Having spent years as a victim of acute anger problems before finding the courage and strength to cure myself, I can tell you, anger is good. No, that’s not a typo. Anger is an instinct which Nature programmed into us so that we can save ourselves from danger, and it’s healthy. What’s unhealthy however, is what I was – a slave of my anger instead of being its master. No prizes for guessing how it was affecting my life and relationships.
If you’re struggling with anger management, I know how you feel.
You feel helpless.
You know you are the victim, not those whom your anger is directed against.
There are no words to describe the regret and guilt you feel to be unable to protect people you love the most from yourself.
The good news is you can find solutions if you want to. Here are some methods I followed which helped me overcome my anger issues completely.
There are three distinct stages of the journey to recovery:
A) Preparing the ground: How to prepare yourself mentally to even begin applying the methods for controlling your anger
B) On the ground: What to do when you already feel the pangs of rising anger
C) Aftermath: How to come back to your healthy self after an outburst
It’s going to be long, so grab a coffee if you like. I write with clinical or near-clinical anger issues in mind, but you can use the techniques outlined here to bring your anger under control anytime you feel it’s not.
A) Preparing the ground: You have to understand your anger issues before you tackle them successfully. The first step is all about getting to the roots of your anger.
1. Know your problem: Each one of us gets angry from time to time and it’s perfectly normal. However, if in the throes of your anger you say and do things that you otherwise wouldn’t believe you could possibly do, you could be suffering from anger sickness. That completely out of control feeling that you get in your guts when you’re having one of “those” moments is the surest sign of your anger having crossed the limits of healthy.
2. Take a decision to solve it
: The next step is to really believe that you want to conquer your unhealthy anger. If you’re like me, this is most likely a challenge for you, because you feel most of the times your anger was “justified”. Yes, I know it was. If you’re an adult you’d know that the world may be a glorious, beautiful place, but one thing it isn’t is fair. Bad things which you don’t deserve will keep happening to you for the rest of your life, this one and the next. But as you know only too well, reacting is going to cause more harm to you than to anyone else (Remember what happened when you stormed into your boss’ office and gave him a piece of your mind for that grossly unfair performance rating he assigned you? Good. So you know it doesn’t work.)
What helped me put things in perspective is the realization that I’m not the only one who’s received a bad deal from life – I’m one of 7 billion. That’s right. Each one of us on this Big Blue Ball has experienced his or her share of the excruciating and the exhilarating, the unexpected joys and the undeserved misfortune. It happens. Understanding this simple fact helped me reason with myself at those moments of “righteous rave”.
3. Ask for help: Once you’ve taken a decision to tackle your demon head-on, make an announcement to your near and dear ones. They are the ones who’re worst affected by your temper tantrums. Protecting them from yourself is your first priority.
Tell them how you’d like to be treated when you’re out of control. Which words or actions of theirs push you over the edge at those moments? Which ones help you calm down? Request them to keep these in mind if they want to help you. I needed a few loving words from the person in front of me (if they’re someone close). My parents and then boyfriend were really, really understanding and they were able to put their egos aside to help me calm down at my worst moments.
B) On the ground: That was about measures you can take to minimize occurrences of your out-of-control phases. But what do you do when in spite of your best efforts they do occur (and they will)?
4. Turn your mind away
: When that seething feeling starts building inside you, shoot for the nearest exit. The best way to diffuse those strong feeling is to distract yourself, by removing yourself physically from the situation if possible. If that’s ruled out (if someone in a position of authority is telling you something you don’t like, for example), turn yourself off mentally. Dissociate yourself from your immediate reality. Here are some suggestions:
a) Good ol’ deep-breathing: They tell you to breathe deeply when you’re angry not because the greater amounts of Oxygen you inhale has got anything to do with it, but because it distracts your mind by forcing you to concentrate on your breathing. It’s as simple as inhaling for 10 seconds, holding your breath for 5 more, and then taking 10 more seconds to exhale, counting the seconds all the while, of course. You can repeat this as many times as it takes to calm yourself down (and you will).
b) Think of something funny or sweet. Create a happy & peaceful place in your mind where you can retreat whenever you need. It can be a happy memory, a beautiful song or a hilarious episode of Mr. Bean. Again, the objective here is to take your mind off the negative and give it something nice to rest on.
A word of caution here. Another good ol’ technique – counting from 1 to 10 – has never worked for me, unless I was doing it for counting the seconds as I inhaled and exhaled.
C) Aftermath: Relaxing after being tossed and turned by waves of wrath can be difficult, even an hour after the episode is past. Here are some steps to help you do just that.
5. Calm yourself.
a) Keep a hilarious collection on jokes in your bag (or an equivalent app in your phone) at all times. Nothing works as magically as humour when it comes to dissolving anger. Just make sure the jokes aren’t average, in which case they’d only add fuel to your inner fire.
b) Use self-talk. Tell yourself, “I’m not angry. I’m not excited. It’s OK.” Play these words again and again in your mind until you believe them completely. At a later stage of recovery you can even start the self-talk with asking, “Why am I feeling the way I’m feeling? Why am I feeling more excited than is warranted?”
So you’ve prepared your mind, mastered a few tools to beat sanity back into your brain when it’s mad, and also know how to calm yourself after an anger attack. Now what? Now is the time to train yourself to develop an emotional depth and calm that eliminates chances of destabilization permanently. Develop a reading habit, meditate regularly and turn all that energy into doing something constructive. Cultivate a new hobby maybe, or volunteer your time in your community. Remember, complete recovery is possible and it starts with your decision to achieve it.
||Written on 6/3/2013 by Sulagna Dasgupta. Sulagna Dasgupta is a relationships & personal development blogger. Her blog, www.loveinindia.co.in is India’s first dedicated relationships & marriage blog – with the mission to facilitate more open thinking about this topic in India in the long run. You can find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/letstalkrelationships.
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