One summer’s day my friend Mavis and I were to travel by train and ferry to Ireland to visit another dear friend, Tinu. Due to some delays along the way, we were running late. I got to the train, about to board, and Mavis was not there. I explained to the conductor that she was in the station and on her way. “Just a few more seconds!” At the same time, I was on the phone with her telling her to hurry along. “Sorry”, the conductor told me.
I started to yell on the phone: “The train is leaving, the train is leaving!”
As the doors, were closing, up ran Mavis, as fast as she could, but it was too late! In frustration, I flung my phone across the train platform, where it shattered into pieces! I sat on the ground fuming…
If you can learn to manage your anger, you can manage your life, improve your health, improve your relationships and save yourself a lot of embarrassment and hurt. Here are some helpful tips.
1.Do not react immediately:
This is number one. There are extremely few scenarios in which you have to show your intense anger immediately. The scenario that I painted above was clearly one in which I could have just stopped in my tracks and not done anything in the moment. After a five to ten second pause, the urge to smash my phone into smithereens would probably have passed. The immediate reaction when you are angry is usually the worst one. Do not discipline your children when angry. Do not trade or return insults when you are mad. Do not start to raise your voice. Wait. Some people count to ten for this reason alone. Is it worth it, to hit your wife in anger and have to apologize? Or worse, have her call the police and run away from you? Was it worth it for me to break up my phone? Not at all! Is it worth your relationships for you to vent your wayward spleen and have everyone walking on eggshells around you? It is not. When you react, do so in a measured manner. Watch your words, lower your voice. You can communicate an angry tone even in a low voice without insults. When you rant and rave, you essentially are out of control.
Do not use external situations and circumstances as a barometer for how you are going to feel and act. Learn to calm yourself down and not wait until situations change, or improve, before you get calm. Do not let things get to you. I know that it is more easily said than done, but if you have issues with anger, you do not have an alternative. Learn to calm yourself quickly, so that you can deal with the situation in a level headed manner. Calming breaths. Meditation on scripture. Deciding beforehand that you will not give in to angry impulses. You need to change your story about anger. For example maybe you think that going over the top with angry outbursts is “just you”. It is not. It is abnormal. Maybe everyone in your family acts like a raging bull when angry, and that is all that you have seen. That does not make it right. If this is the case, decide now that your story will change and you will do everything that you can, to manage your anger. Learn to calm yourself.
The Bible says, a soft answer turns away wrath, and a harsh one stirs up anger. One day, after I solicitously inquired of my patient why he was not bantering in his usual way, he went off! Why was I asking that?! Why did my nurse and I ask him such stupid questions? He became very unreasonable at that point. He barked at me. Two years ago, I would have probably walked him out of my office, but this time I stopped, gave him this weird look, took a deep breath and said,”I am asking about your overall health, and indeed my nurse also has to ask you these questions.” For some reason he was riled up and would not stop. I felt myself getting angrier and I was tempted to do something to make this man realize the error of his ways. I remembered something from the book, “The Four Agreements” that states,” Don’t take anything personally”. That helped me calm myself, and I deescalated the situation by firmly telling the gentleman (not angrily), that we were only trying to help, to find out how he was feeling; and that he could not come to our office to insult us, because there was no need for that. He promptly deflated and I could get on with the visit. De-escalating simply means do not allow the aggravating situation to get worse for you. It does not mean, become a doormat for people to walk all over.
4.Take one for the team:
In marriages and relationships, sometimes the best response is no response at all. I am not talking about silent stonewalling. I am talking about taking a time-out, letting the other person just calm down on their own, and letting the storm blow over. You do not have to respond to everything. So. True confession, I have/had a chip on my shoulder, so I know what it feels like to want to respond swiftly to annoying situations. I know what it feels like to want to show people not to take you for granted. Respect is very important to me. I have come to realize, however, that you gain respect, handling yourself in a controlled manner rather than making a scene. In almost every situation that I have taken the higher road, I have not regretted it. Sometimes you have to “lose” the battle to win the war.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, yes, psychotherapy may be needed if your anger is persistent and cannot be managed in other ways. If anger has caused you to harm others, do not hesitate to seek treatment. It is not shameful. After all if you had diabetes, or high blood pressure or a gunshot wound, you would seek out a health professional. What about anger? It is a mental health problem and an emotional health problem, you may need to seek psychological counseling.
In what ways have you learned to manage anger? Please leave a comment below.