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