Do you often get angry, but don't know how to control anger and lose control? You are not the only one. It 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 are not going according to our plans.
When we vent our anger, we often say or do things that we later regret. As Ambrose Bierce, an American writer, said, "speak without controlling anger and you will make the best speech you can regret." That is why it is essential that we learn to manage anger attacks and, if possible, to prevent them.
The legend of the two wolves that helps us understand anger
They say that one day an elderly Cherokee thought it was time to pass on a life lesson to his grandson. He asked him to accompany him to the forest and, sitting under a large tree, he began to tell him about the struggle that takes place in the heart of every person:
“Dear nephew, 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 remain at the mercy of circumstances. This battle also exists in the heart of an elderly and wise person like me.
“Two huge wolves live in my heart, one white and the other black. The white wolf is good, kind and loving, loves harmony and only fights when it needs to protect itself or take care of loved ones. The black wolf, on the other hand, is violent and always angry. The slightest mishap unleashes his anger for which he constantly fights for no reason. His thought is full of hate but his anger is useless because it only causes him problems. Every day these two wolves fight in my heart ”.
The grandson asked his 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 darkness and as soon as I was 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. So both wolves can coexist with a certain harmony ".
The grandson was confused: "How is it possible that they both win?"
The old Cherokee smiled and explained to him, “The black wolf has some qualities that we might need in certain situations, he is reckless and determined, he is also smart and his senses are very acute. His eyes accustomed to darkness can warn us of 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 a very valuable lesson: repressed anger is like a hungry wolf, very dangerous. If we don't know how to control it, it can take over at any moment. For this reason, we must not hide or repress negative feelings but we must accept them, understand them and redirect them.
When we have a fit of anger, a real emotional abduction occurs. The amygdala, a structure of the brain, takes over and "disconnects" the frontal lobes, which are what allow us to reflect and control ourselves. So when we are angry, we may end up saying or doing things that we will 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 people. In those cases, the anger is perfectly understandable.
This means that we should not demonize anger but accept it as an extra emotion. When we believe we are bad people because we feel anger or rage, we will tend to hide those emotions, even from ourselves, so we are more likely to explode when too much pressure builds up.
On the other hand, sometimes unspoken anger can cause other problems. It can lead, for example, to passive-aggressive behaviors, such as indirectly taking revenge on people, without telling them why, instead of facing them, or it can even lead to developing a personality marked by cynicism and hostility.
Therefore, the key to managing anger is to recognize its signals before reaching the point of no return. So we can take advantage of its enormous psychological boost without falling into its net. We need to learn to channel anger and express it assertively.
15 techniques to manage anger
1. Time out
This anger management technique is very simple: it consists of taking a mental pause before responding. In reality, anger is not like a volcano that explodes unexpectedly, but rather it is a process in which anger and rage are growing and strengthening. So, when you notice the first signs of anger, take a mental break - you can count to 10, take a deep breath, or do something that relaxes you. With this simple trick you can establish a psychological distance and regain control of your emotions.
2. Become an outside observer
When you put your finger on the water outlet hole of a faucet, you get a more powerful jet that you can direct at will, but if you press too hard or obstruct the hose too much, the water will expand in all directions, out of control. The same happens with anger when you try to suppress or hide it, there will come a point where you will no longer be able to control the consequences. What is the solution? Remove your finger from 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, like taking a walk, listening to music, breathing deeply ...
3. Find the source of anger
Writing has enormous cathartic power, so you can take advantage of it to learn how to control anger. If you tend to get angry often and have tantrums, we recommend that you keep a therapeutic journal. Answer these three questions: 1. What or who is making you angry 2. Why is that person / situation making you nervous? and finally, 3. How can you use that anger to your advantage? Don't forget that there is also a more "positive" anger. For example, if you are feeling angry, it might be a good time to play sports, so you will not only relax but will likely improve your performance and health as well. Remember that anger is nothing but energy, so you can use it to your advantage by channeling it through an activity in order to be useful 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 made us feel so that the situation does not happen again. If so, explain the reason for your anger as clearly, directly, and calmly as possible. Sometimes the simple fact of acknowledging that we are angry and pointing it out to the other person has a cathartic power that helps us calm down and release tension. As a general rule, emotions shouldn't be denied or hidden, you just need to express them assertively without harming the other.
