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I have spent extra time on the topic of anger because it is so prevalent in our world, and we see the destruction it can have.
Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by logic or reason can leave behind destroyed relationships and ruined lives. Left unrestrained, our lives can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.
Anger, like fear, is a great stressor when it becomes the norm for dealing with life’s problems.
As therapists, we see the effects of growing up in homes where anger is out of control. The wounds and scars run deep. Unless recognized, addressed, and changed, the patterns of behavior repeat themselves from one generation to another.
Shame, guilt, fear, and sometimes downright terror often keep us from getting the help we need. Yet getting that help is the most freeing thing you can do.
In this series on stress, as I move from the topic of anger to the topic of relationships and communication, I want to leave you with the following.
Listen to what your anger is telling you.
Maybe it’s time to review your priorities and goals.
- What is most important in your life – your career or your family?
- Do you spend quality time with your kids playing and just being with them?
If you grew up with constant turmoil, conflict, and anger, you may be repeating those patterns with your children.
We are not doomed to repeat patterns that are destructive. Knowledge gives us power to change directions, heal and put in motion a different set of guidelines.
Find a good therapist who can help you unravel the roots of your anger.
Here are 5 simple ways to express anger effectively and channel it appropriately. It is a learned skill.
1. When you feel angry, STOP.
Don’t immediately react. Take some slow, even breaths. Count to ten if necessary, to calm down. Then ask yourself if the anger you feel is appropriate for this situation. If not, what hidden issues are being triggered making this worse?
2. When you are feeling calmer, ask yourself what you want to accomplish.
What do I want to have happen? Will an angry outburst give me the result I want? We don’t have to be afraid of our anger; we just need to weigh carefully the outcome of how we use it.
3. Shift from feeling to doing.
Move from anger to a clear plan of positive action. Don’t just feel hurt and angry. Do something constructive. Start a conversation. Evaluate and problem solve.
4. Avoid accusations.
Shifting blame or using accusatory statements only increases the problem. Take responsibility for what you do and say.
Instead of saying, you make me so angry, say something like, I get really angry when this is happening. You are now owning your anger.
Then state clearly and simply what you would like to have happen. Focus on what you want versus putting a guilt trip on someone else. Be willing to negotiate or compromise a solution. My upcoming blogs will give more examples of this.
Each of us comes to confrontations and conflicts with our own set of rules, perceptions, and agendas. Unless we can listen and discuss we will continue to be in our battle zone.
Learning any new skill takes time and practice.
Put in place a prevention plan to reduce the possibility of anger outbursts. Here are six things that will help.
1. Recognize your trigger points.
Keep an anger diary and record the times you feel angry, what you are thinking and what your first impulse reaction is. After a week you will see a pattern of situations and typical responses.
As soon as your anger is triggered, ask yourself, is this really what I want? Challenge that thinking. Then replace angry thoughts with constructive problem-solving thoughts. Remind yourself you do not have to be reactive.
2. Have someone model appropriate coping strategies for handling stressful situations and anger.
Rehearse them and get feedback. Practice these new skills as often as possible.
3. Use relaxation techniques to reduce your stress levels during the day.
Mentally visualize yourself reacting in a way that will meet your goals.
4. Become aware of those times and places when your anger gets triggered.
Avoid them if possible. Learn effective communication and conflict management skills. Ask for what you want and listen to the other person’s point of view.
5. Clarify your values to reduce irrational thinking.
Expand your frame of reference. Replace negative thinking with constructive problem-solving, empathy, positive self-talk, and affirmations.
6. Re-direct your anger.
Put it into constructive action. Turn it into humor.
Believe in yourself. Ask God for the strength and courage to be honest with yourself.
When we can acknowledge our vulnerabilities, fears, and perceived weaknesses, we will discover how freeing it can be, and it helps us to be more gracious and understanding of others. But if we continue to hide our vulnerabilities, they will rule our life and we remain a prisoner of them.
Do you want to turn your stress into a positive force?
My Make Stress Work for You bundle will help you:
- Identify the personal stressors that create high levels of distress in your life
- Learn how to identify problems and find ways to solve them
- Replace unhelpful thinking with constructive and practical ways to lower levels of fear, worry, and anxiety
The book bundle includes:
- audio recording of each chapter’
- companion Study Guide & Personal Application Workbook
- Four bonus guides