"For every minute you remain angry, you give up 60 seconds of peace of mind" said Ralph W Emerson. Anger is a completely normal and healthy human emotion, until it runs amok. It is out-of-control anger that turns disruptive and leads to problems - at work, at home and damages the fine matrix of life and personal relationships.
Anger management refers to psychological and therapeutic techniques and exercises that help control excessive anger and aggression. When one is angry, there is no question of empathy. If only the other person's point of view can be understood, (which is excruciating for one in the throes of anger), much of the anger can be dissipated. Anger management aids to reduce the possible damage on self, others and the environment. This involves an understanding of anger patterns and dealing with them effectively. Anger management occurs in three stages:
Managing anger even before it appears or shows: This is akin to 'prevention is better than cure' approach. This is possibly the only effective technique for anger management. This in turn involves two steps:
- Understanding the root cause of anger in general and anger patterns in particular
- Practicing releasing techniques, meditation, relaxation and developing self-confidence.
Managing anger when you are angry: This is the most difficult stage as it involves management of self when angry.
Managing anger after the incident: This stage involves analyzing the root cause of anger and repairing and restoring oneself.
Anger management techniques
Some prominent preventive techniques for anger management would be:
- Practicing relaxation and stress release through simple meditation techniques.
- Being optimistic and positive in outlook
- Living in the present, here and now, as far as possible.
- Developing self confidence
- Accepting self and others with individual faults.
- Avoiding revenge, hate and hatred.
- Learning to accept errors, mistakes of self and others.
- Adopting a stance of adjustment and compromise.
- Avoiding a pessimistic attitude.
As soon as you are in control, it is imperative that you withdraw yourself from the situation and avoid the irreversible damage to self and others.
- When you recognize you are angry, just stop doing what you have been doing and walk around or sit calmly for a few minutes.
- Inhale deeply and hold for a second or two. Now exhale deeply. Repeat a few times.
- Involve yourself in a relaxing activity such as watering the garden or listening to calming music.
- Laugh the anger out.
- Do not internalize feelings of revenge. This will only bring in more negative energy.
The Stop technique is used as a therapeutical technique for the control of obsessive thinking. This is mainly for those who are obsessed by negative and undesirable thinking. Those frustrated with restless thoughts are taught to say STOP to themselves - silently but emphatically.
Other recognized anger management techniques
Recognizing stress: This is an anger control tool that underlies the importance of how to reduce stress before it turns into anger.
Develop empathy: The relationship between empathy and anger management is focused in this technique. It focuses on how to see things in the perspective of others.
Respond instead of react: This technique enables one to automatically 'respond' instead of 'react' and new way of communicating needs, feelings and requests are taught.
Change that conversation with yourself: This technique involves recognizing and modifying one's inner conversations. Learn to empower yourself to deal with anger more effectively in terms of how long to hold on to anger and how to express anger.
Communicate assertively: This technique teaches you to honestly and effectively communicate how to respond to things without getting angry and hostile.
Adjust expectations: Learning to adjust with changing expectations can help cope with difficult situations.
Forgive, but do not forget: Resentment leads to anger and this can do more damage to the holder than the offender. Letting go is often a process of forgiveness - or at least acceptance - a major step in anger control.
Retreat and think things over: Removing oneself from the situation and taking a temporary 'time out' is another anger control technique.
Cognitive restructuring, which is changing the way you think, is another technique. Most often, angry people tend to swear and curse, reflecting their inner thoughts. These thought should be replaced by radical ones. Instead of saying 'it's awful and I am frustrated,' put it positively as, 'it's understandable and although I'm upset, everything is not ruined.'
Anger management exercises
First and foremost, it is essential to pin the triggers for anger. Various traits such as dishonesty, insubordination can make one angry. If such triggers are identified, they should be analyzed and understood that anger can do more harm on self than on others.
Breathing exercises should soothe anger. Deep breathing increases the flow of oxygen particularly to the brain and helps clear the mind and control emotions. A fitness regimen incorporating aerobics could be included. This can help in various ways right from boosting energy, releasing stress and maintaining overall control of one's mood. If such a workout is done on a regular basis, anger will be slow to rise and easier to control.
Maintaining a diary is one way of releasing suppressed emotions. Over a period of time, the diary will help you see things in their right perspective. A good friend/ confidante can lend a patient ear and be a sounding board for your feelings.
Breathe deeply from your diaphragm, picture that the breath comes up from your gut.
Slowly chant a calm word such as relax or take it easy. Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
Using imagery, visualize a relaxing experience either from memory or imagination.
It is imperative that these techniques are practiced daily. Only then, these would automatically help in a tense situation. Most often, humor is a good way to defuse rage. Be cautious in the use of humor, for laughing off problems will not help. Alternatively, being too harsh or sarcastically humorous can only form another unhealthy angry expression.
Anger management tips
- Certain 'personal time' scheduled for times of the day that can be particularly stressful can be allotted. After this brief personal quiet, you are better prepared to handle demands without blowing your top.
- Stepping out from a particular situation or individual will defuse anger. Go for a stroll or silently count 10 before responding to any situation. Yelling at friends, family and slamming doors will not help.
- A powerful emotion like anger can be controlled by physical activity. Instead of getting worked up, get a good workout. Tennis, jogging, swimming, hitting the gym or playing a game of tennis can help manage anger.
- It is natural for anybody to get defensive if criticized. Do not fight back. Instead listen and save the situation from becoming a disastrous one.
Suppressing anger does not mean anger is under control. It also does not solve the problem and is a dangerous type of anger management. Anger needs to be expressed or vented. Aggressive displays of anger can result in violent eruptions. The goal of anger management is to help find healthy ways to express anger and to resolve the problems that ignite it. Perhaps the best step in anger management is learning to define the problem and having the courage to face the problem head on.