Anger Management Help and Healing

By Val Silver

Are your prone to frequent and/or intense outbursts of anger? The most important step to lasting anger management help is developing awareness of why and how you get worked up so your feelings will work for you instead of against you. 

Being a keen observer of yourself and knowing how to deal with anger is a set of skills that will help you master your emotions instead of the other way around. Since anger is a natural emotion, these skills are useful for everyone.

Expressing Anger

There are a lot of confusing messages out there about anger. Depending on your culture and upbringing you may have been taught to hide your anger completely. You may have been allowed to express your feelings calmly. Perhaps you were allowed to tantrum or you felt so out of control that you yelled, screamed, hit, swore and punched holes in the wall. 

Growing up in a large extended New York Italian family I would often witness the  grown-ups yelling and cursing at each other (in Italian) one minute and hugging and kissing good night the next. Anger was spontaneous, loud, and short-lived (most of the time).

Feeling angry is the fight side of the fight-flight response - a biological reaction to stress.

Little children are masters at expressing anger. Infants scream in red-faced rage. Toddlers throw themselves on the floor kicking and hollering when they don't get their way. They feel it quickly and release it quickly. Some grownups are the same way. Others suppress their feelings or stew on the inside. Perhaps they act out in passive-aggressive ways.

Attempting to offer anger management help to a child is often met with even more of an outburst. When they either get their way or get redirected, all is again well. This kind of behavior is expected from babies. When adults tantrum, their behavior is seldom met with the same humor and acceptance.

It's important to remember that expressing all kinds of emotion and feeling is healthy. Regular fits of anger are not. People with 'anger issues' are at higher risk of damaging and losing relationships, getting fired from jobs, causing injury and accidents, damaging property, and engaging in risky behaviors. Anger compromises emotional and physical health.

If this sounds like you, or someone you know, you are not alone. These anger management help techniques will get you in control of your anger and learn to express your feelings in healthier ways.

Note: If you fear your anger will cause you to hurt others or yourself emotionally or physically, do seek professional anger management help. Your doctor can examine you for a related health issue and steer you to a mental health professional. Anger management classes may also be available locally.

How to Deal with Anger

There are some very good anger management help techniques available and it may be very tempting to jump right into them. I would encourage you to spend some time on the following steps first. If you do, you will have already taken a giant step toward healing your anger issue. And you will get better results with the other strategies as well. 

The first step in healing anger is developing awareness.

Awareness is at the foundation of anger management help. Is anger your go-to habit when you feel frustrated and unsure of how to react in a given situation? You have to be aware of your patterns in order to take control of them and to  interrupt the cycle when angry feelings rise, which they will. You have to be aware of the thoughts and feelings behind your anger so you can disarm your triggers.

Tip: Write your observations down in a journal as part of your ongoing learning experience.

Accept that feeling anger is a natural response. It's what you do in response to feeling upset or full of rage that determines if you are expressing your emotion in a healthy way or are going "over the top". Expressing anger in appropriate ways is helpful, healthy and natural. 

With this understanding, assess how you experience anger.

  • Notice how you feel, think and behave without judging yourself or trying to change anything.
  • Here are some questions to ask yourself. How does the anger feels 'coming on'? What happens in your body? Do you tense up, stamp your feet, clench your jaw or fists, sweat, see red? How is your vision, hearing and breathing different?
  • What is the progression from mildly angry to rage? Is there a progression? What are you telling yourself?

Two common delusions of anger are: You believe you are thinking clearly, when you are not. Even though anger makes you feel strong and dominant, you are really out of control and dis-empowered. The truth is that when you are in the grips of fury, your rational mind has very little reasoning ability or control over your behavior.

Next, identify what is triggering your anger.

Is it something someone says or does? A sound or color? A song on the radio? A tone of voice or facial expression? A situation or memory? If you don't catch it in the moment, figure it out afterwards. There is always something.

Identify what is behind your anger.

Now it is time to look even deeper. Oftentimes, what is really being triggered is something that happened in childhood. It may be something you don't remember. That's okay. Notice carefully what is happening in your thoughts and feelings.

For example, you may feel angry when the kids are yelling and ignoring your requests to calm down. This triggers childhood feelings of being discounted or 'not heard'. Perhaps your inner child screams, "No one ever listens to me around here!". You feel the hairs on your neck stand up, and the next thing you know, you are in the fits of rage.

Some common fight triggers are:

  • not feeling heard, 
  • having your boundaries or territory threatened, 
  • feeling loss of control, 
  • feeling like your goals are out of your reach.

You may be also using anger as a tool. to manipulate, as a defense, or to get a burst of adrenaline.

I confess to having had the habit of finding something to feel angry about when I needed energy to get things done. Once worked up, I would get a hit of adrenaline. Then I would burn off that steam by cleaning the house with a furor. 

Notice if you use anger to manipulate. This may trigger back to childhood. Where your tantrums and fits rewarded by adults who gave you want you wanted to 'shut you up'.

Or maybe you learned to use anger to defend yourself. This may be appropriate at times. Watch for the times you are taking things too personally or going into victim mode.  If you feel discounted, does your rage say, "Hey, what about me?"

Listen to your self-talk.

When your emotions get stirred up, listen to your inner self talk. Train yourself to notice what is going on between your ears when you get riled up.  If you hear yourself saying, 'I should, he should', that is the voice of authority, control and judgement talking. Is that 'should' really the only way, or are there other possibilities?

If it happens too fast, wait until you calm down. Do your best to excavate. Talk to a therapist or trusted friend if needed.

  • Exercise: Fill in the blank and notice the feeling and energy each time you shift the statement. I/He should_(clean the kitchen)now. I/He could (clean the kitchen) now. What if (I/he were to the kitchen)now?

Do you repress and suppress your upset? Use this anger management help so you can honor and give voice to your feelings in a healthier way.  Do you ignore powerful emotions with sex, drugs or shopping? Releasing and healing suppressed anger is just as important for health and happiness as knowing how to deal with explosive anger.

Observe yourself from a space of judgment-free awareness.

Anger is a messenger that tells you something is wrong. Use your awareness to listen for the message. The problem is never the feeling of anger. It is how you express it that is either cleansing and healing or destructive and dis-empowering.

Keep the above steps in mind as you continue reading  anger management  techniques that can help you deal with anger in the moment and for the long-term. Revisit them as needed. Use your awareness to discover which of the techniques work best for you.

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