Dealing with Immediate Anger
Much of what has been written so far involves a long term and continuous approach to managing anger and relieving distress, and it takes some time before it comes into effect. In the meantime you have to find some means to deal with on the spot anger, when a confrontation is imminent. There are two practical ways you can immediately manage your anger in a conflict, and both work very well. The first is simply to tell the offending person how you feel and why. There is no blame in this method and it will not invite retaliation. In practice it would be something like this – ‘I feel angry because I feel disrespected.’ Do not underestimate the power of this statement. It is more powerful and more effective than shouting at someone or blaming them. You are only saying how you feel. You are entitled to say how you feel. No one can say how you should feel. Yet this is a much more difficult anger management technique than you realise. It is particularly difficult for those with poor boundaries, who are afraid of challenging others, wanting perhaps their approval.
The other technique involves being aware of your anger at a given moment. This only takes a few seconds. You must bear in mind that you only have a very brief opportunity to control your anger. The amygdala, that part of your brain that processes emotion, allows only a quarter of a second to respond to an event that triggers it. While this almost instant response is happening the increased blood flow goes to the frontal lobe of your brain that controls your reasoning and this takes two seconds to react. This brief window allows you to create more time to process the anger. You can become aware of where you feel the anger before it overwhelms you. Most of us are not aware of this because we never thought of it before. The next time you feel anger listen to your body and be aware that your anger is about to proclaim itself. You may feel your fists tighten or your jaws clench. Begin to talk to yourself internally admitting that you are feeling angry and try to master it by your internal conversation rather than letting it take you over. The longer your conversation the better. Finally, if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes that might help. Understanding another person can ease your anger with them.
I hope that at least some of these techniques help you not only to manage or control your anger, but help you to heal as well. Ultimately, you are not responsible for your angry feelings, but you have a choice about how to process and express your anger. You can choose to hesitate, to give yourself space, not to vent your anger on someone, and not to blame or criticise them. This may be hard, but you have a choice. Even in your worst moments you have a choice. I can never accept it when someone says to me that they are unable to control their anger. Many show admirable self-control in external circumstance, but not so much in their own home. The books on anger in the bibliography are worth reading if you have an anger issue.
Extract from Understanding and Healing the Hurts of Childhood. Publication 2018
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