Anger is a secondary emotion, usually preceded by pain of some kind. Be it betrayal, guilt, embarrassment or physical injury; the precursor to the anger is the real culprit. And holds the real cure to healing anger, the symptom. Think of anger like heat. In a chemical reaction, the easiest form of energy to produce is heat. So most chemical reactions are exothermic, giving off heat. Not like the Freon in your fridge or air conditioner. That process is endothermic, cooling. Or taking in heat. Controlling your anger is like redirecting this energy built up inside of you that naturally turns to heat, and turning it into something else — maybe even with a cooling effect.
Controlling your anger starts with one basic concept:
You are only responsible for your own emotions
This is a potent tool in building an empowered sense of self. But it can seem a bit counter-intuitive when it comes to fulfilling your duties in your marriage, family, friendships and faith. You may want to please everyone in your life; or try to make sure they have the best, most satisfying life and experiences they can. And if you, more than anyone else, can make this possible for them, even better. But when you get caught up in taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, and especially when you begin to place them above your own, you may find your best efforts fall flat. No matter how hard you try, life is stressful and can become unsatisfying — for everyone.
So begin the process of controlling your anger with a pledge of emotional responsibility:
You are responsible for your emotions.
Others are not responsible for your emotions. They may do, say, think and believe things that you find displeasing or disagree with. But how you feel about it belongs to you.
Others are responsible for their emotions.
You are not responsible for others emotions. You may do, say, think and believe things that they find displeasing or disagree with. But how they feel about it belongs to them.
You can control how you feel.
You cannot control how others feel. You may try your best to help someone feel good, but how they feel is ultimately up to them.
Others can control how they feel.
Others cannot control how you feel. Someone may try their best to help you feel good, but how you feel is ultimately up to you.
It’s easy to blame your spouse, kids, neighbors, in-laws, boss or friends when you feel lousy. After all, they just do the most irritating things sometimes. But that doesn’t give them the kind of control they would have to have to be able to make you upset. If someone can make you upset, they have control of you. And if they have control over you, why in the world would they make you upset? Wouldn’t they want to make you happy? So you wouldn’t be bothered by anything they did? You wouldn’t be in a bad mood, critical or hostile ever again? Doesn’t that make a lot more sense?
Now keep in mind that control doesn’t mean falsifying or forcefully altering your feelings. This would be dis-empowering and disingenuous to yourself. All feelings are valid, and all feelings deserve respect. We wouldn’t be human without emotion. But having emotion doesn’t mean acting on it. It doesn’t mean projecting our pain onto someone or something else; like your spouse, kids, alcohol or the family dog. To have control of your emotions means to have it without losing control of what you say and do.
You are allowed to be angry. But you are not allowed to be nasty or violent. Own your anger and don’t blame it on anyone else.
Allow the anger to be there with you in the moment. You don’t need to do or say anything with it though.
Take a 10 second break before speaking when you become angry. Things said or shouted in anger cannot be taken back. They can be apologized for. But words spoken cannot be unspoken. Take care with how you speak to the ones you love. If you speak to them too much in anger, they may begin to think you don’t love them.
Take a deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds, then slowly let it out. Do this a few times throughout the angering experience. This will help keep you a bit calmer and keep your head a bit clearer. Plus it gives you quiet time to reflect and listen.
If you are in a conversation or confrontation that is causing you frustration, try to really listen to what is being said. Don’t filter anything out. It's important that you don't only hear what you want to hear.
Or if you are being attacked more than enlightened by whatever the other person really feels, feel free to hear what is being said without taking it to heart.
Dig deeper to find the root of the anger. Even in the moment, talk to yourself. Ask yourself why you are so angry. And give honest answers. You’ll likely find expectations, disappointments, violations, conflicting interests, rejection and mistrust, perhaps even from childhood, at the top of the list.
Fights are not fun. Don’t use arguments to blow off steam; exercise, take up a sport or do yoga.
Fighting is not foreplay. Don’t use arguments to electrify the air and heighten the energy in your relationship or household. Find more constructive means for this.
Anger begins with inner pain. Find and own the pain inside of you and you’ll have a much better handle on your anger.