Emotions are a key part of the human experience. Some of the most “troublesome” of which include guilt, anger and despair.
As a facilitator of an anger management course for 16-25 year olds, I’ve picked up a few tips in managing this emotion, and wanted to share these insights with you, as redefining our world isn’t confined to just looks or the way we speak to ourselves.
Although this post will focus on anger, the tips could be used to control any emotion.
Firstly, I need to explain three things, so that we’re all on the same page:
- Anger is a neutral emotion: although your action may have a positive or negative moral value, the feeling itself is neutral.
- Anger is a useful emotion – giving you extra power when you need to fight or flee in dangerous situations (or in this day and age, letting you know that something is wrong and in protecting your values / world-view).
- Anger cannot be removed entirely (and there is no need to try). However, we can manage it. This means you minimise how often you act upon it and to what degree you act.
Okay, now that’s understood, here are a few points for managing your anger.
Dealing with Feeling
The feeling itself is most people’s first point of call; so that’s where we can begin. After a bit of training, we can find the gap before you get to anger; but for now, I’m going to talk about when you’re in that state of anger or high annoyance (or any highly charged emotion).
The example I use during the course is “I’m on the bus, trying to read my book, and someone’s on the phone loudly. I cannot concentrate on the words of my book when someone is practically yelling a conversation from the other end of the bus.”
My old response would be to huff and give evil glares at the people, while trying desperately to read through it – why should I not be allowed to do what I want? I’m not harming anyone.
As I took the course and then began co-leading it, my response has changed. There are a few options that will lead to a new response in your anger-provoking situation:
Question this behaviour.
“Why” are they doing this?
- In what circumstances would you be on the phone and not care if people heard or got upset? What about if some emergency had happened?
- If you were in the middle of a massive argument that could lose you your husband, kids, career or house; would you care about one person on the bus reading a book?
- Perhaps it’s just a cultural difference in what’s seen as rude?
- Perhaps they have hearing difficulties?
They’re not talking loudly to annoy me, but because they’re engaged in their activity. It’s almost never personal.
Similarly, when someone cuts you up on the road, could they be rushing to the hospital or in a blind panic at missing their parent’s last moments? Could they be late for a meeting that could earn/lose them a million pounds? Are they possibly so swamped with work they might lose their house?
Question #1: What could be happening in their lives to cause this behaviour?
Choose To Not Be Right
- They are going to talk no matter what. I’m choosing not to confront them or give in to the anger. Thus something my end has to change.
- What’s the view behind this?
Most views come under a core belief about the world and how people should behave. Try to find the view that links your triggers together. Then we can look at shifting it for this particular moment.
For me, it’s the fact that I value people being free to do something as long as it does not negatively impact another person. For example, my reading doesn’t impact anyone. Their phone-call does.
- While these people break this view of mine, I feel annoyed for the people who are being affected; myself included.
However, I can either understand that this is my view; not one everyone will hold / have thought about, and accept that it’s not the only view.
Or I can think about creating a new view. Once I decided that I didn’t want to be upset with people who were in a hurry, I tried to change the view I held.
For example, I believe that all people face the same amounts of struggle/ suffering. The things that hurt them may not hurt me, and vice versa; so I need to remember that today, they could be in pain. If someone is sad, is it worth huffing to tell them they’ve upset me as well? Maybe they’ve got enough on their plate.
That’s a spiritual belief of mine that has no proof whatsoever. But it helps me to let go of anger. While it works in that role, I’m keeping it.
Similarly, it’s unlikely that every car to cut me up is in a serious life/death rush; but by choosing to believe they are; I stop anger before it even develops.
Am I holding to the views they’re breaking?
If they’re having a good time on the phone to their best friend; am I not negatively impacting on them by giving them the evil looks?
Question #2: What views could I create or alter to allow this to pass by and not cause me more pain? What is this view that’s being violated here?
When In the Moment, Get Out of the Moment
Even the counsellor who runs these sessions with me gets angry and loses it sometimes.
Most of anger management is done before the moment arrives; in not letting situations escalate, or not letting the feeling itself bubble over the top of your volcano.
However, no one is immune to getting angry and seeing the “red haze” or whatever you would term it.
In this case, you want to focus on getting out of the moment; either physically moving away form the situation or taking your thought and emotional processes away from the cause of the anger.
- Counting to ten and back to one is a good creator of space in a situation.
- Walking away is also a good one (maybe go for that walk/run).
- Cleaning’s another good one to get the anger out safely.
Question #3: What do you do when anger brews? What could you do to stop that trigger from continuing to bother you? Can you remove it, stop thinking about it, walk away from it?
- Open yourself to other perspectives.
- Don’t take it personally.
- People are private. You don’t know what they’re facing.
- You can’t change their behaviour. So let’s change yours.
- Change how you’re wording it.
- Change the view you’re holding onto. It’s not the only one.
- Remove the trigger
- Get to a safe space
- Use some calming techniques
That’s it for today. Did it bring up any questions for you? Post them in the comments section.
Questions for Thought
What are your main views which cause your anger?
What value or belief is underlying it?
How could you redefine that moment to stop causing yourself the pain of anger?
Thanks for reading. Part 2 will be up next week, dealing with preparing for angry situations and the aftermath.
– Rose –