An anger journal is one of the most important ways to understand your anger and is an excellent anger management technique, because it gives you time to examine your thoughts with greater accuracy and to see your stress triggers. You can work out your own headings for the journal or diary, but they should include the circumstances that aroused your anger, the physical, mental and emotional cues that accompanied the anger, its intensity level and duration, and any other feelings that accompanied it. An anger journal will show you how you express anger, for example, are you an exploder or an imploder, or do you use passive aggressive anger? When you examine your anger journal you have time to realise that the issue may not always be the external factor that is the problem, but how you define it. In other words, the problem may lie with yourself, how you think, your beliefs, expectations, and your judgement. When you can access whether the level of your anger is justified or whether it is due to your own thinking or beliefs, you are in a better position to manage it. The journal would help you to readjust your thinking and your beliefs. One of the positive things about anger is that it makes you examine your beliefs. You can hold them up to the light, consider where and when you formed them and if they are rational or irrational. You will see your own particular patterns and in this way come to understand your anger, and this will make it easier to control it in future. It might also be useful to see if some of the circumstances listed were similar to those that made you angry as a child.
By standing back from your anger using a journal, you become almost an external observer. Writing slows you down, while anger sweeps you away. You could extend the idea of including an unsent letter in your journal as a way of expanding it by writing in more detail about what happened and more importantly what happened to you. Marcia Cannon makes the useful suggestion that you could write a letter to yourself as if you were writing to a best friend and make sure you put every single detail into it. You can pour all your thoughts and feelings into the letter and feel empathy for yourself. This could be further enhanced by using inner childwork, when you use your non-dominant hand to write the letter, and where the extent of old losses and distresses becomes apparent.
If you keep doing your anger journal over a long period you will begin to notice how you are changing and you will be encouraged to continue to change. You will notice that circumstances and behaviours that made you angry previously may no longer do so.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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