Anger? Most of us get angry from time to time, but some of us struggle to keep our anger under control. It can raise its ugly head too many times than is considered acceptable, not only by others, but by our own standards as well.
I don’t consider myself an angry person and yet lately I have noticed that my wick is getting shorter and shorter. However, what really started to worry me is my reaction to my 6-year-old daughter at night.
For some reason, instead of being the loving, caring and protective mother that I pride myself on being, at night I turn into a kind of devil and my fuse is not short, it is completely non-existent.
The other night my daughter had a nightmare. After getting up twice at 12:30 a.m. M. And at 1:00 a. M., It was 2:00 a.m. M. And to be honest, I wasn’t buying the nightmare excuse.
I suppose the crying and screaming ‘mom’ should have confirmed the nightmare, but for some reason I didn’t feel empathetic.
At first I tried to calm her down by hugging her and covering her back, but all hell broke loose when I started to go back to bed. She started screaming and crying because she couldn’t close her eyes because her dream kept coming back.
With my 17-year-old stepson sleeping downstairs, I was doing my best to prevent my daughter from waking him up, as she had an HSC exam the next day. No reason was I seating my daughter now and officially she was ‘losing control’!
Every time she tried to leave her room, the screams grew louder and more desperate … Now from me, not hers. I never hit my daughter and yet I felt so close to her that it scared me.
In the morning I was incredibly sorry for the way I reacted and vowed to be more patient and understanding if this happened again.
But why am I so angry?
Several of my clients have told me that anger is one of the biggest problems in their relationships. Sometimes the anger is directed at the relationship and sometimes the anger is directed outside of it.
The interesting thing is that they both seem to have the same negative effect.
Anger is a primitive emotion, useful for warding off enemies. It also has the ability to manipulate and denigrate those who are not “angry” and is often interpreted as power.
Studies have even shown that anger can increase perceived social status by feigning importance.
It’s no wonder, then, that many of us think that the only way to be heard is to get angry. We are programmed to accept anger as something more powerful, knowledgeable, and superior, and we are more likely to give in to someone who is angry with us.
The underlying feelings of frustration, upset, hurt, worry, shame, or fear can be the cause of this anger, and anger is the way these feelings are expressed.
The problem with anger is that you have an inability to solve a problem without raising any more residual negative feelings.
Anger occurs when we feel that something has been “done” to us. It is an emotion that usually has an external component. Even when we are angry with ourselves, anger begins after something has happened that ‘infuriates’ us.
The real problem with anger is that if not handled properly, it can have far-reaching negative effects on personal and professional relationships.
People with anger management problems are more likely to get into verbal or physical fights, suffer from low self-esteem, have anxiety or depression, and alcohol or substance abuse problems.
The strange thing about anger is that not everyone shows it in the same way.
Some people express it aggressively. Yelling, yelling, destroying property, intimidating, threatening, showing off, ignoring the needs of others, and perpetrating violence are examples of this.
On the other hand, anger can be expressed passively. Being evasive, turning a “cold back,” using psychological manipulation, being reserved, withdrawn, or self-blaming are all forms of this type of anger.
These may not be the kind of stereotypical “movie” anger we’re used to seeing in the media, but that doesn’t make them more palatable or less dangerous.
Actually, I think sometimes these can be worse as they often last much longer than the violent aggressive type.
Okay, so how should we (and I) handle anger?
Like everything, different people will find different strategies that work for them. The most important thing to do is heed the warning signs and act immediately so you don’t end up escalating in anger and losing control.
If you feel your temperature rise, your face flushed, your palms are sweaty, your mouth is dry, your muscles are tense, or you can’t hear what is being said correctly, then you are probably experiencing the warning signs of anger.
Once you are in a state of anger, you can become irrational, illogical, impulsive, overwhelmed, or out of control. This is when your decision-making processes will be skewed, you will be more likely to engage in risky behavior, and violence, whether passive or aggressive, will ensue.
Here are some simple tips to help reduce your anger when these warning signs appear:
- Take a deep breath for a count of 20. Close your eyes if possible and then breathe out slowly. Repeat this a couple of times and if there is someone in front of you who still wants to be confrontational, explain what you are doing.
- Take some time off. ‘ Removing yourself from the situation can immediately ease your anger. Give yourself time to lower your heart rate. It takes at least 20 minutes to do this, so take a walk, read a book, or watch a movie. Remember to breathe deeply so the blood can flow well again.
- Try to create a “happy place”. Some people find it helpful to have a place they love already built into their memory to go to when things get tense. It is best to take pictures of a place where you feel comfortable, safe and secure, but even a fun place is useful. I love snowboarding so that’s always my happy place. Go there in your mind and suddenly the situation in front of you is not as bad as you thought.
- Use a script to control your thinking. When you feel your temperature rise, start a positive conversation with yourself. Say something like “This might bother me, but I can handle it”, “I am calm and in control” or “I have power over my emotions”, over and over again in your head until you believe it and regain control.
- Communicate differently. Instead of blaming the other person or situation, try to find the cause of your anger before continuing. If you need to take a few minutes to do it, so be it. Ask yourself what you feel besides anger. Is it frustration, loneliness, or sadness? So find out what the need is in you that is not being met. This will give you time to calm down and you can express why you are angry, rather than just being angry.
Your ongoing anger management can also benefit from doing any of the following:
- Give meditation a try. This age-old practice has been used for centuries to calm the mind and heal the body and is as relevant today as ever. Our fast-paced lives leave little time for quiet reflection, and we are often so busy “doing” that we forget about the “living.” There are a ton of great online programs for meditation and if you can attend a live class, you would definitely benefit.
- Write down anything that makes you mad or angry. Some people like to keep a journal to reread their feelings, and others like to take the paper and burn it. I am a journalist, but I can totally see the benefits of destroying those feelings in writing. My clients who use this technique often report that they immediately felt a sense of relief and the ability to let go of what was bothering them. Do both and see what works best for you.
- Increase your exercise or play a contact sport. I have to admit that there is nothing more satisfying than hitting life with a punching bag, especially when you are angry. When I was going through a rough patch, boxing was my taste. Twice a week I drew all my anger and frustration into the bags and gloves. However, just getting out and about for a walk, jog, bike ride, horseback riding, surfing, swimming, or whatever you enjoy will help flood your brain with positive hormones and make you feel better about life in general. Also, you will be too tired to be angry. Great advantage!
- Learn to communicate more effectively. Sometimes the reason we get angry is because we feel like they don’t understand us. I know that I feel incredibly frustrated and very angry at my daughter when I feel ignored. Learning to communicate through non-violent communication has helped us a lot. We talk about our feelings, our needs, and the requests we have for each other, and while it may seem lengthy at times, it actually ends up being more efficient in the long run.
- Learn to relax. This may seem simple, and yet many of us have a complete inability to relax. With smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet in our faces, 24/7 shutdown is becoming a real problem. Find something you like to do or, better yet, try doing nothing at all. About a year ago I realized that I missed dancing, not just any dance, but ballet. So I found an adult class and started over once a week. I love! It is my time away from my responsibilities and I am so busy trying to remember the choreography that I completely forget what to expect when I return home or to the office.
So the next time my daughter wakes up in the middle of the night and starts to lose her temper, I know I have some tools on my belt to handle it. I will take a deep breath and remember that I am a loving and caring mother.