When you are angry, you might feel like you want to explode in the whole world. During these times, you are feeling hurt. Sometimes you might even hurt others without realizing it, or you might hurt others intentionally. Instead of bottling up your anger or exploding at someone, you can express your anger productively. Calm yourself down and work on understanding your anger and other emotions. Then you can communicate your anger in an assertive manner that will be less likely to hurt the other person.
Calming yourself down
1, Take deep breaths. Get your anger under control before you start communicating with someone. Otherwise, you may say something you regret. Take deep breaths to clear your head and to initiate your body’s calming response. Try these steps:
- Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four.
- Make sure you are breathing with your diaphragm rather than with your chest. When you breathe with your diaphragm, your belly extends out (you can feel it with your hand).
- Do this as many times as necessary until you start feeling calmer.
2, Count to ten. If you feel yourself getting angry and are experiencing physical and emotional symptoms of anger, tell yourself that you don’t have to react right away. Count to ten to calm yourself down and give yourself a chance to think. Reserve a reaction for the moment and give yourself time to sort out your feelings.
3, Get a change of scenery. If you feel your blood start to boil, leave the situation. Take a walk. Not having the stimulus in front of you, the thing or person you are mad at, will help you calm yourself down.
4, Talk yourself through the problem. If you find yourself getting angry, calm down and talk through the problem rationally to yourself. Use your reasoning before your body gets out of control. Before anger takes over your mind, you can “talk yourself down.” Even if you might not feel like you can control this process, you can keep the positive dialog going on in your head to help you practice dealing with your anger in a different way.
- For example, you can say to yourself: “My boss yells at me every day. I have a hard time dealing with this and it makes me angry. I’m allowed to be angry, but I can’t allow this to take over my life or ruin my day. I can deal with my boss assertively even though he is acting aggressively. I am looking for another job, but in the meantime, every time he yells, I can tell him it’s difficult to understand him when he’s so upset. If there is a problem, let’s sit and talk about it so I can help him come up with a solution. If there is anything that he needs me to do, I can do it if he can manage to tell me what it is without yelling at me. This way, I can keep my cool while teaching him how to behave well.”
Understanding Your Anger
1, Keep an anger journal. If you feel that you’re getting angry pretty regularly, it might help to keep track of the situations that anger you. You can track the degree to which they anger you, and what else was happening at the time. You can also keep track of how you react when you’re angry, as well as how other people react to your anger. Think about the following questions when keeping an anger journal:
- What provoked the anger?
- Rate your anger.
- What thoughts occurred as you got angry?
- How did you react? How did others react to you?
- What was your mood right before it happened?
- What symptoms of anger did you feel in your body?
- How did you react? Did you want to leave, or act out (such as bang the door or hit something or someone), or did you say something sarcastic?
- What were your emotions immediately after the incident?
- What were your feelings a few hours after the episode?
- Was the episode resolved?
- Keeping track of this information will help you learn what situations and triggers you have to your anger. Then you can work to avoid those situations when possible, or predict when these situations occur if they are unavoidable. It will also help you track the progress you make at handling situations that anger you.
2, Identify your anger triggers. A trigger is something that happens or that you experience that brings on an emotion or a memory. Some common triggers for anger are:
- Not being able to control other’s actions
- Other people disappointing you for not meeting your expectations.
- Not being able to control daily life events, such as traffic.
- Someone trying to manipulate you.
- Getting mad at yourself for a mistake.
3, Understand the impact of your anger. Anger can become a big problem if your anger causes you to act aggressively towards other people. When anger is a constant reaction to everyday events and to the people around you, you can lose enjoyment and enrichment in our lives. Anger can interfere with your job, your relationships, and your social life. You can be incarcerated if you assault another person. Anger is a very powerful emotion that needs to be understood clearly to overcome its impact.
- Anger can make people feel entitled to the point where they can rationalize reasons to act in a socially irresponsible way. People who experience road rage, for instance, might feel justified when they run someone off the road because that person mistakenly cut them off.
4, Understand the root of your anger. Some people use anger to avoid dealing with painful emotions. They get a temporary boost to their self-esteem. This also happens with people who have a really good reason to be angry. But when you use anger to avoid painful emotions, the pain still exists, and it isn’t a permanent fix.
- A person can become accustomed to using anger as a distraction from pain. This is because anger is easier to deal with than pain. It can make you feel more in control. In this way, anger becomes a chronic way of dealing with feelings of vulnerability and fear.
- Many times, our automatic reaction to incidences have to do with the painful memories of our past. Your automatic anger reactions could be something you learned from a parent or caregiver. If you had a parent who got angry about everything and one parent who tried to keep that parent from getting angry, you have two models of dealing with anger: passive and aggressive. Both of these models are counterproductive to dealing with anger.
- If you were a victim of child abuse and neglect, for example, you had a model of dealing with anger that is counterproductive (aggressive). While examining these feelings can be painful, understanding what you were provided when you were a child will help you understand the ways you learned to cope with stress, difficult life situations, and difficult emotions such as sadness, fear, and anger.
- It’s important to seek professional help for life traumas such as child abuse and neglect. Sometimes a person can re-traumatize himself without intending to by revisiting painful memories without the support of a clinician.
Talking About Your Emotions
1, Avoid expressing your anger passively. In passive anger expression, you don’t actually deal directly with the person who hurt or angered you. Instead, your wish to get even comes out in other ways. For example, you might talk negatively behind the person’s back or insult the person at a later time.
