Anger Management as a Tool - Part 1

My #1 Self Help Technique

Developing successful anger management skill does not have to be a painful process.

Most who struggle with uncontrolled bouts also suffer through the embarrassment associated with losing control.

As a previous rage-a-holic I know these feelings all too well. I have personally experienced the damage to my health, family and business relationships.

Although learning my #1 anger management technique is easy, you need the desire to change and the willingness to make the effort.

For change to become a new habit it requires 21 to 30 days of continuous practice.

What is Anger?

It is a normal and usually healthy human emotion in response to fear, lack of control or physical and emotional pain. Everyone experiences this emotion, whether they admit it or not.

“Normal” is the key word here. You are not a raving lunatic just because you can feel.

However I am not advocating you allow it to become destructive or try to stuff these feelings away; both of which are dangerous actions.

We cannot directly control our emotions, but we can control our behavior!

With practice of anger management techniques you can eliminate the power it has to destroy relationships, ruin your health and alienate you from others.

What Causes Anger?

Humans need to feel loved, nurtured, supported and safe. Everyone has varying opinions or "beliefs" about what these needs mean on a personal level.

Your beliefs are programmed into the subconscious mind by:

  1. Genetic DNA passed on from our ancestors resides in the “deep limbic system” (also referred to as our “Neanderthal brain”) and predisposes us to the flight or fight response when confronted with uncomfortable situations.

    Anger and aggression were a significant aspect of survival for our ancestors.

  2. Being angry is a learned response from your primary caregivers during childhood. If your parents had explosive tempers or did not channel their emotions properly, chances are good you too are a ticking time bomb ready to explode; if you haven’t already.
  3. Now pile on top of this pre-programming all the perceived injustice you have experienced during this lifetime, stored as memories in your subconscious.

Throughout the day, you compare and judge everything by your current beliefs.

The cause of angry feelings is how you perceive something, whether “real” or “imagined”, in relation to these pre-programmed beliefs.

When we feel neglected, abandoned, rejected or abused, most will react with some degree of anger ranging from mildly irritated to out of control rage.

Let’s look at safety to illustrate this concept. Two employees working at the same company are criticized by their employer.

Employee A has learned he is capable and his skills are in demand. Therefore, he easily takes the criticism in stride, makes the necessary changes and continues working.

Employee B on the other hand is tentative about his ability and feels threatened by the criticism. This employee then begins thinking maybe the criticism is a precursor to being fired.

This leads to thoughts like loss of income, difficulty finding another job, can’t pay the mortgage, and so on. Ultimately, the more this employee dwells on the criticism, the angrier they are likely to become, as their safety is “perceived” to have been threatened.

In this example, you can easily identify the two totally different belief systems.

Angry feelings are caused when there is a perceived or real threat to your current beliefs.

What Triggers Anger?

It is important to see the difference between “causes” and the “triggers”.

In the previous employee example, the “beliefs” of each employee were measured against an employer’s comment.

The perceived threat experienced by employee B was caused by a belief their safety and security was threatened, leading to a self-sabotaging thought process.

The criticism by the employer was not the cause of anger, but rather the “trigger” which stimulated the safety issue.

Triggers can be from either internal or external sources.

Internal triggers are usually the result of:

  • An irrational perception of reality.
  • Becoming overwhelmed by exceeding the level of frustration you can tolerate.
  • Unreasonable expectations from yourself, others or life in general.
  • Comparing or judging yourself and others.
External triggers can be:
  • Personal attacks against you, either physically or verbally.
  • Your ideas attacked, ridiculed or ignored.
  • Your needs being threatened.
  • Physical or emotional ailments caused for example by fatigue, hunger or drugs and alcohol.

To restate, the "trigger" is what stimulates your angry feelings, while the cause is how the trigger is viewed in relation to your beliefs.

Why We Resist Anger:

Since childhood, most of us have been trained to believe it is not acceptable to become angry.

With this type of mental programming, is there any question as to why we resist this normal emotion?

A few other common beliefs are:

  • We are unworthy for losing control.
  • We might hurt ourselves or others.
  • We may get hurt by others either physically or emotionally.
  • We will be rejected by others.
  • Fear we would be acting exactly like our parents.
Perhaps you may have noticed the more you resist any emotion, the stronger it gets.

Resistance is not an answer to managing any emotion.

Properly managed anger is healthy and productive.

Problems Associated with Anger:

Other than the obvious problems associated with lashing out in rage, here are a few additional ideas to consider.

While angry, your blood pressure rises and the amygdala in the brain orders the release of energy hormones, adrenaline and nor-adrenaline.

These chemicals give you a feeling of power and control. For some, this feeling of power can actually become addictive.

Unfortunately, when someone loses control, they cannot think clearly. Their ability to rationalize, understand and make intelligent decisions is diminished.

It becomes virtually impossible to problem solve while angry. Genetic DNA kicks in and the only apparent solution appears to be "fight or flight".

Many of you may already realize these problems. Therefore, you attempt to either calm yourself or suppress the feelings.

If you are the type who internalizes your feelings (that is, stuff them away out of sight) be aware:

  • You may eventually explode when the pressure builds up to a boiling point.
  • Angry feelings turned inward cause emotional problems, especially depression.
  • Suppressed emotions can cause physical disease.
  • Could lead to physical self-harm.
  • When you become successful at "controlling" emotions (as opposed to managing) it becomes difficult to acknowledge and express any feelings.

Go to Part 2 of this article, I will discuss the benefits of managing your angry feelings, discovering the "cause' of these feelings and techniques to express them calmly.