Anger Management Techniques: How to be Proactive, not Reactive

By Val Silver

Mastering simple, but not always easy anger management techniques can help you gain perspective, tame your temper, and respond in proactive, not reactive ways to stressful situations before anger takes control of you.

These methods are useful whether you need to quell in-the-moment angry feelings or those that have been simmering for a long time. Knowing how to deal with anger can save you from over-reacting and saying or doing something you know you will regret later.

When anger is under your control, (instead of the other way around) you can be proactive instead of reactive. Instead of being at the mercy of your feelings, you will have the ability to access them and make them work for you, not against you.  Even intense feelings you might label negative can have a positive influence in motivating you to make your situation better.

Anger management techniques are not just for letting go of anger in the heat of the moment. They are healthy habits that reduce your chances of accelerating unpleasant conflicts while providing the opportunity to get your needs, and the needs of others involved, to get your needs met in positive, helpful ways. They help protect your health from damaging stress hormones associated with the fight response and help prevent your emotions from escalating into more intense rage or spiraling down into suppressed, depressed feelings.

Some of these strategies are helpful when needed in the moment. Others are great for healing anger by neutralizing your triggers permanently. When the trigger is gone,  you will not respond in your usual way, if at all. That's why cultivating awareness of your triggers and what is behind them is an important first step to managing anger. 

Five Simple Anger Management Techniques

anger management techniques, temper tantrum

These anger management techniques are simple, but not always easy. They are helpful for diffusing angry feelings in the moment.

As soon as you notice the signs of rising anger in your mind and body and your inner child is ready to have a temper tantrum, use one or more of these strategies.

  • Focus on your breath going into your abdomen. Do this right away. This helps short-circuit the stress response and calm your nervous system Putting one hand on your forehead and another at the base of your head as you take these focused breaths will deepen the effect. Accompany your deep breath with 'I'm okay' or 'It's going to be alright' or another favorite calming phrase.
  • Choose a mantra to replace angry thoughts. For example, if you normally default to a barrage of 'shoulds', shift your language to 'could' or 'what if'. Instead of saying, "He should have done the dishes" say, "He could have done the dishes" or "What if he did the dishes?"
  • Frustrated at work? Take a time out for a few minutes. You'll be more focused, calm and productive when you begin again.
  • Use an emotional releasing technique you know well. Shifting statements, ho'oponopono and EFT tapping can calm you very quickly. A big bonus of letting go of anger with one of these techniques is that you will also start neutralizing the trigger so you are bothered less by the same situation next time. 
  • Decide in advance how you are going to respond in tense situations. Then, when you feel that surge of anger coming on, you can automatically get your responses under your control. Practice, practice, practice.

Managing anger in conversations

If your verbal conflicts sound anything like those you witness on reality TV shows, you know how easy it is to digress into verbal assaults, including yelling, name calling, insults, and saying horrible things you wish you could take back. 

Instead, put these conversational anger management techniques into practice.

  1. Listen for what is being said and unsaid. Really endeavor to understand where the person is coming from. 
  2. Acknowledge their point of view without aggression or defensive gestures. "I hear you saying..."
  3. Be curious. Inquire more deeply. "Help me understand why you think that..."
  4. Share your point of view and why you think and feel that way. Express your feelings, needs, and desires. Use 'I' statements to express yourself. "I feel angry when..., I feel left out if..."
  5. Come to a resolution. Have more dialogue holding the best interests of you both as more important than being right. If possible, find ways to compromise and move ahead. Even if you end up agreeing to disagree, try to find a solution that you both can accept and abide by. 

Tip: If you or the other person are feeling too worked up in the moment, set a time to talk or resume the conversation when everyone is calm. It is difficult to stay out of reactivity when you feel stressed and worked up. When you converse, set some ground rules, such as no yelling, no name calling, eye rolling, etc.  

Letting Go of Anger Issues

Healing anger triggers permanently is possible while still honoring your boundaries. With commitment and practice, you will become less reactive and more at peace within yourself and with others. Chances are that by putting these anger management techniques to work, you will actually feel more in control and enjoy happier emotional states. When you are calm and assertive, you have a better chance of expressing your needs and getting them met. 

The following methods are not specific to healing anger issues. Rather, they will help you neutralize negative feelings around emotionally charged incidents so that it is easier and more natural to respond appropriately in difficult situations. When the memories are no longer emotionally charged and the triggers are neutralized, anger will naturally subside and you will be better able to be proactive and express yourself in affirming ways.  

  • Observe and identify your anger triggers, responses, and habits. Developing awareness about your anger triggers is the first and most important step for healing anger. Use self-awareness to choose the best healing and anger management techniques for you. Remember that feeling anger is natural. Fight is one of the three ways people react when they feel stressed and out of control. Your anger is not the problem, it is how you express it that can be a problem. Anger channeled wisely is a positive force for healing and personal evolution.
  • Design solutions. Find ways to meet your needs and the needs of anyone else involved. This is a great way to feel a sense of control and channel your energy as a positive force for positive change. Let go of what can not be changed and what is really not that important. 
  • Professional medical hypnosis can be used as a tool for healing anger issues by eliminating distorted thinking patterns. It can help you master your frustrations and neutralize your triggers so you can live a more relaxed peaceful life.  
  • The personal peace procedure - Make a list of as many negative events from your life as you can think of. You will likely have 50-200 or more items on your list. Then use an energy flow technique such as EFT tapping to neutralize the energetic charge of one or two events each day until completed. Several years ago I used the personal peace procedure to clear a long list of past resentments. From then on, I had no response to several of my normal anger triggers.  It felt strange, but good, to feel nothing for something that would have normally had me seeing red. 
  • Practice forgiveness - Forgiving yourself and others is an integral part of letting go of anger. It is powerful on its own, and combines very well with tapping, the personal peace procedure, and other healing techniques. Sometimes, just realizing that someone else is having a bad time and releasing them from your judgment then and there is all you need to do. For deeper hurts, take yourself through the forgiveness process. Remember forgiveness is for you more than for them.
  • Ho oponopono - The ho'oponopono prayer is quite simple, yet profound. It is an amazingly powerful tool for emotional mental healing and forgiveness.
  • Practice self-love. This is real self-love, not the ego's version of conditional love. Take care of yourself. Eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. Relax. Take time to do what makes you happy, spend time with people you love. 

Letting go of anger and healing anger issues is a gift you give to yourselves and others. Understanding your anger and using anger management techniques is important for mental and emotional healing. It may take you to some uncomfortable shadow parts of yourself in the process, but the reward of a healthier, calmer, more peaceful, less reactive self is well worth it.

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Anger management techniques page updated 10/2020

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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