Managing anger

psyche-thumbAs mentioned last week, anger is neither “good nor bad”. It is a normal emotion with a wide range of intensity from mild irritation to rage. Anger is a reaction to a perceived threat to ourselves, our properties, our loved ones, or any other thing that is linked to our identity. Moreover, anger is an indicator that tells us something is wrong.

Proper management of our anger can make us healthy. It moves us to make positive changes in our lives and situations. It can motivate us to stand up for ourselves and correct anything that is not just. But on the other hand, mismanaged anger can be counterproductive and unhealthy. When anger is too intense, out of control, misdirected, and overly aggressive, it can lead to poor decision making and problem solving, create problems with relationships and at work, and can even affect our health.

We also mentioned last time that there are at least three ways to respond to anger: Expression, Suppression, and Management. Expression here refers to venting anger physically or verbally (e.g. hitting a pillow, shouting it out, etc.) and letting it all out so that one becomes less angry. But research has shown that venting is the worst strategy to manage anger. Instead of calming the person, it tends to escalate a situation and may lead to increased aggression.

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Suppression, on the other hand, is killing the anger alive. To suppress is to hold the anger inside, to refocus our attention on something, or try to forget about it. If venting is to explosion, suppression is to implosion where damage is done beyond the naked eyes but is surely eating the person away even more dangerously.

And so we are left with management as the only healthy way to deal with our anger. To manage anger is to acknowledge that it is normal and understand its dynamics. The steps I will share with you, simple as it may sound, actually require a lot of work and support from those that surround us.

First, we need to be able to separate the trigger from the cause of the anger. We need to be conscious, first and foremost, that the stimulus or trigger is not the cause of our anger. It is not what people do that makes us angry but our evaluation of what has been done that is the cause of our anger. And most of the time, it is our evaluation of the wrongness of other people’s behavior that is always at the base of our anger.

Looking closely, it’s what we tell ourselves that makes us angry and not what happens to us. It is our judgment of the behavior, our label of the behavior; that people are abusado, hambugero, or a bully, and judgments like that make us angry. To handle anger, we need to be conscious about this. The point is, we need to learn not to mix the stimulus or the trigger with the cause of the anger.

After we have practiced separating the trigger from the cause, our next step is to find the need that is not met that makes us upset and angry. Almost always, it is frustration of not getting our needs met is the root of our angry feelings. But our problem is that we are not connected with our needs most of the time. Rather, we look at other people and think why they are not meeting our needs and then we judge them, and so we get angry.

The final step is to actually say out loud to the other person our need. To do this, it is vital to articulate four pieces of information. First, we say something about the trigger, the behavior that is in conflict with our needs being fulfilled. Second, we express how we are feeling and then we follow up our expression of our feelings with the needs of ours that are not being met. Finally, we make a clear and present request of what we want from the other person in relationship to our feelings and unmet needs.

As I wrote this article, my wife and kids came up to me and the two boys started to play. Needless to say, they got rowdy, and noisy, and some quarrels there and crying here. I finally got distracted and lost in my thoughts. But instead of barking at my wife, I followed the steps and said, “I came over here so I could write but the kids are starting to distract me. I am afraid I would not be able to write and submit my article tonight if they are here. Please bring them downstairs and I will follow as soon as I am done.” Through that I related with them well and kept my cool. You should too by practicing management of your anger.

P.S. Don’t let anger consume you. For consultation, text or call 09122506898. (By Kit Nemenzo Balane)



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