I don’t think of myself as an angry person, but my daughter told me recently that she gets scared when I am angry. It really upset me, but then I realised that I do lash out sometimes, and that when it happens I feel scared myself. What can I do to help me to control my anger? – E, 38, Croydon
There are many things that you can do to help you to manage your anger. The first, and most important, is what you have already done: to start thinking about what is going on for you when get angry.
The next is to take it a step back and think about what anger is. Why do you have it? Like all emotions, anger has information in it. At the most basic level your anger is telling you that something is wrong and you are not happy about it. But — what next? This is the crucial moment in dealing with your anger better. The moment in which you work out what is going on so that instead of mouthing off, lashing out, squashing it down, or acting up, you can stop and reflect, and decide what the next best step is. Being able to say simply, “that made me angry” can be a far quicker, and more effective way of dealing with things than shouting which will escalate the situation.
Breathing techniques can be particularly helpful because they give you a moment in which you concentrate, and centre yourself in your body. With practice this tuning in to yourself will help you to work out why you get so angry and how you can begin to express your anger in a way that will not ramp things up, but help you through it.
It might also be a good idea to explore what is behind your anger, and the way you express it. It could be that you grew up in an environment where it was okay to act out your anger aggressively so you have not learnt how to understand and manage your angry feelings. Or perhaps it was shameful to ‘whine’ or complain in your family so all your angry feelings got pushed down and this means that in later life they come bursting out in a way you feel you cannot control?
Whatever the reason behind your angry outbursts it is possible to bring it to awareness and work on how to change it and manage it better.