Sometimes, when you experience injustice or you are at the receiving end of pain, anger shows up and gives you a sense of purpose to distract from the pain. I recently found myself there. True anger is something I rarely experience, but that day, it became my new best friend. It was there for me, with its never-ending resourceful ideas, reminding me of all the other wrongs I had forgotten, and whispering vengeance plots in my head. It was listening to me when I needed to feel heard. It gave me something that was almost comforting and definitely addictive. Anger management was definitely not there at that point.
Things started to spiral very quickly and I found myself becoming someone I wasn’t. I stopped for a second to catch my breath and force myself to reflect. The situation that sparked the rage was out of my control. So completely unfair, but out of my control. There was nothing I could do about it but be angry. And that is precisely the agenda of anger, it steps in to give you a sense of control. And that works for a while. Until it doesn’t.
Start Here: Notice Your Anger Showing Up & What It Does
I am thankful for that moment of reflection, because the character it turned me into was not me. This was not who I wanted to be. I knew I had to take control back in my head and break away that toxic relationship with anger. I needed to beat this feeling, or it would consume me. So there and then, I made the decision to let it go, and this is how I did it.
1. Understanding Anger
Anger isn’t designed to last. It triggers the release of stress hormones and induces the fight or flight mechanism in the brain and body. Just like long-term stress, long-term anger damages you both physically and mentally. This is why anger management is so important. Anger primarily uses the limbic (emotional) centre of the brain rather than the cortex (thinking part). It diverts resources away from rational thinking and disables your ability to process information correctly, only concentrating on perpetuating itself. In other words, it makes you dumb.
One of the greatest tools I utilise to keep my mindset on track is to label the feeling. Stop, check and notice. So, I did exactly this. What are you feeling? What are the consequences of that feeling? I realised what anger was turning me into, how it kept me in that closet of red mist, unable to think outside of it. More importantly, I hated that heightened anxious feeling I was holding on to.
2. Accept What You Can’t Control
Either there is something you can do about the situation or there isn’t. If there is, take action, make it better, resolve it. If there isn’t, you have got to accept it. For me, this was the tough part. I love to resolve problems, find solutions. And to be in a position where I was powerless, was a hard place to rest. But what was the alternative? Keeping on feeding the rage and the upset would not change anything. It would only cause more anger and upset. So, I knew I had to accept it. And this is one of the most effective processes in anger management.
3. Be Aligned to Your Values and Principles
One of the greatest causes of emotional distress comes from not being in alignment with your values. This is such a simple and obvious thing, that it is hard to believe that we can so easily lose sight of it. But we do, particularly when we have been wronged. As soon as you start doing things that are unlike you, that don’t feel right, you are going down a dangerous path. You can’t successfully complete the anger management process cannot without addressing this part.
The pep talk I gave myself was what pulled me out of that darkness. Here’s the short of it : Do the right thing. Listen to your gut feeling. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.
4. Ensure Your Needs Are Met
Once I had made the decision to come out of the red rage and return to calm and happy, I had to future proof the anger management process. The situation that woke the anger was likely to happen again, and would still remain out of my control in the future. I didn’t want a repeat of this and wanted to make sure I would be cool as a cucumber. So, I undertook a brief review of the situation and things around it, but this time with a rational objective head, thinking outside of the red mist box. I noticed all the changes that could be made to make my life better, easier, less stressful.
And I started to implement those changes, not out of spite or contempt, but with genuine engagement for my wellbeing. Those new plans and goals gave me the drive and momentum to look forward to a better day-to-day environment. They also gave me the opportunity to improve and upgrade my life generally, turning negative energy into a positive force.
5. Manage Your Expectations
Anais Nin said: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are“.
This is so true. It means that no matter how aggrieved you feel by someone’s behaviour, the other person might genuinely experience this from a polar end perspective. As impossible as it may seem to you, as rightful as you may be convinced you are, this happens. In turn, this means that it serves no purpose to try and control things you can’t control, or try to change things and minds that won’t change. Once you understand this, and truly see that behaviours are only motivated by someone’s own different perspective of the world, then you can adjust your expectations with more clarity.
6. Live In The Moment
If you look, feel, smell, hear the ‘right now’, and be absorbed in the present moment, then all the wrongs disappear. The grievance, the hurt, the problem, the bad situation, only exists if you let it into your thoughts. You can bring to life something that has happened in the past or will happen in the future by thinking about it. But right now, in this second, it is not there. Right now, you are not being hurt. You can claim your power over it and make it disappear by staying in the present moment, because right now, it is not happening. It is just you and your mind, where you are safe.
If you want to practice being in the moment, here’s a beginner’s guide..
This entire 6-step anger management process happened in around half an hour and took place in my head. I am no zen master, but once I had gone through it, I felt so much lighter, literally like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Anger is the easy option to take, it feels like it is your friend, but it will only hijack your energy and integrity. You may not feel ready to let go of it, I hear you, and I hear that a lot from my clients. That’s fine, but if you are keeping it, make the conscious decision to stay in that box, and give yourself a deadline to come out. Otherwise, you may well stay in there forever.
If you need a little support taking those steps, I know exactly how to help you. Reach out and have a chat here, I would love to hear from you!