October 1, 2013
by Casey Truffo, LMFT
Do you ever feel so angry your face gets hot, your heart starts to pound, and you begin to grit your teeth? Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion, but it's imperative to deal with anger in a positive way. Uncontrollable anger can lead to destruction, as well as to problems with your health and your relationships. It can lead to ulcers and heart disease and can ruin friendships and relationships in no time flat. Take a step back and feel the anger before you act on it. Here's how to control your anger before it controls you.
- Acknowledge It - Admit that you're angry, either to yourself or as calmly as possible to the person you're angry with. Doing this can feel very validating and can put you on the right track to resolving your issues.
- Take Time Out - Count to 10 and take deep breaths before reacting to a stressful situation. This can help calm your nerves and lessen your anger. If at all possible, remove yourself from the area in order to take a break from either the person or the situation.
- Go Mental, Think Blue - If you cannot remove yourself from the area, look around and count the blue things in the room. When you get angry, all of your energy is focused on being right and justified. This is an emotional place that can ruin your connection with others. It is a better idea to try to pull away from the emotions a bit so you can actually explain your feelings to the person with whom you are angry. How do you do that? Play a mental game. Count the blue things in the room where you are. This engages the thinking part of your brain and helps defuse the emotion. (Still angry? Count the red things.)
- Think First - Think before you speak. This should be a motto in everybody's life, "Once you say it, you can't take it back." Collect your thoughts before you say one word. Allow others in the situation to do the same.
- Seek Perspective - If possible, think of all the things you are grateful for in your life, and all the positive things going on in your world. Doing this can really make you wonder if your anger is even worth it. Try to remember you will not always feel like this. When you are angry, you can quickly feel despair and a sense of hopelessness. If you can remind yourself that this feeling is transitory, you might find that you feel more hopeful. This hopefulness can lead you to communicate more easily, making it more likely for you to get what you really want - connection and acceptance.
- Don't Hold Grudges - If you allow anger to overshadow positive feelings, you may find yourself in a position of bitterness. Forgiveness is divine. If you can forgive the person who angered you, you are on the right path.
- Find Your Rock - Discuss the problem with someone you trust, whether that's your spouse, your parent(s), another family member, a friend, or your counselor. Ask them to allow you to vent to get the situation out of your system. Tell them you are not asking for advice, you just need to get it off your chest.
- Lose Your Lizard Brain - Understand that when you are angry, you are in "fight or flight" mode. Brain science tells us that when we are angry, the primitive part of our brain (think: lizard or crocodile) is in charge. The blood and oxygen normally involved in the thinking process leave the brain and go to the main muscle groups. This is so you can decide to flee or to fight. That said, the more developed, "thinking" part of the brain is not flushed with blood and oxygen. This means that communicating clearly and understanding relationship intricacies is not possible. Knowing this bit of brain science can help you decide to "get your point across" later when you are not in your lizard brain and better prepared to communicate.
Knowing when to get help to learn to control your anger is challenging. If your anger seems to make you out of control, causes you regret, and hurts those you work with or especially those you love, it's time to seek help. With professional help, you will learn what anger is, what triggers your anger, the signs that you are becoming out of control with your anger, how to respond to your anger in a healthy way, and if there are underlying feelings present, such as loneliness, sadness, or depression.
Anger management can be accomplished by attending counseling. The sessions can be attended by just you, you and your spouse, you and your family, or in a group setting. Request a referral from your doctor or ask family members, friends, coworkers, or other contacts for recommendations.
If you're ready to get your anger under control, let the counselors at Orange County Relationship Center help you. Call us today at 949-220-3211 or book your appointment via our online calendar.