A frequent joke from parents is how their children did not ‘come with an instruction manual’. We hear it from new parents who are figuring out their baby’s eating and sleeping habits, then again when the terrible twos set in and again later when the throes of adolescence challenge even those with the best parenting skills. However, the real irony sets in when we each become adults, moving through life and realize that what we really need is an instruction manual for our own emotions!
Managing any of our emotions can be difficult but for this discussion we focus on anger. Anger is a natural and healthy emotion if we use it to understand ourselves better. When we are angry it is, first and foremost, an indicator that we need to pay attention to ourselves internally. This is especially true when the anger we experience is out of proportion to the thing we think triggered it. Sometimes the culmination of general stress or anxiety over time can cause an anger explosion that even you did not expect from yourself. Expressing extreme anger and doing so frequently can have damaging impacts on your own health and on your most important relationships. Remember, if you have ongoing difficulty managing your anger and if you think your health or your relationships are suffering, consider speaking with a mental health professional.
The Mayo Clinic offers a few ideas for keeping your anger in check and to help you learn to reduce it or express it appropriately. In the absence of an actual owner manual, these tips may sound like good parenting advice we can use on our own adult selves:
Think before you speak: Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything. Think about why you are feeling angry. Let others in the situation to do the same.
Use your words: After you collect your thoughts, express clearly what you are angry about, without verbally attacking others.
Put yourself in timeout: Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Even just a few minutes of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.
Go out and play: Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.
Problem solve: Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Think of ways to change the situation so that it does not reoccur.
Forgive and forget: If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiveness and compassion are very powerful tools. If you can forgive someone and feel compassion for their position you might both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
Bill Mory is a Texoma-based licensed therapist in private practice. He integrates mindfulness training in working counseling clients and is a strong community-building advocate and a provider of workplace training on a variety of topics. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.