Anger isn’t caused directly by things that happen around us. It’s caused by our interpretation of those things that happen around us. Imagine if someone cuts in front of you in line at the grocery store. You can interpret that a couple of different ways: intentional (“he saw me and just didn’t care that he was cutting in front of me”) or unintentional (“he must not have seen me”).
Sometimes, considering alternative interpretations of the provocation can be a nice way to alleviate anger. Ask yourself what evidence you have to support your angering interpretation. Try to consider other ways of looking at the situation and maybe even try to test those alternative interpretations. What would happen if you, for example, were to say politely to the person that they accidently cut in front of you?
For some people, it helps to have a phrase they repeat over and over. Words or phrases like “relax,” “take it easy,” or “anger isn’t the solution” can help distract people as they get through the initial angry response.
Sometimes anger results from expectations that are too high. We expect everything to go smoothly and perfectly and then, bam, something goes wrong and we get angry. If we just adjust our expectations a bit to include the fact that things are complicated and don’t always go as we hope they will, we’re likely to feel less anger when things go wrong.
Many people think of guided meditation as a particular type of relaxation technique. While it is relaxing, it has the potential to be even more useful than that. Relaxation has its effect on by decreasing physiological arousal (you can’t be angry and relaxed at the same time). Meditation, however, has the added benefit of offering an opportunity to think through your feelings in a healthy way.
Click her to give it a try: Guided Meditation for Anger
Photo Courtesy: jakub_hla
On the one hand, talking with people about your anger can be useful and positive. It can give you some perspective, help you process what you are feeling and better understand your emotions, and even offer an avenue to receive some constructive criticism regarding how you handled a situation.
That said, that’s only true if you are looking for perspective, understanding, and constructive criticism. Most people aren’t. Most people are just looking for another person to agree with them that they should be angry. That’s ok every now and then but too much of it isn’t good for you. If you want to rant, go for it. But make sure you do some self-reflecting at the same time.
Triggers are those situations, people, places, etc. that tend to set people off. Everyone has a trigger or two and being aware of them is important. You don’t want to avoid your triggers, necessarily (though, sometimes that might be smart). But you do need to be aware of those situations that may require greater patience. When you do, you’re more likely to get through those situations unscathed and anger free.
I’ve written before about avoiding the angry email, but it’s worth repeating.
Sending an email when you are angry is almost never a good idea. You are very likely to write something you don’t really mean or to exacerbate the original problem by bringing your anger into the situation.
Instead, wait until you have calmed down and maybe even go talk directly to the person instead of sending the email at all.
Anger is an important emotion to feel. It alerts you to the fact that you’re feeling provoked or wronged in some way. Thus, it’s bad to deny that you’re angry. Telling yourself or others you are “fine” only minimizes whatever the problem is that caused the anger in the first place.
What should you do instead? Be honest with yourself and reflect on what is causing the anger. Admit to yourself that you are mad, think about why you are mad, think about the consequences of acting on that anger, and try and address the issue. This is all part of what it means to be emotionally intelligent.
I’ve discussed forgiveness here a few times (Five Questions with Forgiveness Expert, Dr. Everett Worthington; Anger at God; The Value of Forgiveness) so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I think it’s a valuable anger-reduction strategy.
The most important thing about forgiveness is that it helps you stop ruminating. Continuing to think about the provocation, or ruminating, is a big part of what makes anger so problematic for some people. Forgiving the person who has wronged you is an important step toward letting go of those angry thoughts.