You’re rolling down the road, and someone cuts in front of you. Your significant other makes a suggestion that sets you off. People are wearing masks. Or not. Your boss chews you out for what seems to be no good reason. You feel obligated to attend that family get together, and seethe inside at having to fritter away time with them. You get passed over for a promotion. You feel you’re always on the giving end of situations. You’re depressed. What’s the use, you ask?
The past couple of years were both stressful and demanding. Given life’s ups and downs, anger seems to be an inevitable result. In itself, this emotion can be positive, bringing out problems and working through to a solution. But if you come across aggressively and have no alternatives to offer, it’s a dead end.
Here are clues there’s more to your anger than meets the eye:
Compromise is not in your vocabulary. If you grew up in a family where anger was out of control, you learned how the angry person got their way by being loudest and most demanding. Compromise might feel like failure or weakness.
Anger can mask anxiety. You may view your world as a threatening place, and naturally fight or flee in response. You think if your anxiety about the future is high, you’re prepared for most anything. No room for enjoying the present.
Different opinions are a personal challenge. Is it your way or the high way? If you have a strong need to be in control, you may see other perspectives as a challenge to your authority.
Be aware of your warning signs. Physical sensations are an excellent way to know when you’re getting angry. Knots in your stomach? Clenching your hands or your jaw? Breathing faster? ”Seeing red?” Having trouble concentrating? All warning signs of a potential blowup in the making.
Identify your triggers. Does going out with a certain group of friends usually end in a fight? Daily commute get to you? Notice you pick a fight when you are hungry? Figuring these set points out can save you future apologies.
Overgeneralizing. “You always interrupt me.” “Everyone disrespects me.”
Is that really true? Always? No one appreciates you?
You’re aware of when your flash points are rising. Here are ways to cool down quickly.
Focus on how your body feels. Tune in to the warning signs and step back from the situation. You will be more in control of the emotional intensity you experience, and will have more options at hand.
Take some beep breaths. Deep, slow breathing can slow down rising tension. The key? Breathe deeply from your abdomen. Any time you expand your rib cage, you will feel more relaxed.
Give yourself a reality check. A hundred years from now, will this make a difference? 10 years? Is there anything I can do about it? Is taking action worth my time?
Getting past anger is an art in itself. Stay calm by taking care of yourself. Manage your stress. Talk to someone you trust. Get enough sleep. Exercise regularly. Be smart about alcohol and drugs. Use humor to relieve tension. And simmer down. Control that anger. Live unstuck.