Have you ever been so angry you couldn’t see straight?
Have you felt like taking it out on anyone who happened to be available, like the dog, a spouse or child? These are good times to back off and control your anger. Once we control it, we can channel it into successful problem-solving.
Anger can vary from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. As with all emotion, bodily changes go with it – heart rate goes up, blood pressure goes up as our body is prepared for “fight or flight” (to get away).
Anger can be caused by reacting to things outside us such as other people or events (such as the traffic jam) or by worrying over our own personal problems. Upsetting memories from the past can lead to angry thoughts and feelings. It is important to note that it is not people or events that make you angry it is your reaction to them that makes you angry.
People tend to have similar thoughts happening over and over again when angry, for example:
• “He is so stupid”
• “You’re making a fool of me”
• “You’re selfish”
• “I want to hurt you”
• “I hate this place”
One approach to managing anger is called the STAR-R approach, from the book, Preparing for the Drug (Free) Years: A Family Activity Book. STAR-R stands for stop, think, ask, reduce, and reward.
Stop. Notice when you get angry and look for the signs. Is your voice rising, neck tightening, face getting hot, hand shaking, jaw tightening and breath shortening? Do you want to run away?
Think. Try to picture the consequences if you lose control. Most of us don’t want to hurt our children, spouse, co-workers or others, either physically or emotionally. If you try to picture the consequences both for you and for the person with whom you are angry, it can help you engage your brain before you engage your tongue or fist. Example: “If I lose control, I’ll feel worse, be embarrassed, humiliate myself and the other person in front of friends. There might even be a newspaper story with my name in the headlines tomorrow.”
Ask. Ask yourself what you’re really angry about. What do you want? All too often the family member we’re angry at is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. We may actually be angry about a decision our boss made, the slow driver who made us late, or ourselves for not handling a situation as well as we should have. (Notice the unmet expectations in each case?)
It usually is safer to take our anger out on a spouse or child than on other people. It also is probably easier to yell at our children for not doing their homework than to face the possibility that we made a mistake or that we don’t have enough money to pay the bills. Still, sometimes we need to tell the person by using an effective I-statement. (“When you __________, I felt angry, and what I want now is __________. “)
Reduce anger. Often we’re so angry that we can’t resolve the problem until we cool down. Ask yourself, “What can I do to reduce my anger?” Take a walk or a 20-minute run, a cold shower or bath, listen to relaxing music, do stretching exercises, call a friend, split wood, or sit in the shade and unwind
Reward. Reward yourself by saying, “I did a good job and I’m going to __________.” You’ve controlled your anger and maintained a bond with a family member, friend or other fellow human being. To continue this new behavior, reward yourself, go to lunch, see a movie, buy something special, or spend time with a friend. By controlling anger and thinking about effective solutions, we increase our chances of finding healthy solutions to our problems.