Controlling Anger

Controlling Anger

Anger isn’t a bad thing. it’s often useful, as a clue that something in your life isn’t working as well as it might. However, if the expression of your anger is affecting your health and/or your relationships, you need to consider if this is serving you well or if there might be a better way.

If you want to get those angry feelings under control, you first need to know what triggers that intense emotional reaction. When do you get the angriest? Who is usually the target of your anger? What statements or behaviors make you the angriest? As you consider these questions, look for patterns.

What Are Your Triggers?

For example, one young woman noticed her anger was usually caused by people lying to her; even small lies would cause her to become intensely angry. Because this anger was sometimes directed at students who lied to get out of class, her tirades threatened her job.  An older man recognized that his anger always manifested during situations where he felt out of control, such as while he was driving a car. He overreacted to minor actions from other drivers, such as pulling out in front of him, with screaming, cursing, and excessive horn honking.

What’s Underneath?

Once you have figured out what triggers your anger, you can take the next step and delve deeper into what is behind these angry outbursts. Triggers don’t just happen overnight. They develop in response to other facets of our lives, our experiences, and our personalities. You need to understand what is at the root of that trigger before you can start to control the outbursts and improve the quality of your life and your relationships.

Both of the people mentioned above were able to discover the root cause of their triggers. The young woman had gone through a miserable relationship with a man who happened to be a chronic liar. Because she viewed her ex-husband’s lies as a sign of disrespect towards her, she extended this view to everyone who told lies. She wasn’t really angry at the people who were telling her small lies; she was still harboring resentment towards her ex-spouse that needed to be resolved.

On the other hand, the older man’s issues were rooted in his desire to be able to control everything around him. If he could not be in control, he became terrified that something horrible would happen to his family. The car was the ultimate example of this fear. Because he was incapable of controlling the driving behaviors of others and because a bad driver had the power to crash into his car and destroy his family, he had an exaggerated reaction to even the most minor examples of bad driving.

Once you’ve identified your triggers and the causes of those triggers, you simply need to apply what you’ve learned in those moments when you feel the anger emerging. By recognizing the real cause of your reaction, you can take control of your emotions, deal with your reaction in a more rational and calm way, and start to come to grips with the underlying problems prompting those angry outbursts.

Image Credits: The Angry One by Ferdinand Hodler

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