Are you always blowing your top? Do you spend too much time fantasizing about strangling your boss? Do you feel bad for yelling at your spouse and kids? Have you jumped out of your car on the highway? Have you had to leave your kid’s soccer game because you have threatened the coach?
If you can answer yes to any of the above, (or are too close for comfort) you have an anger problem and you need anger management.
When is Anger a Problem?
Anger, like all emotions, is normal. We have our emotions for good reasons. They keep us close to those that protect us and move us away from those that are a danger to us. They give us the strength to protect ourselves when we need to. Emotions give our life color, depth, and meaning. Research proves that thought without feeling leads to worse decision making.
But just like all things being good in moderation, too much anger can be harmful. One good question to ask to see if you have a problem with anger is, do I have anger, or does anger have me? Do I get angry, or am I an angry person?
Many people who have a problem with anger don’t realize it. (You may be reading this because you are in a relationship with one of those people!) People with emotional problems generally fall into one of two groups. There are the people who think there is something wrong with them, and there are the people who think there is something wrong with everyone else. Many people with anger issues fall into the second group. They think that if other people would just stop acting like idiots, they wouldn’t be so angry! People who fall into the second group are much harder to help, because they don’t think they need any.
How to Manage Your Anger
Follow these three steps.
1. Take Responsibility for Your Anger Problem
The first step in doing something about your anger issue is to admit you have a problem. Stop blaming others for your destructive behavior. If people are telling you that you have a problem, or your losing friends or jobs, it is probably true.
(If it is your partner who cannot take responsibility for their behaviors, especially if they are hurting you or others, in all likelihood they will not change. If you are a relationship with someone like that and you are being abused emotionally or physically, you should get counseling, and discuss the option of removing yourself from that situation.)
2. Get Help for Your Anger Problem
People with anger problems often have a hard time accepting that they need help. They may believe that to admit a problem and get help from others is a sign of weakness or vulnerability. They may not be comfortable with those kinds of feelings. But the truth is, the warrior who fights a war by himself never wins. As humbling as it is, we all need help. If you are an angry person, you may feel resentment at having to do everything yourself! It is hard to learn that you don’t have to. In fact, you can’t do it alone. Nothing takes more courage than walking into a therapy room for the first time.
3. Use Dr. Berger’s Anger Management Program
Working with a counselor on an ongoing basis is important to help find the root of your anger, and to help resolve your life situations that provokes your anger in the present. But while you are doing that long-term work, you can also use a program to help you deal with the feeling when it comes up in the moment. Here are five steps you can do right now that can help you manage your angry feelings. The more you practice, the better they will work.
Step One. Be Aware: If you know what you are feeling in your body and thinking in your head, you are far more likely to be able to be aware of your feelings and then be able to do something about them.
Step Two. Connect: If you can connect your body sensations and thoughts to your emotions, you can choose to calm yourself down instead of react.
Step Three. Breathe and Ground: By breathing and feeling your connection to the world around you, you can turn off your nervous system’s emergency “fight” system and turn on the “safe” system.
Step Four. Visualize and Let Go: Instead of holding on to your resentments, if you can calm down your body enough, you can imagine letting go of your toxic anger.
Step Five. Refocus: Anger is fueled by obsession. The more you think about what is pissing you off, the worse you’ll feel. Once you’ve become aware, connected to your feeling, grounded yourself, and let go, you can redirect your attention to something a lot more enjoyable.
You Can Learn to Manage Your Anger
There’s a lot to be angry about in today’s world. I believe justifiable outrage is a good thing. But let’s use our anger for constructive purposes: to end injustice, to expose hypocrisy and lies, to make the world a better place. The cab driver, waiter, or your 7-year-old deserves that you learn how to redirect your rage to all the right places.