Managing My Anger

Alternatives to losing your temper (John Hegley) - Sit on your hands. Visit the Hebrides. Knit. Unknit your brow. Build a model of your anger out of matches. Catch a falling star and put it in a poem. Watch a soap. Make some soap. Send the world a message of hope. Coil up in a medicine ball. Call a nurse. Reverse. Close your eyes and do the washing up. Sing. Pray. Have a fig roll. Have a nice day.

Someone told me, years ago, that I am too emotional.  I knew at the time this was intended as a criticism but I decided to interpret it as a compliment.  I am glad to be so emotional because it means, among others things, that my feelings run deep and true. Emotions also help to embed memories – in my case mostly good, although some are bad or sad – which all add up to make me who I am.

However, as a child my emotions often got the better of me, especially my anger which frequently spilled over into disruptive behaviour – shouting, screaming and general nastiness which made things very uncomfortable for me and even more so for those around me. Today I still get angry – there is a lot to be angry about in this world, injustice, poverty, violence, lies etc. – but I have learnt,  as part of my resilience training, how to prevent that anger from turning into negative behaviour.

To manage your emotional responses, start by recognising the feelings and giving them a name to acknowledge what is going on. Suppressing emotions is the wrong way to go as it stops us from being authentic with ourselves and hinders our ability to learn from experience.  Instead, aim to channel emotions into something positive to help yourself – and others – benefit from the outcome. You may find that anger, for example, is an irresistible reaction, but the power of its expression does not have to be destructive: try using the adrenalin it creates as a stimulant to mobilize you into action to overcome obstacles instead.

Here are some tips I have learnt to help me manage my anger:

  1. Use the STOP model:
S top

T ake a deep breath

O bserve openly and gently

P erceive positively

  1. Give yourself a few moments for the anger to subside: “Right now I know I am feeling angry, but I know it will pass. I am not the emotion”
  2. Go and do something else, turn away from the trigger, engage in something you know makes you happy (for me it would be to go for a run).
  3. Recall a happy memory: make it specific, re-live it in your head.
  4. Look after yourself: engage your senses – touch, taste, sound, sight, smell – and focus them on beautiful things.

 Life would be so very bland without emotions, we simply need to be in control of them, rather than allowing them to control us.

A couple of ‘emotional’ links to check out:

-          And I rather like this TED Talk by John Koenig: Beautiful new words to describe obscure emotions