2 Simple Ways To Not Let Your Anger Take Over
A psychotherapist offers a few tips to help you contain your angry outbursts.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | March 4, 2023
Many people come to therapy unable to control their anger. They ask questions like:
- "I always end up hurling personal insults when I'm arguing with my partner. How do I stop myself from escalating things when we disagree?"
- "I sometimes worry I will damage all my relationships irreparably because of my anger. How do I safeguard my loved ones from my outbursts?"
- "I cannot imagine myself as a calm and composed individual. Is there any hope for me?"
Extreme anger doesn't just strain your closest relationships, it also negatively impacts your social and professional life. Unfortunately, for many people with anger issues, the harder they try to control it, the angrier their outbursts get.
This is often because most people gravitate towards suppression as an anger control technique. But there are many better ways to address the issue. Here are two gentle but effective techniques to bring down your anger levels.
#1. Get to know your anger
Most people who have extreme anger issues are aware of the problem and develop a deep disdain for it. As a result, they tend to avoid thinking or even talking about their issues. However, ignoring your anger issues is equivalent to ignoring an allergy – it rarely goes away by itself and, in many cases, it can make the problem worse.
The first thing any individual with an anger problem can do is identify what triggers them. Is there a person, event, or area of your life that you hate to discuss? Is there a particular pet peeve you have, like being spoken over, that sends you over the edge? Does excessive stress and/or lack of sleep have something to do with your outbursts?
Small questions like these can bring you closer to the root of the problem and can help you predict when your anger might flare instead of being blindsided by it.
Another thing to tune into is what anger feels like in your body. Do you experience a headache or a sharp rise in temperature? Do your thoughts go a mile a minute?
According to research published in Behavior Modification, you may be able to kill both of these birds with the singular stone of mindfulness training. Noticing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations when you are angry and when you are calm can help you understand and control your anger. Shifting your attention to the soles of your feet when you are in an agitated state is one research-backed meditation prompt that can help quell your urge to react with hostility.
#2. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
While mindfulness can help us become aware of our anger and ground ourselves in the present moment, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help us take action, suggests research published in Aggression and Violent Behavior. Through tools like cognitive restructuring, you will be able to recognize and decrease negative thought patterns that would previously send you on a rampage.
Once you have learned to spot a negative thought pattern, you can use behavioral techniques like role-playing a triggering situation with a loved one or a mental health professional. The role-play session can be followed by a 'debrief' where your role-play partner gives you feedback and you can describe your state of mind more clearly.
Explaining yourself clearly without letting your emotions get the best of you is the quickest and most effective way to resolve an anger-inducing situation.
Like many other aspects of our personality, anger is subject to change. Remember, we are all works in progress. Keen observation of your thoughts and feelings coupled with therapy can bring your anger down considerably.