Over the last couple of days, I felt my anger. In some way, it was justified, which meant that I had a good reason for feeling this way. On the other hand, I also realized the destructive nature of anger, and that it was important for me to turn it into something constructive quickly – courage and determination to stand up for myself and ask for what I want and deserve.
Anger is a very powerful emotion. You can use it as a fuel for progress, but it also has the potential to damage your wellbeing and relationships. So it’s important that we exert some control over responses despite our feelings. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
It takes work, but we owe it to ourselves to develop a new set of skills to handle conflicts more constructively. So what strategies can we deploy to prevent or reduce the frequency and intensity of angry outbursts over time? Here are a few I’ve learned:
Write a journal
Explore your past experiences with anger by writing about them in a journal. What triggered the last episode? How intense was it? How long did it last? What have been the short and long-term consequences of your angry outbursts? What patterns have emerged? Writing a journal to explore your emotional journey can be very healing and powerful. It’s also a great tool to recognize your emotional triggers and pinpoint areas where you may need to develop some new skills for conflict resolution.
Desensitize your anger receptors
If angry outbursts have become a knee-jerk reaction for you, this means that your anger receptors may be overly sensitized. One effective way to desensitize them is to interrupt your patterns of persistent and negative thoughts. Here’s an exercise that may help…
First set an alarm for 3 minutes and get yourself comfortable and relaxed. Then begin to recall a time when you were really upset about something. Let the intensity build up. When you hear the alarm ring, shout out “Stop!” Or slap your figures or do something dramatic. Then try to keep your mind blank or neutral for the next 30 seconds.
Repeat this exercise again and again. Over time, you’ll gradually develop a countermeasure to your anger when it begins to build up. The murmur of “Stop” or the slapping of figures will help halt or dissipate your angry feelings and bring them to a calmer state. Try it out. It’s worked for a lot of people.
‘Anger is generally caused by the perception that something unjust has been done to us – but it doesn’t end there. The feelings triggered by a current event are often magnified and intensified by an accumulation of unjust perceptions and experiences from the past. Practicing forgiveness for the people who have hurt us in the past, and for ourselves, is an important process to healing our anger. It may be difficult, and it may take a long time. So be patient with yourself.
When we dwell on the thoughts or memories that bring about anger, we are likely to stay in that emotional state. But we can instead choose to focus on the positive aspects of the experience and build on them. Look at your past experiences with anger and ask yourself what good came out of it. It may sound counterintuitive, but if you look, you may find blessings in disguise. Gratitude is a powerful antidote for anger. When we are filled up with gratitude, there is really no room for anger.
It is time for me to do those exercises. How about you? I would love to hear your feedback!