How Can I Manage My AngerThink back to the last time that you felt angry. What was it that triggered your anger? It could be that someone swiped the parking spot you were waiting on at Publix. Maybe you had a disagreement with your spouse about the way you should spend money. Maybe someone stole from you or hurt one of your friends or family. Whatever the trigger, our hope is to help you better manage your anger.

Understanding Anger

According to Patrick M. Reilly, Ph.D., we have four cue categories when we are angry: “physical, behavioral, emotional and cognitive.” Recall back to when you were angry, where did you experience the anger in your body? How did you react? What did you feel emotionally? What were you thinking to yourself or the person? You might have noticed your heart beat faster and your chest become tightened. Behaviorally, you may have screamed at your spouse during the disagreement and you might have felt sad because your spouse did not listen and thought to yourself, “he will listen to what I have to say!”

Many identify anger as being a secondary emotion. A primary emotion is an emotion that is directly correlated to an event that occurs while a secondary emotion is connected to a primary emotion. For example, in this scenario, you are sad because your husband does not want to talk to you about this concern. You then become upset with him because the sadness is too uncomfortable for you to handle.

While expressing your anger might soften the blow, ignoring the primary emotion and not being aware of the initial emotion that you felt can complicate your healing process.

Processing Anger

Processing anger involves three components:

1.) Be Aware Of Your Triggers: According to the Cambridge dictionary, a trigger is defined as “something that causes someone to feel upset and frightened because they are made to remember something bad that has happened in the past.” A trigger can be a person, a sound, an event, a place, etc. When we are triggered, the trigger arouses an emotion within us. Example, your spouse dismisses you (trigger) and you feel sad (emotion). Take time to think of what your personal triggers are.

2.) Engage In Divergent Activities: The goal of a divergent activity is to take your attention off of the event or experience that is triggering you and to help you to calm down. When we engage in a divergent activity, we are not trying to avoid addressing the trigger. There are several divergent activities that we can engage in when we are triggered. Most importantly, it is important to be aware of what helps you to calm down when you are angry. In order to move past anger, you must be in a calm state. Some examples of divergent activities include:

    • Taking A Walk: Getting up and moving around helps to calm your body down. Take a look at what is around you. Do you see a tree? What does the tree look like? How does the cement, rock, grass, sand, etc feel as your feet are walking over it. Do you hear birds chirping? Can you see the birds that are around you? Just taking in the physical environment can help to calm you down.
    • Practicing Deep Breathing: Breathing is something that we naturally do but our natural breathing is shallow and can amplify feelings of anger. So it is important that when we are angry, we take deep breaths to calm ourselves down. According to McKay, Wood, and Brantley, “breathing fully is a simple technique that can help you relax and focus.” So try it. Breathe in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds and breathe out for four seconds. Do this at-least four times or longer if needed.
    • Listening To Music: What is a song that helps to lift your spirits when you are upset? Maybe it is Happy by Pharrell, It is Well by Tori Kelly or even listening to baby lullaby music when you are feeling angry. Think of songs that help you to calm down and create a playlist to listen to when you find yourself being angry.
    • Writing In A Journal: Sometimes it can be difficult to express how or why you are feeling the way that you are verbally. Writing out what you are thinking and feeling can help you to process what is going on and ever arise at a solution.
    • Calling A Trusted Friend or Family Member: When you are angry, it is good to speak to someone about what you are feeling. It is beneficial to have a friend or family member who might be able to have a different perspective on what is occurring at the moment.

3.) Ask A Question: When you are ready, ask yourself “What Is It About This Situation That Is Making Me Feel This Way?” Let’s go back to having that argument with your spouse about the way that you spend money. Maybe you all were talking about your child going on a field trip. Your spouse realized that you all do not have extra money to pay for your child to go on the field trip. However, you had spoken to your child’s teacher about the situation and they were willing to work with you. You tried to express this to your spouse but instead of your spouse allowing you to tell them what you have found out, he dismissed you. Had your spouse taken time to hear where you are coming from, you would not feel sad and as a result, you would not feel angry.
4.) Bonus: Congratulate Yourself: Once you are able to identify what made you upset, congratulate yourself. It is so important that we take charge of our emotions by identifying what we are feeling and what is causing us to feel that way. Emotions are a part of our life that we can not get away from. But we can avoid a lot of issues in our relationships when we take responsibility for what we are feeling at the time.

Do you see how processing this experience and getting down to the root helps you to put the situation into perspective. One of the hardest things about anger is to acknowledge what is causing a particular emotion. Taking time to process your anger helps you to better be able to identify your needs and to get them met.

If you found this exercise challenging to complete, it is ok to reach out for professional support. Garrett Counseling has experienced therapists ready to walk with you toward healing. We offer counseling services in Jacksonville, Boaz and Huntsville. Reach us at (256) 239-5662 or online today for your first session.