I see clients ever week who ask me to teach them how to control their tempers. “I’m not the person to help you with that. Controlling anger can be hazardous to your health and to the safety of those around you.” Most often, they stare at me in disbelief. “Controlling anger takes an enormous amount of mental and physical energy. Due to the nature and sheer force of anger, it can easily overpower you at some point, rearing its ugly head at the most inappropriate time, in the worst possible manner, and often at the wrong individual. Repressed anger, on the other hand, has the potential to cause serious and life-threatening health issues. So, the answer is ‘no’.”
What I have been teaching my clients for twenty years is to understand what anger really is (it’s a symptom of deeper underlying emotions – hurt, fear, and/or frustration), how to express it appropriately (when necessary), and most importantly how to heal it, to be free of any residual rage, annoyance, bitterness or resentment.
There are three basic strategies that work best for helping those with anger issues: cognitive therapy, relaxation techniques, and skill development.
Cognitive therapy*: our thought process. When working with a client I help them examine their core belief systems for any flaws that need to be corrected. Eckhart Tolle, NY Times bestselling author of “The Seat of the Soul”, says that the most important thing we have are our beliefs. Every decision we make is based on what we deem true. An inaccurate principle will yield erroneous results. If I believe I am always targeted at my job because I am an older employee, then every time someone is unhappy with my performance my belief cause me to feel disrespected, discriminated against, etc. – all of which will lead to anger.
Here’s a simple equation to help you determine if your thought process will yield positive results or not: TECO Magic – Thoughts create Emotions. Emotions determine the Choices we make (our behaviors) and each action produces an Outcome. Thought > Emotion > Choice > Outcome.
Relaxation techniques: these involve such activities as meditation, yoga, hypnosis, visualization, prayer, nature, reading, music, affirmation – any behavior that fosters a sense of calm and well-being. In the second edition of “The Secret Side of Anger”, I have included a new chapter called, “Creating a Peace Plan”. I strongly recommend that people create a list of behaviors that make them feel calm and relaxed. By incorporating a few into their daily routine, they automatically reduce their levels of stress and anger so that when a situation arises that would normal cause them to react in a hostile way, they respond in a much less severe manner. I have exquisite nature photos hanging in m office and in my home. Simply gazing at them evokes feelings of tranquility. Reciting the Serenity Prayer or a passage from Scripture can calm me down instantaneously. Even something as simple as deep breathing, which allows more oxygen to be delivered to the blood and brain, can calm the mind and relax the body. And it can be done anywhere and in any situation.
Skill sets: these are critical in managing anger appropriately. The SWaT Strategy is one of my favorites. At the first sign that you are becoming upset, Stop what you are doing. Next, Walk away. And third, Talk yourself calm. (For more details, read “The Secret Side of Anger”.) Talking out your feeling with a trusted friend, trained professional or in the context of a support group can prove highly beneficial. It enables you to see things from another perspective, gain valuable insight, unload frustration in a safe environment, and get positive feedback and suggestions.
Each of these approaches has enormous benefits. A combination of two or more can lead to lifetime of peaceful coexistence with yourself, others, and the world. Don’t you deserve it?
*I am not a therapist and do not do therapy with my clients.