Part three in a five-part series on Anger
When anger boils to the surface we feel bold, energetic and strong. Our fists tighten with blood pumping and adrenaline surging -- we are ready to attack! While extreme anger makes us feel "high," it impairs our judgement, foresight and self-control. Is this a state in which you want to act?
Anger is like steam, you can work to harness its energy for something useful, or just let it blow.
It takes inner strength to resist angry urges; you need self-control to use anger wisely. Everyone knows how hard it is to walk away from a good fight. If you can resist acting out your immediate impulses (see suggestions below), the next step is to honestly investigate what has stirred them. Reflecting on what has made you angry offers an opportunity to learn about your needs, values and desires as well as your insecurities and vulnerabilities. Instead of blowing your top, try using your head of steam to motivate constructive change.
Angry feelings shed light on which of your expectations are not being met and what needs changing. Of course, it is really easy to just blame others when you are angry. It's natural to feel that “someone else needs to change.” However, it proves much more constructive to think about what you can do.
Why? It's simply easier to change yourself than it is to change others. This may mean that you avoid or limit certain activities, people or topics. Or that you learn to accept facts about life you’d rather not have to accept. If, after thinking carefully about your anger, you decide you want to express yourself directly - go ahead. Having waited and thought things over, you are more likely to be logical and in control, which should help.
How to use anger's energy to improve your life?
Try using anger to identify problems that need attention, instead of letting it wreck whatever is nearby. Turn the energy generated by overwhelming blasts of anger into fuel to motivate and plan thoughtful change. Here are some pointers to consider when you feel swayed by the wrecking ball of rage:
1. Hit Pause
- Walk away
- Silently count to ten
- Take a deep breath
2. Censor Yourself (for the moment)
- Deflect with another topic
- Make a positive statement
- Be quiet
3. Try to Understand
- What was offensive, belittling or frustrating?
- What was the immediate trigger? (person, behavior, situation, idea, etc)
- What was the underlying trigger? (shame, envy, disgust, etc)
4. What Can You Change?
- Attitudes and expectations: are they realistic?
- Habits and behaviors: are they creating predictable problems?
- Surroundings and people: do you need to exclude or set boundaries
Self restraint followed by careful thought creates time and space to engineer new methods for improving (or avoiding) situations that make you mad. Using anger wisely gives you more control of the direction your life is heading while offering a smoother ride along the way!