Anger takes away the calm, the peaceful, the rational. In our anger, we no longer are neat and put together. It exposes our raw emotions and wounds. We do stupid things as rage happens.
Have you ever said, "OH MY GOD why did I just yell at the kids!" or "WHY am I so angry?!" or "I shouldn't be angry!"
You are not alone. Anger is a part of being human. It's part of our brains and make-up. It's a stress reaction/instinct, like "fight or flight". Did you know that behind sexual attraction/arousal, anger is the 2nd most powerful emotion we experience!
In the heat of the moment, it's impossible to think and tease out your feelings. Here's an example that took me years to figure out...
I get so angry when my husband doesn't answer a question I have asked him within a few seconds. It could be a totally unimportant question like 'where's the trash bags?' At first, I thought I was angry because he wasn't listening or paying attention to me. But the more I pondered, I realized I get angry because I hate to be ignored.
And I hate to be ignored because it makes me feel unimportant, like I don't matter. Finding the root of my anger wasn't a picnic. It took a good 2-3 years of marriage and several anger moments to realize and explain to my hubby that...
"I feel angry when you don't answer me right away when I ask you a question because it makes me feel unimportant. I need to feel valued by you and when this happens, I feel worthless."
So let's talk about dealing anger better:
When you are angry, this is NOT the time to speak your truth or act out! Instead, literally bite your tongue. This is your signal. STOP. Now don't pretend that these emotions and feelings are just going to go away. No way. This is to just keep you from making serious mistakes.
Some people have codewords when they are getting overwhelmed, stressed, upset. Our house, we call a TIMEOUT. This means, get away/leave me alone for a little bit/stop talking to me/don't provoke me/do not corner me/give me space. It takes practice to call a timeout at the right time
Some experts say it's not ok to leave or just walk away. I don't agree with this, make sure your kids are safe, let your family know you need a break but you will be back. You need to calm down and clear head so you don't do further damage. So it's ok to lock yourself in the bathroom for 20 seconds of peace.
2) CLEAR YOUR HEAD and DIFFUSE THAT ENERGY
Some people can take some deep breaths, count to 10, check your pulse and count heart beats, say a few calming words to calm down. This coping skill is called self-regulation/grounding. Another coping skill is emotion release, physically get that energy out (by exercising/running/push-ups/situps/jumping jacks, walking, cleaning, baking, tearing up paper, smashing play-doh)! Others find, distraction work best for them like listen to radio, tv, do a puzzle, play a game.
Throwing/damaging things, yelling, cursing, hitting, screaming in the moment may seem like an appropriate response but really they are NOT good coping mechanism. What good really came out of these? So why then do these actions calm us? Because it's a transfer of energy.
Think of your anger like a red ball of light (anyone see the movie Inside Out). This red ball is internal energy. When you are angry or in a rage, you are throwing those red balls of energy all over the place in your head. Our bodies natural reaction is to get rid of this energy.
No matter what your coping skill is... CLEAR YOUR HEAD and DIFFUSE THE RED BALL OF ENERGY: there are alternatives to violence: use a coping skill. No matter what it is, clear your head because hurting others, yourself or property is NEVER ok.
3) NAME YOUR EMOTIONS
After that initial rush of anger energy is past, now is time to NAME YOUR EMOTIONS. Try to express how you feel. A way of doing this is with "I statements". For example, I used one above when talking about my experience with my husband, "I feel angry when you don't answer me right away when I ask you a question because it makes me feel unimportant. I need to feel valued by you and when this happens, I feel worthless."
"I feel...when you...because...I need..." Using I statements makes you own your emotions and keeps you from blaming others. This also makes you think out your feelings so you don't just ignore them.
4) DEAL WITH PAST HURTS
So we all make mistakes and we all have anger in our past that we need to deal with. Don't just say "sorry". Work to heal the wounds inflicted by anger by acknowledging your abusive behavior, naming your emotions and finding tools to help you change like the ones I talked about today.
So in review
1) STOP-recognize early signs of angry and take a time out
2) CLEAR YOUR HEAD and DIFFUSE YOUR ENERGY-use a coping skill or 2 that best fits you
3) NAME YOUR EMOTIONS-try using I statements to clearly state how you feel
4) DEAL WITH THE PAST-take responsibility for times that you have missed up and work to better them
I hope that you leave here ready to take on anger and feel more prepared. -Dr. Errin