How To Control Anger: A 3 Step Approach

By

How To Control Anger: A 3 Step Approach
Learning to control your anger is an admirable goal. Having a realistic way to do it is even better.

One of the most common things I hear from the couples who come to me for help is that they want to  communicate better. When I explore a little deeper, I'm told what they really want is to stop fighting. At the heart of this problem is that one, or both, of the partners gets emotionally upset. This upset often is expressed as anger. So what I'm really being asked to help them with is how to control anger.

One suggestion people are often given is to teach themselves to not get angry. I disagree with this because I don't think it is really possible. Besides, the problem isn't feeling angry but what someone does in response to that anger. Anger (like sadness, hurt, and joy) is just an emotion that is meant to tell you something about your environment. In and of itself, it doesn't have to be problematic. Learning how to control anger is the key to keeping it from wreaking havoc in your life.

The most important thing you have to realize is that when you are emotionally upset, you cannot have a conversation; you can only have a fight. The reason is because you cannot take in any more information. All of your senses are flooded. When you are experiencing anger, you are about as easy to deal with as a child having a temper tantrum. The best option is to leave you alone and let you calm down.

The first step in the process of learning to keep things from getting out of control is to tap into what your body is trying to tell you. Every one of us has a physiological warning that tells us we are on the way to losing control. It could be tenstion in our shoulders or our jaw. It could be an unpleasant feeling in our stomach or our faces feeling flushed. Whatever yours is, you can learn to get familiar with it and pay attention to when it gets triggered. Your goal is to catch yourself a nanosecond before you hit your point of no return.

The second step in learning to control your anger is similar. It is to get in touch with what emotions you feel and when you feel them. You do this by taking your emotional temperature several times a day over many days. It's a simple process of rating your emotional reactivity on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being completely calm and at peace and 10 being someone is going out the second story window and you don't know who. If you rate yourself a 6 or above, make note of what ishappening that is creating your distress. Also identify and practice techniques that help calm you down and get yourself under control.

The final step in the process is often the most difficult. Instead of letting your emotions get the best of you and going off on whoever is in the vicinity, and then paying a high price relationally, you need to do some self-reflection. If you are going to learn how to control anger, you have to be willing to figure out what is causing yours. Anger is often a more palatable mask for hurt, fear, frustration, or some combination of these other emotions. These are frequently the response to one of your expectations not being met. Figuring out which one, where that expectation comes from, and learning to deal with it in a healthier way is important for you and your relationships. Getting to the root of these deeper feelings and finding a productive solution to them is the way to finally let go of your anger.

Article contributed by

Lesli Doares

Relationship Coach

Lesli Doares, MFT

Lesli writes about issues related to marriage and relationships at afearlessmarriage.com.  She is the author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage:  How to Create Your Happily Ever After with More Intention, Less Work, a manual for couples on how to have a long and successful marriage.  Lesli also speaks passionately on many relationship-related topics.

Location: Cary, NC
Credentials: LMFT
Other Articles/News by Lesli Doares:

Why I Didn't Realize My Relationship Was Emotionally Abusive

By

Never is there physical abuse without emotional abuse, but unfortunately the reverse isn't always true. During my first job as a therapist with a domestic violence organization, more than one of my clients said that they actually prefer the physical violence to the emotional violence, because at least physical bruises heal. Of course, it is more difficult ... Read more

What Can The Future Mrs. Clooney Teach Us About Marriage?

By

There are two stories in the news these days that say a lot about relationships and women's role in them. The first is the big news that perennial bachelor George Clooney is engaged. Now, engaged is not married, so he is still a bachelor and anything can happen. But it has raised the question, why her? Why now? What does she have that all his other former ... Read more

What You Need To Know About Open Marriages

By

I have always taken the position that marriage is for grown-ups. It takes a lot of maturity to successfully navigate all the changes involved in building a life with someone who has an equal say in what that life looks like. Having to take someone else's wants, needs and desires into account when you are used to only thinking about yourself is, in my ... Read more

See More

PARTNER POSTS