Do you get angry often, but don’t know how to control anger and lose control? You are not the only one. It has happened to all of us. In fact, anger is a response that is activated when we feel that our expectations have been disappointed or things do not go according to our plans.
However, when we vent our anger, we often say or do things that we later regret. As Ambrose Bierce said, “Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” That is why it is essential that we learn to manage anger attacks and, if possible, prevent them.
The legend of the two wolves that helps us understand anger
They say that one day, an old Cherokee thought that had come the moment to transmit a great life lesson to his grandson. He asked him to go together to the forest and, sitting under a large tree, he began to tell him about the struggle that takes place in the heart of each person:
“Dear grandson, you must know that in the mind and heart of every human being there is a perennial struggle. If you are not aware of it, sooner or later you will get scared and at the mercy of circumstances. This battle exists even in the heart of an old and wise person like me.
“Two huge wolves live in my heart, one white and the other black. The white wolf is good, gentle and loving, he likes harmony and fights only when he must protect himself or take care of his family. The black wolf, on the contrary, is violent and angry. The slightest setback unleashes his anger so he fights continuously and for no reason. His thoughts are full of hatred but his anger is useless because it only causes problems to him. Every day these two wolves fight within my heart. “
The grandson asked the grandfather: “In the end, which of the two wolves wins the battle?”
The old man replied: “Both, because if I fed only the white wolf, the black wolf would hide in the dark and just when I’m a Little distracted, it would mortally attack the good wolf. On the contrary, if I pay attention and try to understand its nature, I can use its strength when I need it. Thus, both wolves can coexist with a certain harmony”.
The grandson was confused: “How is it possible that both win?”
The old Cherokee smiled and explained: “The black wolf has some qualities that we may need in certain situations, he is reckless and determined, he is also cunning and his senses are very keen. His eyes accustomed to darkness can alert us to danger and save us.
“If I feed them both, they won’t have to fight fiercely with each other to conquer my mind so I can choose which wolf to turn to each time.”
What do we need to understand to control anger?
This ancient legend leaves us with a very valuable lesson: repressed anger is like a hungry wolf, very dangerous. If we do not know how to control it, at any moment it can take control. For this reason, we must not hide or repress negative feelings but we must accept, understand and redirect them.
When we suffer an attack of anger there is a full-blown emotional hijacking. The amygdala, a structure of the brain, takes control and “disconnects” the frontal lobes, which are what allow us to reflect and control ourselves. So when we feel angry we can end up saying or doing things that we later regret.
However, anger is also an emotion with great energizing power. It pushes us to action and under certain conditions it can be as necessary as fear. Sometimes, for example, injustices make us angry. Or we get angry because someone has hurt others. In those cases, anger is perfectly understandable.
That means that we should not demonize anger but accept it as just another emotion. When we believe that we are bad people for experiencing anger or rage, we will tend to try to hide those emotions, even from ourselves, so that we are more likely to end up exploding when too much pressure builds up.
On the other hand, unexpressed anger can sometimes lead to other problems. It can lead, for example, to passive-aggressive behaviors, such as indirectly taking revenge on people, without telling them why, rather than confronting them, or it can even lead to develop a personality marked by cynicism and hostility.
Therefore, the key to managing anger is to recognize its signs before reaching the point of no return. So we can take advantage of its enormous psychological push without falling into its web. We have to learn to channel anger and express it in an assertive way.
15 techniques for controlling anger
1. Time out
This technique to control anger is very simple: it consists of taking a mental pause before responding. In reality, anger is not like a volcano that explodes suddenly, but rather a process in which rage and anger grow stronger and stronger. So when you notice the first signs of anger, take a mental pause: you can count to 10, take a deep breath, or do something that relaxes you. With this simple trick you will be able to establish a psychological distance and regain control over your emotions.
2. Become an outside observer
When you put a finger on the water outlet of a tap, you get a more powerful jet that you can direct at your whim, but if you push too hard or obstruct the spout too much, the water will expand in all directions, out of control . The same happens with anger when you try to suppress it or hide it, there will come a point where you will not be able to control its consequences. What is the solution? Take your finger off the tap, let the anger flow, and observe it as if you were an experimenter in a laboratory. You have to look for those things that help you calm down and channel that anger, such as taking a walk, listening to music, breathing deeply …
3. Find the source of anger
Writing has a cathartic power so you can take advantage of it to learn to control anger. If you tend to get angry often and have outbursts of anger, it is recommended that you keep a therapeutic diary. Answer these three questions: 1. What or who is making you angry? 2. Why does that person / situation make you nervous? and finally, 3. How can you use that anger to your advantage? Do not forget that there is also a more “positive” anger. For example, if you feel angry, it may be a good time to exercise, so you will not only relax but also probably improve your performance and health. Remember that anger is nothing more than energy, so you can use it to your advantage by channeling it through an activity in a way that is beneficial to you.
4. Express what you feel assertively
The fact that we are able to control anger does not mean that we should hide it or feel ashamed. Sometimes it is important that our interlocutor understands how he or she has made us feel so that this situation does not repeat itself. In that case, explain as clearly, directly, and calmly as possible, the reason for your anger. Sometimes the simple fact of acknowledging that we have been angry and making the other person notice it has a cathartic power that helps us calm down and release tension. As a general rule, emotions should not be denied or hidden, you just have to express them assertively without harming the other.
