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by Alana Gregg, MS

When was the last time you felt angry? For me it was about an hour ago. As I sat with my three kids doing school work, bouncing from kid to kid as needed, I suddenly realized my son was playing a game on his computer when he knew he was supposed to be doing work. He has gotten very good at switching tabs quickly when he sees me coming and has been caught a few times before (I’m sure your kid has never done that to you). Needless to say, I was angry.

There are many myths about anger. “Anger is wrong or bad.” “Nice people don’t get angry.” “Anger is the same as aggression.” “If others get angry at us, we must have done something wrong.” “Ignoring anger makes it go away.” These are all false. Anger is not wrong or bad. It’s a common human emotion that we all feel.

So what do we do with our anger? Here are 8 ways to control your anger:

  1. Pay attention to it. Anger is like a red flag saying, “pay attention to me cause this is important.” Don’t push those feelings away. They are there to protect us and warn us when something or someone is hurting us.
  2. What does it look like? Everyone’s anger looks different. Some people show their feelings on the outside. They yell, pace, get red in the face. Some people tend to keep their anger more internally. My father-in-law is the calmest person you’ll ever meet. When he’s angry he makes a deep low-toned groan. (Really, that’s it!) But if I didn’t know that about him, I wouldn’t know he was upset at all. What happens in your body when you start to feel angry? Does your heart beat faster or your chest feel tight? Do you feel hot or flushed? Do you clench your fists or tighten your jaw? Maybe you start to pace or stare intensely? It is important to recognize your own signs.
  3. What’s underneath the surface? Picture an iceberg and think about where the water line is on the iceberg. Only about 10% of the iceberg sticks out above the water. That means that 90% is still below the surface. It’s the same with anger. Anger is the 10% of our emotions that people can see. But there is a whole other 90% of other emotions and thoughts that are driving that anger. In the situation with my son, I wasn’t just angry that he was playing video games. I was feeling betrayed, taken advantage of, and foolish for not making him move his seat the first time. My anger was more about the pain of him lying to me and my own fear of being a bad mom than it was about the video game. There is usually some sort of fear or pain underneath our anger that needs to be recognized before we can deal with the anger we are feeling.
  4. Can’t control other people. I can’t control my son. If he wants to disobey me then he is going to find a way to do so. But I can give him consequences when he chooses to go against what I have asked him to do. There will always be people who do not act the way we think they should or people who we disagree with. But we will become consumed by anger if we are constantly trying to change the people around us.
  5. Control your own response. My initial response to my son was to yank his headphones out of the computer which in turn yanked them out of his ears. I don’t think it felt very good. My anger was not wrong but my response was. Yelling at people or reacting harshly when we are angry might feel good in the moment but it has consequences. Just because we can’t see the emotional wounds our words cause does not make them any less real. Relationships become damaged when we do not keep our anger in check, no matter how justified we may feel.
  6. Learn your own anger triggers. There are universal things that make us all angry such as being hurt by someone. As it should! But we each have certain things that trigger our anger more than others. For instance, being disrespected could be extremely triggering to you. If someone calls you a bad name or makes you look bad, for some people this might send them into a tailspin. But for other people, they might be offended but it does not produce the same intense anger response. It is important to figure out what “sets you off” and why.
  7. Do something to calm yourself down. When we are angry, we do not want to sit there and reflect on why or what’s going on beneath the surface. I get it! That’s when you need to calm yourself down first. You can exercise, do relaxation techniques like breathing or guided imagery exercises, pray or read your Bible, find a healthy distraction for a short period of time. Find what works for you. The goal is to calm yourself down until you are in a better place to be able to process what you are feeling.
  8. Forgiveness. When we practice forgiveness, we aren’t saying it’s ok that person hurt us. We are freeing ourselves from that person’s power over us. This also does not mean we need to allow people to repeatedly hurt us. Forgiveness is not the same as trust.

Start Counseling in Ambler, PA

At Lime Tree Counseling, we understand that it can be difficult to control your anger. We all tend toward either extreme: stuffing it down or turning it loose. Our trained counselors want to see you learn to manage your anger so that you can experience freedom and peace. Located in Ambler, PA, our experienced counselors also know that not dealing with your anger can lead to increase in anxiety, resentment, and physical health problems. Don’t stay stuck in an unhealthy cycle of anger. Call us today to schedule an online or in person appointment or call for a free 15 minute phone consultation.