Changing your relationship with Anger
Changing your relationship with anger:
Our emotions provide us with lots of information. They are neither good nor bad, even when they feel bad, they are usually signaling important information. Whether it’s highlighting how much you value someone or desiring for things to be different, our emotions can help us to tap into what is most important in our lives. Anger, as an emotion gets a bad rap-mostly because of the confusion with anger the emotion vs anger the behavior. Anger, when utilized as information and not direction, can help us to understand our wants/needs better and can be used as a catalyst to make changes in our life.
The anger we feel is most likely an indicator of great pain. When we act on our anger it is because of this pain combined with triggering thoughts. These triggering thoughts usually involve the belief you’ve been wronged, that someone has done something deliberately to harm you and that things should have been different. These thoughts can evoke feelings of helplessness. Recognizing that the control you have lies in how you manage your anger, rather than hoping for people to treat you differently, will help break the self-perpetuating feedback loop of anger, and help you focus on what matters most to you.
Setting limits/boundaries- When we don’t set limits, we put ourselves at risk for anger. Feeling taken advantage of? Feel like you’re constantly giving with nothing left for yourself? You might be feeling angry because boundary issues. Getting started with boundaries can feel difficult, especially if you’re not used to standing up for yourself. Practice being assertive, using facts and feelings, without apologizing or downplaying yourself. Take time to respond to requests if it helps to give you a chance to process your feelings and craft a response that allows you to state what you need or are willing to do.
Get more information- Triggering thoughts often contain distortions; thoughts that feel like facts but are not. When addressing your triggering thoughts, it can help to notice these distortions. Some of the big ones include blaming, catastrophizing, overgeneralizing, demanding aka: should statements, mindreading/jumping to conclusions. Countering these distortions can be done through labeling, re-framing and creating coping thoughts. For example, your friend is late to an important event and you assume, through mindreading that she is trying to get back at you for a misunderstanding earlier in the month. Labelling this a thought distortion of mindreading/jumping to conclusions, you can pause, question the validity of the statement and get more information, perhaps through talking with your friend, processing this with a trusted other or through journaling. Coming up with coping thoughts, such as, “I might not have all the information”, or “my first thought might not be accurate, maybe I can look for more information” can help you break the anger cycle, by having a different behavioral response.
Fill up your coping thoughts toolbox- Coping thoughts come in really handy in all sorts of potential anger provoking situations. Recognizing the areas that you struggle, where there are themes of being criticized or shamed, viewing people as selfish or thoughtless towards you/others, feeling unheard, etc. Once you recognize your trigger themes, you can create coping thoughts to zoom out, see an exception to the rule, remind you of your ability to relax, or remind you of your ability to handle the situation.
Remember to practice patience and self-compassion with yourself as you navigate changing your relationship with anger. If you find you are struggling to manage on your own, seek help from a trusted professional.