“I can’t control my temper.” Have you ever heard yourself say…
“I can’t control my anger.”
Have you ever found yourself making that excuse after behaving inappropriately? It is a convenient excuse to use when we have crossed the line, but it is very rarely true. Except for a very small group of people with specific mental illnesses, we can all control our anger. We just need the tools to help us manage those emotions.
The first thing to understand is that anger is not a bad emotion. Some things should make us angry, and an anger response can be lifesaving in some situations. Anger only becomes negative when it is inappropriate. Do you feel angry much of the time? Do you have a problem getting angry at little things? Does your anger cause you physical problems? Do you engage in violent or risky behaviors when you are anger? Is your anger impacting your relationships? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you may have an anger problem.
One of the best ways to prevent your anger from controlling you is to recognize the warning signs. If you learn to tell when you are getting angry, you have a better chance of successfully using techniques to help you control your anger.
If you dwell in anger, you need to break the negative cycle. Think about positive things about the person or situation. If there is no positive, then try focusing on a different topic. In fact, you want to try to avoid negative thinking, in general. Try to avoid absolute thinking. If you have a negative thought like “people always take advantage of me,” try to replace it with a reasonable thought like “sometimes people take advantage of other people.”
Even justifiable anger can be irrational. Road rage is a great example. It is justifiable to be annoyed if someone cuts you off in traffic or almost causes an accident, but it is not reasonable for people to harm others because of these incidents. Recognizing that your feelings can be valid, but your reaction may be irrational or disproportionate.
One of the root causes of anger problems is poor communication. Working on communication skills can help reduce triggers. Focusing on listening is one way to reduce communication errors. Another good thing is to give yourself time to respond.
Physical activity is a reliable way to help with managing emotions. Regular physical exercise can help reduce your stress levels. It also burns off energy that can fester and manifest in a rage incident.
Finally, one of the most important things you can do is learn to walk away. While you are leaning to manage your anger, you may find yourself in difficult situations. If you think you are going to explode, walk away. Yes, there may be consequences from walking away, but those consequences are almost always going to be better than the consequences of letting yourself explode, especially if you are ever violent when you are angry.