Anger Management for Polite People

Sep 29, 2014 | Mood, Therapy

I’m not saying you have an anger problem. I’m not saying you’re dangerous or you should take a class on how to count to ten and take deep breaths. All I’m saying is that you’re pissed off (for good reasons) and have no idea what to do with the feelings. That’s all.

You say you should be over it by now.
You say you should rise above it, be the bigger person.
You say you were raised to forgive people, not hold a grudge.
But the truth is you’re not over it, you still feel it, you want something to change.

She wounded you pretty deeply, even if she didn’t mean to. And you’ve tried to move on and let it go. But sometimes the thought of what she did gets you so upset that you wish you could drink it away or sleep it away . . . And sometimes you try this.

Or maybe it has more to do with work. And while you’re there, you have to play the game, because you have to make a living. But when you get home you feel edgy and have no patience. You take it out on the kids and then you feel like a terrible person.

Or maybe it’s nothing in particular but you have this mounting tension, even on the weekend when you should be relaxed. You get so annoyed by the demands of family, the traffic, the bills, the crowds of people at the mall, and you get all grouchy and don’t want to talk or be touched. You snap. They look at you, confused. Then you sort of hate yourself.

You don’t have an anger problem. You have anger. And anger always has a source.

Here’s a list of anger management strategies to help you identify the source, manage the feeling, and cope differently with the issues underneath it all.

  1. Get a journal you can keep with you. I like the little Moleskines with lined paper. They fit into a pocket or planner and they’re not intimidating like bigger notebooks can be. Keep your favorite kind of pen handy too.
  2. Begin to notice when you feel frustrated, annoyed, or even mildly irritated. Jot it down. Start to notice the scenery that most often surrounds these emotions. Meetings with staff? One person in particular? Feeling invisible or unable to get a point across? Time alone with your partner? Parenting situations? Jot it all down.
  3. Notice what you silently tell yourself. It’s my own fault . . . I should have known better . . . It’s ridiculous to feel this way . . . I need to let it go and move on? Jot this down.
  4. Write the following sentence. My emotions are pieces of information about my self and my environment.
    Find a time to be alone. Talk to yourself (aloud) about how you feel. Say all the things you normally do not say. Start a sentence with, “I am angry because . . .”
  5.  Think of one person who respects you – who would understand your situation and give you honest feedback. Picture yourself telling them what you find most annoying or frustrating right now. Is this something you could actually do?
  6. Find a physical release. Walk, run, or better yet – hit a punching bag (for 30 seconds at a time) with a bat or tennis racquet. Extra points if you can do this while yelling obscenities (in private).
  7. Write a letter to your higher power. Ask for help carrying the burden. Ask for insight.
  8. Find three physical outlets: rip newspapers, hammer old tiles, stomp sweet-gum balls on the pavement, throw ice chunks at a brick wall.
  9. Know that you’re not alone. Anger is a universal feeling that always has a trigger. Know that, out there in the world, someone like you is experiencing the same trigger and the same emotion. You’re not crazy, selfish, or immature for feeling this way.

Notice I’m not suggesting the most obvious thing here. But I could. Consider the possibility that your anger is so valid and so necessary that you deserve to talk it out with the person(s) who triggered it in the first place. Consider the possibility that you could speak clearly and forthrightly about it. Consider the possibility that the other person(s) would listen and care. Consider the possibility that you could work it out with them, actually collaborate on a change. I know this sounds crazy unlikely, but what if it were possible? Can you picture it?

Good. Now take a big, deep breath and exhale, long and slow.
It’s all going to be okay.

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