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7 Simple Strategies for Controlling Your Unwanted Guest
Anger strikes everyone, without exception. What will differentiate you from others is how you deal with it. If you find yourself become angry more often than you'd like, or letting anger dominate your behavior, there are some easy steps you can start following right now that will begin the process of getting your anger under control.
Research reveals several common characteristics among the chronically angry. The primary ones being a heightened emotional sensitivity, a greater than normal likelihood of being emotionally hurt, and a tendency to abruptly feel insulted where others would not.
We are surround by opportunities to invite anger into our lives on a daily basis. A child's temper tantrum, getting cut off by an inconsiderate driver, or a simple disagreement with a loved one or partner. As we travel through our daily lives and notice each of these incidents we become aware that anger is as much a part of those days as any other feeling. It's how we deal with it that counts.
The key to dealing with those moments is flexibility. Being able to adapt to unfamiliar and unpredictable circumstances allows us to manage our stress levels. Another way to manage stress, and therefore anger, is integrating the necessary skills to cope with stressful situations before they escalate. Again, to cope with them, not to control the situation, or try to manage and guide it to the outcome you desire.
Here are some things to consider the next time you invite anger into your life:
- When you are angry you need to accept and acknowledge your anger. Recognize that you are the person with the problem.
- Sincerely promise yourself that you will change, and that you will learn ways to deal with your feelings. This is a long term commitment.
- Remember to give yourself some time to think when you're angry instead of reacting immediately. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, do some quick grocery shopping or low-stress errands. Anything that will give you some time away from directly interacting with the external trigger of your anger.
- Stop trying to control others, and the situations that you find yourself in.
- Accept that there are differences between how you may be perceiving a situation, and how someone else might. It is not about who is right or wrong. It is about finding a way to accept the other person for who they are, while simultaneously accepting that you may simply be different than them.
- Always use “I” statements when you're angry or when you're trying to communicate your feelings to another person. Instead of saying, “You made me angry when you . . .” use an “I” statement like, “I feel angry . . .” or “I feel sad when I hear you say . . . .” When you use “I” statements you are already taking responsibility for your feelings, and the situation so that the person you are speaking to does not have a reason to become defensive. If they don't have a need to defend their actions or what they said, the likelihood of confrontation is immediately lowered.
- Last but not least, you need to clearly express what's bothering you. Be specific and direct about what's making you upset (With a touch of tact and politeness, of course!). Remember, it's not what you say, it's how you say it!
Has Your Anger Made You Famous?
If you were given a magic wand that could change one thing about you, what would it be? Think about it for a second. Would you change your look? Would you change your height, or weight? Or would you change a behavior that is holding back your success in relationships, work, and life?
Several years ago when I was running anger management classes for clients that were under a court order to participate, it became to clear to me that the unifying trait among them was that they were simply not taking responsibility for their feelings. Their actions, based on their anger, had led them to my class in a manner that could almost be described as against their own will. Emotions and feelings are an essential part of the process through which our minds communicate with us and give us signals about our thoughts. Although anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it can easily get out of control and become dangerous to us and those around us.
In the same way that bodily pain and other physical symptoms are indications of illness, chronic and explosive anger is an indication that your thinking process has gone wrong. If you are experiencing the emotional symptoms of these thinking processes gone wrong, you may just be in luck. Getting anger under control is surprisingly easy if you're willing to work on it.
Learning the skill of managing you anger takes work, but it gets easier the more you practice it. The keys to monitoring, and ultimately controlling anger are to develop your abilities in the realms of self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-control.
Self-awareness means paying close attention to the way anger feels in your body. This means being able to notice changes in your hear rate, muscle tension, and tone of voice when something upsets you. Becoming aware of the signs of anger that are unique to you is the first to step on the path to being able to effectively manage it. It's easy to experiment with this technique. Next time you get upset, simply try to notice the signs and symptoms of anger that your body gives you. If you practice this technique consistently you will become more aware of those signs, giving yourself the opportunity to intervene in your own train of thought in order to prevent an outburst of anger by following some simple tips that I will go over in a later post. In the meantime, simply becoming aware of the signals your body is giving you is taking a big step toward consciousness of your feelings, and ultimately control over them instead of their current control over you.
Once you have recognized your feelings through the use of your self-awareness tools, you can employ the tools of self-regulation to gain that control. Self-regulation is having the capability to pay close attention to your actions despite distractions. Self-regulation is being able to think, and then act, instead of being in the position of thinking about what went wrong with your emotion-based actions after they've happened. Once you are able to think before you act, you can successfully process whatever it is that makes you angry before you have an automatic, emotional reaction to it. This process works like a filter, or a safety net, reducing overreactions to your feelings and keeping you in control of you. This is also known as self-control.
More anger management tips in my next post!
Bethi Kohanchi M.A., LMFT
Picking the Right Therapist for You
Finding the right therapist is critical in order to achieve your therapy goals and have a successful experience. Just as you would make sure that your car mechanic, doctor or business consultant understands your needs and respects your personality, so too – and even more so – should your therapist.
You can get recommendations of therapists from friends, family members or your insurance provider, or by doing a quick Google search for therapists in your area. However, no matter who the therapist is, whether it’s a new graduate from social work school or a seasoned professional with a boatload of clients, the most important thing to determine is if he or she is a good fit for you.
Different strokes for different folks
Some people are looking for a therapist to primarily listen and offer them a supportive ear. Others want a proactive therapist to give feedback and offer insight on their situation. Perhaps you want a Freudian-type therapist to do deep psychoanalysis, or you like the more standard cognitive or behavioral therapies. Take some time to figure out what exactly you are looking for in a therapist so you can better evaluate whether this is a good match. (If you aren’t familiar with different therapy styles, that’s fine. You can ask your therapist about the different styles and pros and cons of each.)
You should also evaluate more general factors such as cultural background, language and personality. Studies show that the more similar you are to your therapist with regard to speaking the same language and coming from the same cultural background, the better your chances of therapy being successful.
Trust is another huge factor – you must absolutely feel that you trust your therapist to respect your boundaries and protect your confidentiality.
Interview your therapist
It’s best to take some time to interview your therapist and ask them what sort of therapy they practice. Tell him or her straight out: “this is my issue – how would you deal with it?” If the response makes sense and sounds appealing to you, this is probably a good match. If it raises concerns, talk about the concerns with your therapist and see if you can come to an agreement. If not, you may need to look for someone else. Make sure you’re clear about what you need help with and what your expectations are from therapy BEFORE ( you get involve in therapy schedule ) your first session, so you can properly evaluate whether this is the right therapist for you.
It can take two to three sessions before making a decision about whether it’s a good match or not, and the more clear and upfront you are about your goals and expectations, the quicker you’ll be able to evaluate the therapist and see if he or she is right for you. If after three full sessions you still feel like your therapist doesn’t understand you, it’s time to find someone else. And if you’re connecting and feel a real rapport, then go for it!
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