5. Speak in the first person
When we get angry, we have a tendency to speak using more general terms or even accuse our interlocutor. In this way we generate a crescendo of unease that will lead to a dead end. Therefore, a very simple technique to control anger is to always speak in the first person, avoid pointing your finger at the other, express your ideas and emotions, assuming responsibility for them. Acknowledging that you have been angry, for example, is a good start.
6. Don’t generalize
Words like “never” or “always” are common when we are irritated and angry, but they only serve to add fuel to the fire. So when you are upset, try not to generalize, be specific and focus on the problem to be solved. Remember that logic always conquers anger since anger feeds on irrationality. Take the reins of the matter and do not go around the bush, try to reach an agreement that is satisfactory for both of you.
7. Think in terms of solutions
Most people think in terms of problems, especially when they experience negative emotions such as rage and anger because they develop a kind of tunnel vision that does not let them see beyond what frustrates them. In this way, each one barricades himself or herself behind the problems and they grow. However, as anger usually arises from disagreements and conflicts, focusing on possible solutions can turn the situation completely upside down, making both parties win. Therefore, it is convenient that you do not focus on the problems, but on the possible solutions.
8. Project yourself into the future
Anger has the power to upset the importance of things. When we get angry, the trifles are magnified before our eyes and we get even more angry. When we get angry, we lose perspective and become more selfish people, which deeply affects those around us. So the next time you get angry, just ask yourself: what is making me angry, will it be important in 5 years? Probably not. Therefore, with this very simple question you can reframe the situation and adopt a more rational and objective perspective.
9. Apply cognitive restructuring
To control anger, you will have to change the way you think. When we get angry, our inner dialogue changes to reflect those emotions, but in that way we run the risk that we end up exaggerating everything. Therefore, pay more attention to what you say to yourself when you’re angry. Try to replace those thoughts with more rational ones. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “This is horrible, everything is lost,” you can tell yourself that it is frustrating and understandable that you are upset, but it is not the end of the world.
10. You don’t have to be right at all costs
At the base of anger there is often a very simple message: “I want things to be done my way.” People who get angry often think they have the truth in hand, so anything that blocks their plans automatically becomes an affront difficult to tolerate. Therefore, to learn to control anger, it is essential to get rid of the need to be right. We simply have to assume that most conflicts and problems that arise in everyday life are not a personal affront.
11. Let go of resentment
Sometimes anger is not caused by the situation we are experiencing but by our previous experiences, although we are not always aware of it. That is, we reached a certain situation carrying a great load of resentment. In this way, whatever the other person says or does, it will become the fuse that ignites a rage that was already about to explode. Therefore, to control anger, it is essential to let go of resentment. Always keep in mind an old proverb: “If you cheat me for the first time, it is your fault, if you cheat me a second time, it is my fault.”
12. Look for the funny side
It may seem like an impossible mission. In fact, when we are angry it is difficult to see things with a sense of humor. However, “silly humor” is a very effective strategy to control anger. It is not about you laughing at problems so that they disappear but only to de-dramatize and generate a state of mind that allows you to face them in a more constructive way. You can make a joke, which is not sarcastic (because this tone will only serve to heat up the spirits even more), or you can even recreate the situation you are experiencing in your mind, adding nice or crazy details.
13. Recognize and avoid your triggers
We all have certain red spots, situations or people that irritate us and make us lose our calm. Recognizing those buttons that make us jump will help us control our anger. It is not about running away from problems and making avoidance our coping style, but as far as possible it is convenient to avoid situations that can generate rage and anger. For example, if you tend to argue with your partner when you come back from work because you are tired, avoid sensitive topics until you can relax. If you know that you are going to face situations that may irritate you, it is advisable that you do a little exercise of visualization before: imagine how you will behave in the situation in question and think about the problems that may arise. If you have mental script prepared, it will be easier for you to stay calm.
14. Think about the consequences
It is important to reflect on anger and its consequences. Think about how you felt and how long it took you to get back to normal. Reflect on what you achieved with that behavior. You will realize that the main injured party will probably have been you. Anger is a very harmful emotion that robs you of your inner peace and destabilizes your psychological balance, so you will soon come to the conclusion that it is not worth getting angry. The next time you feel the anger growing inside you, ask yourself: is it worth losing my mental balance for that?
15. Try to be empathetic
When we’re angry, it is difficult to think of the others. We may feel hurt, humiliated, or belittled and take a more self-centered stance. Phrases like “Why did you do something like that?”, “How could you!” or “What were you thinking?” they are rhetorical recriminations that lead nowhere. Instead, we must try to understand their behavior by putting ourselves in their shoes. Sometimes those persons just has other concerns or priorities. Or simple made a mistake.
Chronically Angry people: Eternal Children
In some circumstances, especially when is committed an injustice, it is understandable that we react with a degree of anger. However, there are people who have become chronically angry, get upset with anything and cannot overcome that emotion but carry it with them and take it wherever they go.
Chronic anger is a childish characteristic that indicates that we are not able to overcome frustration and we always want to be right. In these cases, ask yourself some questions:
– Why do I choose to get angry in every situation?
– What do I do to create situations that continually generate anger?
– Is it the only way I can react?
– Who am I punishing with that behavior?
– Why do I want to be permanently angry?
– Which thoughts cause or fuel that anger?
– How do my attitudes influence the others?
– Is that the life I want?
Chronically angry people believe that anger is the only way to get what they want. Therefore, it is important that they understand that there are other ways of reacting that are much more effective and less harmful for everyone, including themselves. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what you really want and what makes you happy. Then get to work.
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