WHEN ANGER VISITS, WHAT DO YOU DO? As Emotional Fitness Training, Inc’s CEO and Jill of all, I know exactly what I need to do when anger visits. That is one of my areas of expertise. Does that mean I always manage to do the right thing? No. Anyone who says they handle anger well all the time, is the Dali Lama, a saint, or a liar.
Feelings are signals; feelings also tell you to act and act quickly. Acting without thinking is never a good idea. Even when a fire alarm is going off, and the people around you are running and shouting fire, you need to think for a few moments before joining the crowd and rushing to the nearest exit.
The Emotional Fitness Training’s game plan for managing negative feelings stresses stopping to think before acting. When you don’t stop to think, you act in ways you regret. You FEEL –ACT—THINK only to realize you have done things you regret and are behaving like a FAT Head. Even taking just a few moments to think before acting can save your life. Doing the same when anger visits save many relationships.
REALITY CHECK Stopping to think when a strong feeling tries to control is always easier said than done. I manage much of the time, but not always. The same is probably true for most of you reading this. I have thrown things, exited the car in the middle of a fight with my husband and walked two miles before I felt cool enough to get back in the car, cursed, called names and all too often ending sitting in a closet unable to angry to talk. Not good. Mostly not good for my health and self-respect. Good in that I was driven to learn to better control my anger. The most important thing I learned was to say and do as little as possible when anger has coming calling. The hardest angers to deal with are Gotcha Wars. I described these in my book When Good Kids Do Bad Things. I also started a Wiki-how on How to Win a Gotcha War.
Three skills help you stop and think. Feeling awareness, feeling measurement, and self-soothing. Taking a regular feeling temperature (see the feeling thermometer on the right or go to a Wiki-how I started on How To Take A Feeling Temperature ) improves Feeling Awareness and Feeling Measurement. These are necessary skills to keep anger from sneaking up on you and hi-jacking your brain. Self-soothing started soon enough in an anger episode keeps you in control.
Self-soothing starts with a calming breath. You take a Calming Breath by:
- Breathing in slowly to a count of five
- Holding your breath for another count of five
- Breathing out slowly to a final count of five
- Smiling softy as if you are looking at a sleeping baby or into the eyes of some one you love.
After taking a Calming Breath, breathe normally and use a calming slogan to replace the negative self talk that is part of all anger. The things we say to ourselves inside our head can lift us up, throw us for a loop, get us throwing things, pitch us into the pit of despair, or calm us down. Learning to replace negative self-talk with positive self-talk is seen by every mental health researcher a major tool for combating depression, harmful anger, worry, fear, phobias, and compulsions.
Here are a number of slogans others have found useful.Staying strong Breathing calm, Waiting it out Letting this go Thinking Caring
Several other things help soothe major angers. The first is always away from the situation for at least twenty minutes. Easier now than when I was a full time parent or full-time employee. Helps to wash my face and hands in cold water. Then writing about what made me anger looking specifically for the fear, hurt or injustice that lies at the root of all angers. Sometimes the writing takes the form of a letter to the person who is part of the anger. Sometimes it is just a tool to figure out what is the wrong that needs righting, and how I can do that. I have a series of questions that help me decide what to do. When it is not an issue I can change or is not worth the effort to bring about change, then I practice acceptance. Remembering What Matters helps self-soothe and build acceptance. Learning acceptance has taken years of practice to do well, but that is a subject for another post.
Share, care, and stay strong.
IMAGE BY ME