I used to have a terrible temper, something that I suppose is part and parcel of being an only child. Since I could get away with just about anything, I got away very easily with my temper tantrums. And the funny thing was, I was an incredibly shy kid, and hardly ever got angry with anyone outside of my family.
To some extent, things got a lot worse when I started dating someone who was always angry at me. That made me believe that it was justifiable to be rude and hurtful to other people, instead of immediately cutting the jerk out of my life.
But now, when I look at someone whom I’m angry with, I understand completely how much I hurt them by expressing my anger. And how often, my anger is misplaced or unjustified.
Anger management is not really something I struggle with anymore, but it’s something that I seemed to have thought a lot about. Here are a few of my thoughts.
- Meditate or do yoga. The first step to controlling anger is not feel angry. If you’re relaxed within, and feel more broadminded and open about the universe, you are less likely to be angry. Angry people are not always the ones yelling and screaming. Often, they are quiet, frustrated, or constantly grumpy and irritable. If you’re one of those people, it’s likely that your anger might be from a built-up source, and not from a single event. Try to work out any long-standing frustrations that you might have, and you’ll have a happier and less angry time.
- Forgive. I find it difficult to get angry with most people. That’s because I tend to forgive people very easily. Sometimes the forgiveness comes easily to me, because of my philosophy that we usually don’t have the right to judge others. At other times, it’s because I can put myself in the other person’s shoes too easily. I have a whole lot of faults, so it’s only natural that other people will, too. I can’t (and you shouldn’t) forgive someone too easily for something major, but for small things, try to remember that other people are only human. They might’ve forgotten, not understood, or been in a hurry. Most people don’t mean to harm you. There must’ve been some other force that made them act that way.
- Understand that expressing anger is bad. During a trial, Norman Mailer claimed that he was justified in beating his wife because if he had kept his anger pent up, he would have gotten cancer. Hmm. No really, expressing your anger in a hurtful manner does not help. “Letting go” really does hurt other people. A lot.
- Expressing anger usually just makes you angrier. This one comes from experience: mine and other people’s. Think about it. The last time that you yelled at someone, did you really feel better afterwards? Or did you just feel guilty and angry with your own self, or just angrier in general?
Those were some general, long-term tips. But for immediate action in controlling your rage, here are some pointers:
- Count to 10. I don’t really know if this will work for you, but try it.
- Don’t talk. Don’t immediately respond. If you do, you’ll tend to say something that you’ll regret later.
- Excuse yourself. Try to leave a conversation if it really makes you angry. If needed, go to the restroom and wash your face, or reapply your makeup. Fake a call on your cell phone.
- Don’t brood about it. Distance yourself from whatever event made you angry. If you think about it, you’ll slip into a horrible downwards cycle of anger. Distract yourself by thinking about something funny or something that you’re looking forward to. Think about something that you’re grateful for. And then try to get back to your work or daily chores. If you must think about it, do so a lot later, when your initial rush of blood to the head has died down.
- Postpone it. If you want to talk to someone about something that made you angry, postpone it. Let yourself calm down a bit, so that you can express yourself clearly without blaming the other person unnecessarily.
- Exercise. Have a strenuous workout, which will have you exhausted and thinking only of water and cold showers. Exercise releases endorphins, which makes you feel happy, not angry. It also does a very good job of distracting you, and minimizing the importance of whatever was making you angry.
And finally, when talking about something that made you angry:
- Don’t use absolutes. “You never do…”, “you always…” are out. Focus on this one time that it happened (and if you can, remind youself of the other times that he/she did it right).
- Don’t call the other person names.
- Start off positively. Try complimenting the person on what you like about them, and what they did right, and how pleased you are with them. Then mention what’s wrong.
If you’re struggling with controlling your temper, I hope the tips help. Personally, I found yoga/meditation, combined with not brooding, to be the most helpful strategies of keeping anger at bay.
Finally, I’d like to add that a lot of people think that supressing anger is unhealthy, or that trying to not feel anger is not right. For people with serious problems, these things might be an issue.
But most people can just feel better by being calm and at peace with themselves and the world, and not allowing their anger to hurt the people they love.