Turning the Flame Down on Anger
Last week we looked at the toxic effect of unregulated anger on our relationships. So how do we manage when we are feeling angry, irritated or frustrated?
Turning Down the Flame
Although anger can be helpful, it generally leads to aggressive behaviour that often results in poor physical and psychological outcomes for all involved. Even if your anger is triggered by others it is up to YOU to react or not. If your anger is a pot of boiling water, you decide whether to turn the flame higher and boil over or turn the flame down and extinguish it.
Read below to learn some potential ways of extinguishing your fire.
Relaxation techniques (becoming calm on demand).
Sometimes when we are experiencing anger, our body becomes hyper-aroused. Relaxation techniques can assist our bodies in moving away from our primitive “fight or flight” response and towards thinking clearly- to being ‘calm on demand’.
Breathe in for 4 seconds (through the nose if possible) and hold it for 2 seconds. Release the breath slowly, for 6 seconds (through the nose if possible). Pause slightly before breathing in again.
Try using relaxing imagery, think of a previous relaxing experience or somewhere you feel safe and peaceful.
Slowly repeat a calming word or phrase to yourself.
Take a step back and close your eyes. Open them. Then list of five things you can feel, hear, taste and smell.
Engage in non-strenuous exercises, such as gentle walking or yoga.
It is natural to become defensive when we are feeling criticized or blamed. Remember to think of yourself as being in control of the flame.
Slow down and take time before answering when in heated discussions.
Count to ten before speaking. This will help you choose your words carefully, decreasing the probability of “word vomit”, aka, saying something you may regret.
Reflect back what the other person is saying to you- let them know you are listening, even if you completely disagree with what they have said.
Watch your tone and volume. Remember a soft and slow voice helps calm everything down.
If you are getting too heated – tell the other person that you are feeling flooded or overwhelmed and you need to take a break from the discussion right now.
Engage in assertive communication
Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements when describing your concerns to avoid blame and accusations.
Make positive proposals – rather than blaming and criticising. In other words, describe what you would like to happen instead of what is happening right now.
Try not to exaggerate by using words such as “never” and “always”. For example, “you never put the children first” or “you always put yourself first”.
If you know emotions will escalate during direct face-to-face conversation, use another technique such as sending an email instead. Get a trusted friend to read over your email before you hit send – better still, wait 24 hours before hitting send.
Have a few anger management thoughts in mind to keep your anger in control. Statements such as “It’s not worth it to explode over this”, “Keep your calm”, “this is a minor annoyance in the whole scheme of things”.
Change your location.
Remove yourself from the environment for a period of time, until you feel calm to think about the situation and decide on your next move.
Remember, different things work for different people and you might need to try some self-experimentation to find what works for you. It’s worth investing the time however, because unmanaged anger will not solve itself and will be destructive in all your relationships.
Dr Catherine Boland