Updated: Sep 2, 2020
How to stop being a boiling vessel: Five anger management tips
‘I’m so angry I feel like punching something’, ‘I was so pissed that I stormed out of there’. Didn't you have similar experiences? Anger is characterised by a feeling of active hostility towards someone or something that has harmed or offended you.
Even though we feel it often, we confuse irritation and annoyance as anger. Irritation is a feeling which is much less intense. Like when someone’s constant talking loudly irritates you when you’re trying to focus on something. Annoyance is a feeling that you get when something happening that bothers you. For example: When you cannot find the coffee when someone puts it in the wrong place. Both of these emotions overlap each other. When the intensity of this emotion increases, it eventually leads to the emotion of anger. Anger can affect or harm your physical and mental health. However, anger isn’t always bad, it is a primary emotion that can be beneficial when it is channelized in a proper way.
Understanding your anger:
‘Do you struggle to control your anger in certain situations? Has your anger seemed to fly out of control within just a few seconds?’ – These are probably caused by some triggers that struck your emotion and elicited some thoughts
Anger triggers are like any other emotional trigger caused by events and situations. It is important to recognise them because you’ll respond more effectively to your anger when you feel prepared for it.
Anticipating the possibility of anger increases your ability to express it more constructively. These triggers can be due to events like your boss giving you inaccurate evaluation which made you think and feel that you were being treated unfairly.
We often get agitated and angry because of everyday life stressors such as getting late, being treated unfairly, getting insulted and lastly rejected by others. Some of the common thoughts while facing these situations could be that we believe certain things should have been different, rigidly thinking that “I’m right”, ruminating about an old event that might set off anger.
Sometimes our anger might be resulting from some other emotions we’ve been ignoring. Recall a time when you got angry because you were sad and couldn’t talk about it to anyone? Or got mad because someone hurt your feelings? In such situations anger can grow as a secondary emotion – something that you do not have a direct reason for, but you just feel angry because you’ve been feeling something else for a while. Or probably because you have been ignoring these feelings!
Here’s how you can have control over your anger!
1. Practicing Relaxation
Relaxation exercises when you are angry is one of the most effective and oldest approaches to control anger. Simple relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. It includes few, quick and easy steps to control your anger. Here are some few relaxation exercises you can try.
Close your eyes, sit straight, take a slow and deep breath from your diaphragm, hold the breath for a few seconds and then slowly release your breath.
Closing your eyes, use your imagination to picture yourself sitting in a garden with your friends or loved ones. This will make you feel calm and happy.
Repeating words: slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy” while simultaneously taking deep breaths. Repeat it to yourself until you feel yourself getting calm.
You can practice these exercises every time you are angry or even in tense situations, or when you want to keep yourself calm and relaxed
You must have heard or know by now how communication skills are important in so many ways. But have you considered how it can help you with anger? Communicating your feelings with the person whom you were angry with can help you calm your anger and also improve your relationship. Holding your anger inside is like a ticking time bomb which will blast anytime to ruin that relationship!
Being assertive is one of them. Being assertive means, you frame your thoughts and feelings in a way that the other person understands it and simultaneously respect other people’s thoughts and feelings. For example, when you are angry or in a heated conversation, you do not say the first thing which comes into your mind. You take a moment and collect your thoughts and feelings then you put them in such a way that the other person understands. You also need to listen to what the other person has to say. Assertiveness is a skill that you learn as you practice.
Using humour is another way to manage your anger. Don’t we all love to laugh! No better time than to use it when you are angry. It can help you get a more balanced perspective. It’s using humour and imagination simultaneously.
Remember when Harry had to fight the dementors!? You can create an image of the person who made you angry and convert that image into a figure or object which you find funny. To make it more interesting, you can make the figure behave in a way which makes you laugh. For example, if you're at work and you think of a co-worker as a "dirtbag" picture a large bag of dirt sitting at your colleague's desk, talking on the phone, going to meetings, draw a picture of what the actual thing might look like. This will distract you from the things or behaviour which made you angry and ultimately help you to feel calm.
3. Reshaping your thoughts to control anger
It is vital to understand that situations or adversities around us don't cause our anger, but it's the thinking pattern or beliefs about the situation that makes us angry!
let's take an example of a Mr X who used to stay with his family and was tested positive for COVID-19, he got worried and upset but instead of blaming other people around him or lashing out on others as well as himself, he followed the procedure given by the BMC and got back fit and fine within 14 days. But in the same case, Mr Y got infected by his colleague who first got tested. Unable to control his anger he started throwing things and breaking glassware which tensed the whole family environment and then ended feeling guilty later. Had he been reasonable to realise this could’ve happened to anyone and getting infected by a pandemic is no-one’s fault, he might have been able to act like Mr X.
To understand what was the event which led to certain triggering thoughts and beliefs which in turn led to positive or negative consequences, you can use the reasoning triangle shown in the image.
Figure 1:Fitzgerald, M. Cognitive Triangle worksheet coping and processing [image]. Center for sexual assault and traumatic stress derived from: https://depts.washington.edu/hcsats/PDF/TF-%20CBT/pages/cognitive_coping.html
Here are a few questions to reason with your thoughts:
Are my thoughts accurate? (i.e., based on some facts)
Are these thoughts helping me to achieve my goal?
Are these thoughts decreasing my emotional conflict?
4. Talking yourself into being calm
Now that you know your thoughts and beliefs play a role in your anger let’s see how you can make yourself more aware of it. Have you ever helped someone else calm down? Don’t you try to calm them by telling them some kind of reassuring statements?
Yes! That’s how you need to treat yourself too! Help yourself calm down by having a conversation in your head. Use positive statements like ‘I can get through this situation without lashing out’, ‘let me deal with this later so I can handle it better’ ‘don’t I always feel guilty after getting angry at my loved ones, let me avoid that’.
Try to tell yourself using the questions mentioned in the previous section. You must tell yourself that you need to be reasonable, that reacting may not help but make situations worse and neither will be lashing out reduce your problems.
Training to calm yourself also requires conscious efforts and stopping yourself from taking angry steps. You can develop a list of sentences that makes sense to you.
Every time you get angry, calm yourself like you would calm your friends or a small child!
5. Channelling the excess energy constructively
Ever notice how you get this surge of energy rushing through you when you get angry? And you may not know what to do with it. Well you can channel this energy into something that you like to do.
We certainly do not mean you should start doing something out of the blue! But after you've used the above techniques to react less intensely, direct the remaining energy into something else when you have time.
It can be some active game like football, cricket, badminton, basketball etc. or sports like boxing, etc. You can ride a bicycle, go for a run or workout! After all, don't our gyms provide you with a high dose of songs like “dangal, dangal”?!
Now that you know what might be causing your anger and how to calm yourself, go forth and practise it. And remember, it’s never too late to consult a counselor. We’ve got your back!
Anger Management CBT Worksheets | Psychology Tools. (2019). Retrieved 17 October 2019, from https://www.psychologytools.com/professional/problems/anger/
Bloxham, G. Managing Anger with CBT For Dummies Cheat Sheet (UK Edition) - dummies. Retrieved 17 October 2019, from https://www.dummies.com/health/mental-health/managing-anger-with-cbt-for-dummies-cheat-sheet-uk-edition/