Stop drinking the poison!
All of us have the experience of facing up to someone who frustrates us to no end.
You can feel the tension rising within our bodies, and, eventually, when your frustration and tolerance of this tension reaches a pitch that we cannot bear, you explode in anger, saying and doing things that you subsequently regret.
Then you end up being the one who has to apologize and make amends.
Other times, you find yourself in a situation where you're trying to please or satisfy someone who frustrates you or hurts you emotionally. You try to suppress your feelings for fear of losing that person’s love or attention.
Both the frustration and anger and the concomitant inability to express it cause us great stress. Eventually we succumb to these feelings and break down emotionally or physically.
It's not surprising that anger has been called by some psychologists the misunderstood emotion because its effect is almost always opposite to that which we intended.
Anger is so uncomfortable because if you express it, you run the risk of destroying a relationship you value. On the other hand, if you suppress your anger, you may end up actually damaging your own mental and physical health.
Try using one of these five smart strategies on how to control anger:
1. Get it out.
The prevailing pop psychology of our time says that there's lots of unconscious and deep-seated anger in all of us. The experts encourage us to vent that anger and be ourselves.
We're also told that the more we vent our feelings the better we will feel. But this isn't entirely true. Empirical research has established that venting anger doesn't really achieve much. In fact, the more a person vents the more angry he is likely to be.
Beyond a certain point, the more you expresses your anger, the worse you become — until the venting stops completely. So by all means vent, but at some point you MUST let it go.
2. Get physical.
Exercise can help settle angry feelings. Try throwing or hitting a ball, smashing eggs, or kicking a punching bag. Or set up a game of tennis or racquetball with a friend (just not the one you're angry at!). Cycling is especially useful for letting go of intense anger, but even taking a walk or swimming can help too.
3. Speak out.
Sometimes our anger is heightened because you think you're being short-changed emotionally — whether that's by being taken advantage of or being hurt by someone's actions.
The solution is to speak up and let others know when you've been hurt.
Give the offender the benefit of the doubt that their action wasn't intended to harm — but also understand that you may have hurt him in some way.
Your objective isn't to blame but rather to inform so (hopefully) he can stop behaving in a way that made you frustrated and angry. If indeed the behavior is unintentional, it will cease and you'll both start communicating better.
If there's more to it than that, you should ask directly if you've done something to cause ill feelings. From there, you can openly discuss whether the situation can be resolved and how best to do that.
4. Get support from friends and family.
There's more to this than just getting others on your side. (If you did this, you'd eventually lose all your friends!)
The fact is, when you're face to face with an angry person, your natural tendency is to recoil and to draw back from more contact. Expecting others to tolerate this is a challenge, one that people who truly love you are usually willing to deal with.
They'll provide a fresh set of eyes and ears that'll help you feel less threatened. (This is especially so where anger is experienced as a part of daily life.) By being with supportive friends or loved ones and enjoying activities with them, your confidence and self-esteem will be restored.
They'll also help you explore ways of solving and resolving the conflict.
5. Changing your thinking — or your situation.
Changing your thinking about what has made you angry helps you redefine the situation so you'll no longer feel stressed by it.
If someone is frustrating you at work, one way to cope is to just humor and tolerate him. This is important if you're looking to achieve your professional goals. Are you encouraging your co-worker's bad behavior? Maybe. But are you really in a position to influence his behavior? And if you are, would you get the outcome you want?
However, if you're dealing with someone closer to you, say a friend or relative, who refuses to change his behavior, then you may need to end the relationship or severely limit contact.
It's helpful to focus on how much you're getting out of a relationship given what you have invested in it, instead of who's won or lost. Acknowledge that you have the choice to take control of your behavior and feelings.
This shift will allow you to handle your anger more positively and to live more harmoniously with the people in your life.
If you have a problem with anger at home or in the workplace or both, contact Dr. Douglas Kong to talk about it. Contact Dr. Kong for a FREE session to discuss your concerns.
This article was originally published at The Optimalist Way. Reprinted with permission from the author.