5. Speak in first person
When we get angry, we have a tendency to speak using more general terms or even to accuse our interlocutor. In this way we generate a malaise that will lead us to a dead end. Therefore, a very simple technique to control anger is to always speak in the first person, avoid pointing fingers at each other, express your ideas and emotions, taking responsibility for them. Recognizing that you are 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 overcomes anger as anger feeds on irrationality. Take control of the problem and don't go around it, 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 like anger and rage because they develop a kind of tunnel vision that doesn't allow them to see beyond what frustrates them. In this way, everyone barricades himself behind the problems and they grow. However, since anger usually stems from disagreements and conflicts, focusing on possible solutions can turn the situation around, making both sides win. Therefore, it is better for you not to focus on problems, but on possible solutions.
8. Project into the future
Anger has the power to overturn the importance of things. When we get angry, the nonsense gets bigger 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, ask yourself: What is making me angry, will it matter in 5 years? Probably not. Therefore, with this very simple question you can reconsider the situation and adopt a more rational and objective perspective.
9. Apply cognitive restructuring
To control anger, you will need to change the way you think. When we get angry, our internal dialogue changes to reflect those emotions, but in doing so we run the risk of ending up exaggerating everything. Therefore, pay more attention to what you say to yourself when you get angry. Try replacing those thoughts with more rational ones. For example, instead of saying to yourself, “This is terrible, it's all over”, you can tell yourself that it is frustrating and understandable to be upset, but that it is not the end of the world.
10. Don't pretend to be right at all costs
At the root of anger there is often a very simple message: "I want things to go my way." People who get angry often think they have the truth in hand, so anything that blocks their plans automatically becomes an affront that is hard to tolerate. Therefore, in order to learn to control anger, it is essential to get rid of the need to be right. We simply have to assume that most of the conflicts and problems that arise in everyday life are not a personal affront.
11. Let go of the grudge
Sometimes anger is not caused by the situation we are experiencing but by our previous experiences, even if we are not always aware of it. That is, we have come to a certain situation carrying a huge load of resentment. In this way, whatever the other person says or does, it will become the fuse that ignites an anger 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's your fault, if you cheat me a second time it's my fault”.
12. Look for the fun side
It may seem like a mission impossible. Indeed, when we are angry it is difficult to see things with a sense of humor. However, "silly humor" is a very effective anger management strategy. It is not a question of laughing at problems hoping that they disappear but only of defusing and generating 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 otherwise it will only serve to warm the spirits even more), or you can even recreate the situation you are living in your mind, adding cute or crazy details.
13. Recognize and avoid triggers
We all have red spots, situations or people that irritate us and make us lose our temper. Recognizing those sensitive spots that make us jump will help us control our anger. It is not about running away from problems and avoiding our coping style, but as much as possible it is convenient to avoid situations that can generate anger. For example, if you tend to argue with your partner when you come home 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 to first do a little visualization exercise: imagine how you will behave in the situation in question and think about the problems that may arise. If you have a pre-established mental script, 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. Think about what you have achieved with that behavior. You will realize that the first injured party was probably you. Anger is a very harmful emotion that takes away 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 anger growing within you, ask yourself: Is it worth losing my sanity for this?
15. Try to be empathetic
When we get angry, it is difficult to think about others. We may feel hurt, humiliated, or belittled and adopt a more self-centered attitude. Phrases like "Why did you do something like this?", "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 people just have other concerns or priorities. Or they were simply wrong.
Chronic angry: eternal children
In some circumstances, especially when an injustice is committed, it is understandable that we react with a certain degree of anger. But there are people who have become real chronic angry, they get angry about anything and they can't get over that emotion but they carry it with them wherever they go.
Pathological anger is a childhood trait that indicates that we are unable to overcome frustration and that we always want to be right. In these cases, ask yourself a few questions:
- Why do I choose to get angry in any situation?
- What do I do to create situations that continually generate anger?
- Is that the only way I can react?
- Who am I punishing with that behavior?
- Why do I want to be permanently angry?
- What thoughts cause or feed that anger?
- How do my attitudes affect others?
- Is this the life I want?
Perpetually angry people believe that anger is the only way to get what they want. Therefore, it is important for them to understand that there are other ways to react that are much more effective and less harmful to everyone, including themselves. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what you really want and what makes you happy. So, get to work.