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On Anger, How to Deal with it and How to Experience Less of It

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Anger impacts all of us differently, but all of us are affected in some way by it. And in some cases, our anger can cause us to do catastrophic, relationship-ruining things.

At Stenzel Clinical, we specialize in helping our clients deal with their anger in healthy ways. Here are some interesting facts and strategies we’ve come to learn about the powerful emotion.

Why do we get angry?

There are limitless reasons to become angry, but there’s a common foundation. Every time you’ve been angry, you were triggered by something. Maybe a friend or family member said something you were insulted by. Maybe someone hit you. Or maybe you were simply covering up feelings of shame, hurt, or fear.

See, anger is a fight or flight response to a perceived threat. When it triggers, the frontal lobe — the part of the brain responsible for impulse control — goes and gets a snack while the more primitive part of the brain takes over. And then, BAM. We’re suddenly equipped to say or do something we may regret later.

Let’s say a friend or family member who often gets under your skin yells at you. With rage in their voice, they scream “What is your PROBLEM?” That would trigger anybody, from Jesus Christ on down to you and me.

Step 1: Call timeout.

It’s not easy to recognize your anger in the moment and walk away from it. But if you can, you will return to the conversation an hour or two later when you’re under control and ready to have a healthy conversation about your feelings.

Step 2: Distract or reframe.

One interesting tactic recommended is to suck on a Lifesaver. No chewing it! By the time you’re finished (it will take longer than you think), your frontal lobe will be back from snack time.

Another option is to ask yourself, “Hang on. Is this really worth being angry about?” or to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. They could be having a bad day, a bad month or even a bad year.

 

Step 3: Find your release.

You can do many things to burn that anger off. Physical exercise is wonderful when you’re angry. So is listening to soothing music, taking a walk or meditating on your own. Discover what works for you when you’re angry and use your anger as fuel to do something productive.

How to get angry a little less in the future.

If I were to ask you “Why were you so angry?” you would probably respond “Because this person MADE me so angry!” You’d be right. They were definitely your trigger.

But ask yourself this: “Were there things I could have done before the trigger so the actual trigger didn’t affect me as much?”

For example, you might have been tired. Or hungry. Or you had a rough day and you were itching to take it out on somebody.

In short, try to evaluate your pre-anger state. If you do the things that fill you up — eat well, get rest, pray or meditate, pursue your hobbies — before you get angry, the emotion can become less powerful when it appears in the future.

Manage your beliefs.

People can’t MAKE you angry. They can certainly trigger you, but anger is born of our beliefs and choices.

Our interpretation of events — not the events themselves — is what makes us angry. Think about it: If events made us angry, then everyone would be angry over the same things. But what makes us angry varies from person to person. Therefore, the stimuli is not the cause. Our beliefs are.

So, anger can be managed by managing our beliefs. Ask yourself questions like “Is this really worth getting worked up about?” “Is there another perspective?” “Is this person trying to hurt me or are they just not thinking straight?”

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