or to something that happens within us. When we talk about anger, we usually focus on the behavioural aspect, that is behaviour such as yelling, storming out of the house, slamming doors etc. To manage anger, we need to be aware of what’s happening in our bodies, what’s going on in our minds and how we are feeling; not just in how we express it.

Anger is a reaction to a perceived threat to our self-worth, safety, shelter, intimacy, belongings etc. If you’re feeling angry, it’s important to ask yourself why you are feeling threatened and what is being threatened.

On a positive note, anger can be an adaptive and protective emotion. It helps us to set boundaries with others in our lives. It can help us identify when our needs aren’t being met or when our rights are being violated. Anger drives us to fight back and stand up for ourselves. It helps us to say, “No!” when people make unacceptable demands or try to make us do things we feel uncomfortable with.

Anger can create problems for us, especially in our close relationships. Sometimes anger can be triggered in disproportionate ways to what’s really going on in a situation. There may have been times in our lives when we felt frustrated, powerless or perhaps badly treated. For example, if we were the youngest in our family and our older siblings ordered us around, we may be easily triggered and feel angry with our partner or friends if they order us around, tell us what to do or how to do it.

There are healthy and unhealthy ways to deal with anger. Ignoring our angry feelings can lead to unhealthy feelings of resentment and bitterness. If not expressed in a healthy way, anger can be harmful to ourselves and others.

The goal of anger management is to control our anger, understand our anger and recognise that we may be carrying anger from past experiences and relationships. We’ve all had experiences in our past where significant others have hurt us. If these experiences haven’t been resolved, they can often build up to the point where they become constant triggers for our anger. Anger overload can occur when there’s too many triggers and anything and anyone can trigger an angry outburst. An example of this is when a person may have had a difficult day at work. They come home and a family member says something that irritates or upsets them. Because there has been a build-up of situations that have caused them to feel angry during the day, they explode even though the reason for their anger has nothing to do with the trigger.

The key to anger management is listening, however, let’s face it, listening when we are all fired up can be extremely difficult. Listening is something that comes with practice; lots of it! People generally have a hard time listening. When we’re in an argument with another person, we’re so involved with our own need to express our dissatisfaction and defend ourselves, it’s extremely difficult to focus on what our opponent is saying (or yelling!) to us.

So how can we constructively manage our anger?

Here are 10 tips to help to manage anger in a constructive way.

Pause before you respond:  Saying things in the heat of the moment may lead to you saying things you might regret. If you’re in the room with the person, excuse yourself from the room, go to the bathroom and run your hands under cold water; simple but it works. If you are speaking on the phone, say that you’ll call back later. If leaving the room isn’t an option, find something in the room to focus on, such as a plant. Notice every detail; the colour, shape, container, the way the light hits it etc. If it’s an email or a text message you have received that has ignited your anger, turn your computer or phone off until you cool down.

Take some time out until you have time to calm down before dealing with the situation: Using a ‘time out’, allows the rational part of our brain to determine the best response, rather than letting the more primitive part hijack our thoughts and leave us with a limited, fight-or-flight reaction. Time-outs also allow our adrenaline to subside, helping us to think more clearly. Before you take ‘time out’ tell the other person that this is what you’re doing and that you will come back to them soon. Time out will give you an opportunity to think things through. Take as much as 20 minutes if you have to.

Try a softer introduction: The first few seconds of interacting with someone can produce the outcome of the situation. Being more respectful, keeping your voice softer, and being more controlled will seem non-threatening to the person you are arguing with and they will generally respond in a more positive way towards you.

Avoid criticizing or blaming the other person: Using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements is more effective in resolving angry confrontations.

Set limits and boundaries regarding others’ behaviour towards you: Determine and state what is acceptable and not acceptable; what you will tolerate and what you won’t.

LISTEN to what the other person has to say about the situation: Ask them why they behaved in the way they did or why they said what they said to make you angry. When we listen to the other person, we disarm them, and we may also gain a clearer understanding of why they behaved the way they did. You don’t need to agree with them; however, you can try to see their viewpoint.

Practice relaxation skills: Try some mindfulness exercises, listen to some calming music, do some drawing or go for a walk.

Identify possible solutions to situations which cause you to become angry: For example, if your partner is always leaving clothes scattered around the bedroom, place an open hamper in a place where it’s easy for them to place their worn clothes into.

Don’t hold a grudge: If you allow anger to fester, it can affect a relationship in a negative way. Deal with the situation and once it’s been dealt with, move on and don’t bring it up again.

Seek professional help if anger continues to be a challenge for you: Learning to control anger can be challenging for everyone at times. If, however your anger (or that of a significant other) seems out of control, seek professional help.

A professional, registered counsellor can assist you in determining why you (or a significant other) may be experiencing ongoing anger issues, how it may relate to something that happened in the past and how you can make more positive choices and stop sabotaging your relationships with those you care about. Call Sydney Hills Counselling today on (02) 9159 6277 for a confidential chat to hear how we can help you. You can also email us at [email protected].

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