six steps to manage anger

Anger is a problem.   Just writing that will cause people to say, “It’s not a problem”.  The fact is that one out of five people have anger management issues.   Anger by itself isn’t a problem it is when anger becomes destructive to others or to the self that is becomes a problem.  Anger is a response to a threat and sometimes the threat isn’t really a threat at all and yet the body reacts as if it was.  Sometimes anger becomes a habit and that habit reacts to situations that result in emotional outbursts, destructive actions or behaviors, and that is a problem.

People that put others down, that are highly critical of others, and that speak negatively of others behind their backs often have issues with anger.   As you can imagine people with unmanaged anger issues often have difficulty in relationships with others.   It is easy to see that people that with negatively charged attitudes and behaviors can suppress positive interactions at work, at home or in other social settings.  

Suppressed anger can cause serious problems as well, leading to high blood pressure or even depression.  Physically expressed anger can also be harmful to people that are in close proximity to others.   Even angry words can be harmful to those near the angry person.

So, what do you do?  How do you manage anger?

  1. Define the threat?   What caused you to get angry?  
  2. What are the facts?  Was the threat a real threat,  an imminent danger to you? 
  3. Step back, take a deep breath
  4. Remember a time that you were peaceful, let the experience in.
  5. Shake it out, release the tension.
  6. Create a new possibility – what positive action can be taken from this experience.

 Oh, the steps are simple enough alright but in the moment where the heat is the highest how are you to be calm enough to work the steps?

It takes practice.   It takes time to recognize that anger is upwelling in you and then it takes energy to stop and look at anger objectively.  It takes practice to stop and review your feelings. It takes practice to recognize the source of your angry feelings.

What makes you angry?

What thoughts or actions create anger for you?

What do you experience when you are driving down the road and you suddenly realize that you coming up way to fast on the car in front of you?   How do you respond?

If everyone is doing the best they can in the moment then anger may be misplaced.  It is only our interpretations of the issue that creates anger.  The situation itself has no emotional content.

Take the time to practice the steps.   If that doesn’t work, get help, find someone who you can work with to help you reduce anger in your life.

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5 responses to “six steps to manage anger

  1. I agree with you, Coach. Anger is a HUGE problem. I see it all the time in my business. Many cops are motivated by unresolved anger and my jail was full of people (particularly men) who were battling with it. When anger goes unresolved, it can lead to bitterness. And bitterness will destroy you. Bitterness is like drinking a cup of poison and hoping the other person gets sick!

    The truth is that we tend to get angry when we perceive that someone else has trampled on one of our personal rights. Think about it this way: you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or the buffet line and someone cuts in on you. You get angry. Why? Because someone just stepped on your right. You had the right to be the next one in line. You don’t act that way when they cut in front of someone behind you. You might think that’s funny! It’s only when they trample on your rights that you get angry.

    So the character quality of Meekness is a partial answer to this problem. Meekness is defined by the Character Training Institute as “yielding my personal rights (to get angry or to get my way) with a desire to serve.” Understanding this principle has given me personal power in my life toward resolving anger.

    I explore this principle more in-depth in two of the Police Dynamics videos:

    The Right to Get Angry: http://policedynamics.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/the-right-to-get-angry

    and The Cup of Bitterness:

    http://policedynamics.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/the-cup-of-bitterness.

    You can view them at the Police Dynamics Blog Site.

    Thanks, Coach, for giving us some practical guidelines for dealing with this important issue…

    Sheriff Ray
    http://www.PoliceDynamicsMedia.com

    • What do people fear when a “right” is violated? For example if someone cuts in front of you in a line and you feel that your rights were violated, what is it that creates that feeling? Is it a fear that you won’t get what you were in line for? Is it a fear that you will be losing time to do something else you want to do? I will check out the video.

  2. Those are good questions. I’m not sure it’s a fear, but it might be. I think it’s more to do with our self-centeredness and puffed up egos…

    • Anger is a response to a threat. Generally that response is automatic and that sensation (rush of adrenaline, increased breathing rate, …) comes from the amygdala. What happens is the body percieves a threat and our unconsious mind (amygdala) takes over rather quickly (habit response) and we take action. What we don’t do is convert that habit response to a thought that we can process. What are the facts? Is this a real issue or what? Now if we always thought about it before we reacted we might find ourselves in trouble.

      A perceived threat yields a sudden increase in excitement/fear and we react rather than respond. If we can shift the threat from react to response we have a better chance of managing the subsequent emotions.

      If you see a car heading towards you in your lane and there are no safe escape routes you have to quickly try to create a exit strategy. Some people panic and do nothing. Other people who are well trained can assess and react quickly and resolve the issue, and then they have to figure out what to do with the remaining energy, some of it disappates and some of it gets into the mouth (which you talk about in your video) and people can say some pretty dumb things. We still have to process the negative (catabolic) energy and one way to do it is to process it consciously and convert it to anabolic energy (good energy).

      Another source of anger comes from having an expectation that doesn’t get met. Again I think it goes back to thinking that not meeting an expectation is a threat of some kind. Some people translate the unmet expectation as anger. If you expect someone to do something in a certain way and it doesn’t get done some type of emotion forms. How that emotion is handled matters.

      I think at the core we respond to a threat emotionally and some people respond in anger, some with a lot of anger and some with just a little. Managing the anger requires training so that the triggers can be identified and the proper response to that trigger can be developed.

      What was the fear/threat that triggered the response?

      In a relationship what causes the anger? Is it the expectation that something should have been a certain way and it wasn’t. Is it a response to a fear “I am not good enough” and who are you to make me feel worse (expectation vs. the truth)?

      It gets complex fairly quickly, but if you can process it consciously often the underlying motives can be determined. For some it is about forgiveness of something that happened in the past and releasing that helps eliminate one of the sources of anger.

  3. I hadn’t fully thought of it in that context before. Maybe we perceive it as a threat to our ego sometimes and that’s what triggers the response…

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