2, Avoid expressing your anger aggressively. Aggressive anger expressions are most problematic because of the possibility of violence and negative consequences for failure to control angry outbursts. This can interfere with everyday functioning if anger happens every day and is out of control.
- For example, you might shout and yell at someone, or even hit, when you express your anger aggressively.
3, Choose to express your anger assertively. Assertive expression of anger is the most constructive way to express your anger. Assertiveness cultivates mutual respect for each other. You can still express your anger, but you do so in a way that doesn’t accuse the other person. You have mutual respect for each other.
- Assertive communication emphasizes that both people’s needs are important. To communicate assertively, give the facts without making accusations. Simply state how the action made you feel. Stick to what you know and not what you think you know. Then ask the other person if he is willing to talk.
- For example, you might say: “I was hurt and angry because I felt like you were belittling my project when you laughed during my presentation. Can we talk and work this out?”
4, Identify the emotions that you feel. Get a handle on what you’re feeling. Be more specific than “good” and “bad.” Try to pinpoint the emotions that you’re feeling, such as jealousy, guilt, loneliness, hurt, and so on.
5, Use “I” statements. Talk about your own feelings without placing judgment on the other person. Using “I” statements will increase the likelihood that the other person will not become defensive and will listen to what you’re saying. The “I” statement conveys that you have a problem, not that the other person has a problem. For example, you might say:
- “I feel embarrassed when you tell your friends when we have had a fight.”
- “I feel hurt that you forgot my birthday.”
6, Focus on yourself, not the other person’s deficiencies. You are the expert on how you are feeling, not on the other person’s shortcomings. Instead of blaming the other person for doing something that makes you feel bad, focus on your own feelings. When you figure out how you’re feeling, convey the real feeling, such as hurt. Keep judgment statements out of it. Stick to things that pertain to you.
- For example, instead of saying, “You’re never around at dinnertime anymore,” you can say, “I feel lonely and I miss our talks over dinner.”
- For example, you might say: “I feel that you are not being sensitive to my feelings when you read your paper instead of listening to what I’m trying to say.”
7, Give specific examples. When you are confronting the other person, give specific examples that demonstrate what may have led to you to feel a certain way. Instead of saying, “I feel lonely,” give the reason for why you feel lonely. For example, say, “I feel lonely when you stay at work late every night. I didn’t get to celebrate my birthday with you.”
8, Be respectful. Show respect for the other person when you communicate. This can be as simple as using “please” and “thank you” in your conversation. Then you will foster cooperation and reciprocating respect. When you want something, you should convey that in the form of a request, rather than a demand. You can start your communications this way:
- “When you have the time, could you…”
- “It would be a great help if you… Thanks, I appreciate it!”
9, Focus on problem-solving. Once you acknowledge your emotions and start to communicate assertively, you can also start to offer solutions. With problem-solving, you are doing everything in your power to address the problem.
- Take a few minutes to calm yourself down. Figure out the emotions that you’re feeling. Start to strategize about ways to approach this problem.
- For example, if your child comes home with a bad report card, you might be angry about his bad grades. Approach this situation with solutions rather than simple anger. Talk to your child about spending more time on homework after school, or suggesting that you line up a tutor for him.
- Sometimes you might have to accept that there isn’t a solution to the problem. You might not be able to control a problem, but you can control how you react towards it.
10, Make communications clear and specific. If you hem and haw, or you make general statements that are not specific, everyone involved will get frustrated.For instance, if your coworker is speaking very loudly on the phone and it’s difficult for you to do your work, you can state your request like this:
- “I have a request. Would you please lower the volume of your voice on the telephone? It’s making it very difficult to concentrate on my work. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.” You are directly addressing the person you need to resolve your issue with, and you are making it clear what you would like to see happen, as well as putting it in the form of a request.
Getting Professional Help
1, Try therapy. Therapy is a great way to find new ways of dealing and expressing anger productively. Your therapist will most likely use relaxation techniques that will help you calm down in the middle of an anger episode. Your therapist will also help you deal with the thoughts that can trigger anger and find new ways to view your situations. Therapists will also help you with emotional coping skills and assertiveness communication training.
2, Enroll in an anger management class. Anger management programs have been shown to have a high rate of success. The most successful programs help you understand your anger, give you short-term strategies to deal with your anger, and help you build skills.
- There are a wide variety of options for anger management programs as well. For example, there are anger management programs available for teens, executives, police officers, and other populations of people who might be experiencing different types of anger for different reasons.
3, Ask your doctor about drug therapy. Anger is often a part of different disorders, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. Drug therapy for anger will depend on the condition the anger is occurring with. Taking the medications for the disorder could help the anger as well.
- For example, if your anger is accompanied by depression, you can ask your doctor about antidepressants to treat both the depression and the anger. If irritability is occurring as a part of generalized anxiety disorder, benzodiazepines such as Klonopin might be used to treat the disorder. In the meantime, it can help with your irritability.
- Each drug has side effects. For example, lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorder, has a very high rate of renal complications. Being aware of the possible side effects will help you monitor for complications. It’s very important to discuss these possibilities openly with your doctor.
- Discuss any addiction problems you have with your doctor. Benzodiazepines, for example, are addictive substances. The last thing you need when you are struggling with alcohol, for instance, is to add another addiction. This should be discussed candidly with your doctor to help him decide which medication is best for you.