With protests occurring more often, it’s easy to catch the contagious feeling of anger whether it’s in support or against protest. Maybe you agree with the protest but disagree with the way some protestors express their anger through violence or damaging property. Violent protests and riots are angry parties openly inviting more attendees. Media expressing outrage about someone or a piece of information is an invitation for you to become angry and attend their angry party.
When someone cuts you off in traffic, rides your tail, forgets their blinker, or gives you the finger, it’s all an invite for you to attend the most popular angry party- road rage. When we see others angry or sad, our mirror neurons work to help us empathize or experience the same feelings.
When you’re watching a movie, TV or news show, notice how your feelings change and resemble those of the emotions being expressed in the show or movie. Pay attention to your feelings when you’re listening to an angry person rant and rave with complaints or act out aggressively. Do you feel upset with them or are you upset at them for the way they express their anger? Are you easily triggered to become angry yourself?
When we are exposed to anger or are dealing with someone who is angry with us, we often will become angry, too. The more you’re exposed to anger, the more likely you may become angry. The more angry people there are, the more people become angry thus increasing angry party attendees.
We all learn how to express anger by observing how important people in our lives and society express anger. If a parent or caretaker expressed anger through violence or physical aggression, then you may act out in similar ways. Aggressively expressing anger can give you a false sense of control when in reality you are totally out of control. The more you express anger aggressively, the more your brain becomes wired to repeat those same behaviors in the future.
We can all become aware of how some of the ways we express anger is unhelpful and harmful to yourself and others. Once you have that awareness, you are more able to change your behavior by working towards improvement. Do you really want to be going around breaking things, hurting others, and continuing on a self-destructive path when you’re angry? Controlling your anger is when you’re really under control. Look under that anger into the sadness that is the true emotion behind it. Within a therapeutic setting you can explore the root of your emotions so you can gain a better understanding and awareness.
Anger is not a bad emotion; it’s about how you express your anger that is key. Find positive ways to express your anger like working out, journaling or joining a cause. Find examples of people or organizations that express their anger in a healthy way that is helpful and not destructive.
One example is Martin Luther King; though he was angry, he chose to express his anger through starting PEACEFUL protests and helped create change by going about it in a healthy, purposeful way.
What are the things that trigger your anger? How can you prepare yourself ahead of time when you might be exposed to a trigger for your anger? There is always an angry party somewhere, so how will you learn to decline the invites to angry parties that are destructive? Improving how you manage your anger can help you decide which angry parties are worthwhile to attend, like: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) or organizations that help bring awareness about domestic violence.
Below are some quick tips on managing anger from Lynette J. Hoy’s 3rd edition book What’s Good About Anger? Putting Your Anger to Work for Good (2012). You can learn more about this book and anger management by visiting www.WhatsGoodAboutAnger.com
Quick Tips for Anger Management
- Take one step at a time.
- What’s going to happen if…..?
- Will this make a difference in a week, month, year?
- Is it really worth it?
- I can’t control others; I can only control myself.
- I won’t give anyone power over my emotions.
- I won’t take things personally.
- Make a plan for action- what to do and say.
- How can I prevent and overcome anger triggers?
During the confrontation
- Breathe deeply and slowly.
- Paraphrase and identify the other person’s viewpoint. “I hear you saying….”
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Focus on the issue not the person or past.
- Keep it in perspective.
- State your needs clearly.
- Stick to “I” “I feel (insert emotion- angry, sad, hurt) when (insert behavior- action or trigger for your feeling), I need (insert request- what you would like the other person to do differently).”
- Avoid blaming.
- What will it cost you to get angry?
- Take a time-out. Cool down and think it over.
- Ask whether your thinking is true or if you are dealing with distorted thinking. What is realistic, honest, and healthy?