I Don't Have Anger Issues... You're Just Pissing Me Off!

Let’s face it, we all get angry. Whether it’s your boss micromanaging your work or your teenager going through growing pains. Let’s not forget our spouse who promises to pick up after themselves, but somehow always manages to get their clothes near or around the laundry basket, but never quite in it. As a counselor over the years it is all too common for persons to come into my office and infer or profess to have “anger management problems.” They want me to fix it!! Now every now and then I unpack my magic wand, but in times when I do not I try to offer viable and useful solutions. Because that’s what we want right… ways to deal with what or who is bothering us. So let’s talk strategy.

Anger is actually a healthy emotion and very necessary UNTIL channeled improperly. Recently I read a book by Gary Chapman. The book is entitled Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. In it Chapman (2007) outlines items such how to handle your anger, recognizing “good” versus “bad” anger, as well as calculating steps to deal with our anger. These guiding principles have been instrumental in developing more structured problem solving techniques to better control our anger, but I preface that in saying this takes a calculated effort. So what do you do?!?! You’ve decided that you need to get your anger under control or someone maybe even everyone has told you that you need anger management. You’re not quite ready for counseling, but you’ve exhausted your own efforts and you’re tired of being in this place. So here are the secrets…

STEP ONE. Chapman says to consciously acknowledge to yourself that you are angry (hopefully you already have if you’re reading this whether you admit it or not – SO CONGRATS). Being aware that you have a problem is important because it forces us to acknowledge where correction is necessary. STEP TWO. Restrain your immediate response. Now this one is a tough one. All too often someone has thoroughly pissed us off and we feel well within our rights to curse them all of the way out. We want to give them a piece of our minds and sometimes they probably deserve it. This desire to inflict harm upon others is actually just displaced anger and we really just want that person to feel how we feel. I tell all of my clients “taste your words before you spit them out.” By restraining your initial response you are consciously teaching yourself and retraining your brain to respond to the situation rather than reacting to it. This is probably THE most important step in my opinion and even more helpful with communicating more effectively. In STEP THREE you want to analyze your options. Here you are deciding where you want to confront the person in a healthy way, decide to overlook the matter, or ignore everything I just said and curse them all of the way out (Don’t, by the way, if you feel where I’m going with this post). Your response to being provoked to anger is a choice here folks. You’ve always been provoked to anger by one variable or another, but YOU choose your reaction (insert your favorite cliché here - lol). You must take an opportunity to gather all of the facts BEFORE you mishandle this emotion. You also cannot change problems with the same thinking used to get into the problems in the first place. Using a spirit of discernment is important here as well. In this process you are analyzing if the situation is the product of “good” (definitive) or “bad” (distorted) anger. “Good” anger is your anger towards any kind of genuine wrongdoing, mistreatment, injustice, or law breaking. It is usually sparked by a violation of laws or moral codes. “Bad” anger, on the other hand, is anger towards a perceived wrongdoing where no wrong occurred. It is usually sparked by people who have hurt us, stress, fatigue, or unrealistic expectations. Oftentimes our feelings of frustration or disappointment feed bad anger. This brings me to STEP FOUR deal with YOUR anger. Oftentimes we forget that just because we’re angry that does not guarantee an equal or opposite response to others around us when we’re angry. The American Psychological Association cites that the goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes, not to eliminate the motion entirely. That would be unrealistic.  In deciding wither its either definitive or distorted anger there are a few principles to consider.

Today if you are having difficulties managing your anger give these strategies a consorted effort (1) make a list of significant wrongs done to you recently or over the years. Next, you want to (2) identify the what (what are you angry about), who (who are you angry at), and why (why is it that you’re so angered). Then you want to (3) define whether it’s definitive “good” or distorted “bad” anger. (4) Analyze how you responded to each event or person. (5) If the person is no longer living or available to reconcile, release your anger towards them. (6) For those still alive or available, decide whether to seek reconciliation or to “let the offense go.” (7) If you decide to proceed with reconciliation, bring a trusted third party. (8) Seek forgiveness both for yourself and the other person. Harboring negative energy is all too draining to spend our days being constantly irritated.

Taming your temper can be a challenge. You can't get rid of, or avoid, the things or the people that enrage you, nor can you change them, but you can learn to control your own reactions. We do this by teaching ourselves how to respond most appropriately even when we don’t want to. Professional counseling and treatment to aid in this process can prove to be helpful as well as instrumental in promoting a better sense of accountability. However, with any new trick learned we must utilize practical application and be flexible to the growth process. Choose to make alternative decisions with YOUR emotions and strive to be the product representative of those decisions rather than being defined by them.