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Controlling Your Anger: Stop Wasting Your Time and Energy

Anger is an instinctual emotional response from a real or imagined threat. Anger is painful and we need to get relief.

We almost always feel something else first before we get angry: afraid, hopeless, hurt, disrespected, disappointed, or guilty.

We use anger to protect/cover up these other vulnerable feelings. We learned to deny and suppress our feelings so we will not be in emotional pain anymore. However, when something happens in the present, it reminds us of unfinished business in the past and compounds it.

When life makes us angry, we regard it as a problem to be solved. Most persons feel frustrated when someone or something obstructs them in some way. And most persons respond to the feeling of frustration by immediately wanting the satisfaction of forcing the “obstacle” to get out of the way—or, if it won’t move, to curse it and insult it. Looking at the “other side” is called empathy, and it can go a long way to calming yourself down, keeping the peace, reducing the sense of urgency and fostering simple courtesy.

We can catch ourselves wanting to give someone what we are sure is good advice: “This is what I would do” or “This is what you should do.” If worrying about what other people think is pleasing to us, we can choose to continue. If it doesn’t please us, we can make another choice. We can choose to stop! If bad-mouthing our spouse gives us pleasure, we can continue. But if it makes us unhappy, we can choose not to do it.
As the process continues, it occurs to many that the simplest choice is to stop doing what makes them unhappy. For instance, if nagging our partner about leaving their shoes in the hall pleases us, we are free to continue. If it turns out that we hate doing this, we are free to stop. Instead we can choose to say, “It makes me angry when you do that, I would prefer that you pick up after yourself.” When we start to please ourselves, we use our adult judgment to make the appropriate choice as to when, where and how much we need to say.
If a loved one breaks a dish, catch yourself about to assign fault. (“Oh, I shouldn’t have left it so close to the edge.”) This is an absurd waste of your time and energy. We can stop reacting and express our feelings appropriately: “It makes me angry when you do that!” We can impose a logical consequence, such as having them pay for a replacement.

If you find yourself consumed with anger, try the following techniques to maintain a calm and realistic outlook.

• Focus on the present. If you’re holding on to old hurts and resentments, your ability to see the reality of the current situation will be impaired. Rather than looking to the past and assigning blame, focus on what you can do in the here and now

• Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Maybe you don’t want to surrender a parking space if you’ve been circling for 15 minutes. But if there are dozens of spots, arguing over a single space isn’t worth it.

• Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

Controlling Your Anger: Stop Wasting Your Time and Energy

Aaron Karmin

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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2020). Controlling Your Anger: Stop Wasting Your Time and Energy. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Mar 2020
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