How to Manage Your Anger Feeling anger is natural, the actions we take may not be. Use these tips to help channel anger into a positive emotion. BY DR. MICHAEL LEVITTAN
Many people will admit to being frustrated before they'll admit to anger.
“ Most people may admit to feeling frustrated, or annoyed, or irritated, but not angry.”
Anger is a universal emotion. Every human being gets angry at one time or another. We all have experienced hurt, disappointment, deceit, rejection, betrayal, and many other slights and mistreatments in our lives. Though all people experience the feeling of anger, there are great differences in how people react to angry feelings. Some of us can respond assertively with thoughtful expressions.
Problems arise when people respond by yelling, name-calling, using bad language, throwing things, slamming doors, making threats, hitting others, or abruptly ending the relationship. A less obvious problem occurs when people keep feelings to themselves and "stuff" their anger. We are all capable of erupting one day.
The very simple, but difficult first step to manage anger is to acknowledge that you are feeling angry! Most people may admit to feeling frustrated, or annoyed, or irritated, but not angry. It is as if "anger" is such a horrible word that you can’t acknowledge it. Others may be angry, but not you!
However, acknowledging anger is essential to anger management. A bit of brain science is in order: When you acknowledge something, it means that you have knowledge of it, which means that you have connected the thinking part of your brain (the prefrontal cortex—behind the forehead) with the emotional part of your brain (the limbic system—in the center).
Without that acknowledgment, we are not involving our thinking, conscious brain and we are literally "run" by our emotions! No wonder so many people lose their temper, "go off" on others, or are out-of-control. On a daily basis, our world is filled with hurtful words, harmful aggression, and destructive violence.
The two keys to managing anger are:
1. Slow Down and Breathe: Anger is part of the fight or flight reaction to danger and it speeds us up so that we can survive threats. We secrete adrenalin so that we can fight the danger or take flight from it. The great majority of time, our anger is not based in a life or death situation and so we don’t require the urgency that speeds up our system. If we take a few slow, deep breaths, then we counter-act the fight or flight reaction, and put a limit to the secretion of adrenalin.
2. Ask Questions of Ourselves: The better able we are to make use of our thinking brain, the better we will keep angry feelings under control. After managing our breathing to calm our bodies, then we need to calm our emotions by bringing order to potential chaos. Ask: "What am I feeling?" This allows us to define and give form to our feeling. This brings a sense of order or control to our own feelings.
Then ask: "What is the best way to deal with this feeling?" This allows us to ensure that we don’t impulsively resort to action. We use our mind, which will naturally consider options and consequences.
Anger is often viewed as a negative emotion. Anger is negative when people cannot manage it and act-out with aggression, abuse, or violence. It is startling to contemplate that—excluding war—the number of intentional global homicides is roughly 437,000, according to the Global Study on Homicide 2013 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime—the most recent report available. This averages out to almost 1,200 human beings killed by other humans every day!
However, when anger is managed, it can actually be a positive emotion. Anger can function as part of the mourning process and as a force to energize us toward achieving goals. What is crucial is not the feeling of anger, but the action we take when we feel anger!
Dr. Michael Levittan is an accomplished and recognized expert on Domestic Violence, Anger Management, Child Abuse, and PTSD. He is a licensed psychotherapist, director of a state-certified batterers’ treatment program, and serves as an Expert Witness in court. Dr. Michael believes in his work to further the cause of establishing safety in the family and peace in the world. His passion comes across in his presentations. For more information visit www.michaellevittan.com.