10 Ways to Control Your Anger

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Ben had a terrible anger problem. His rage stemmed from living with an abusive father who criticized and belittled him as a child. As an adult, Ben hates the way his anger seems to unleash itself at his wife. He sought therapy to help identify the hot buttons for his anger and learn strategies for self-control.

Ben: “I feel angry a lot.”

Therapist: “What are you angry about?” 

Ben: “I don’t know. I just feel angry! It seems like it comes out of no where.”

Therapist:’When you feel angry, what are you thinking about?” 

Ben:”Nothing really, I just feel angry!”

Even when you aren’t aware of it, anger is triggered by angry thoughts. Thinking influences feeling. And thoughts often cue up anger. Behind that red-hot feeling is a thought that contributes to your emotional state.

Thoughts like, ” I’ll never…” How dare she!” “Can you believe…” come to our mind when we demand and expect things from people.

“She better not treat me this way!” Well, guess what, she just did!

Thus, continuing to think how wrong the other person is doesn’t make you feel better or fix the problem. Thinking negative thoughts just upsets you more. And often those negative thoughts are based on past experiences that you transfer to the the moment. In Ben’s case, when his wife gives him the slightest negative feedback, it triggers his father’s criticism.

Don’t react, resolve angry feelings

Instead of reacting to issues from the past, Ben needs to resolve them. This requires looking at the ways he was hurt but is now protecting himself with anger–a more powerful emotion than hurt. As an adult, Ben can control his responses to injustice or poor behavior. He can learn to change those angry thoughts. To do so,  he has to listen to his thoughts and become aware of what is prompting that angry feeling. In Ben’s case, it was criticism that triggered that old wound from his childhood.

Lose extreme thinking

Also, when we get angry, our thoughts tend to be extreme. Instead of thinking, “Now the night is ruined” “or “My boss is just a mean person,” change the thought to something more rational. “This was a bad moment but we can make the rest of the night better.” “Or, “My boss has problems but I am not going to let him ruin my day.” In the process of changing your thoughts, avoid words like always and never.

Check your expectations

Next, assess how often you expect people to act certain ways. When they don’t, do you become frustrated? A low frustration tolerance often prompts anger. Patience is needed when dealing with people who don’t measure up to your standard. Rather than jump to conclusions, give grace. Humor can also break a tense moment.

Identify the thoughts prior to feeling angry

To control your anger, the next time you feel angry, identify the thought that precedes the anger. Change the thought to something more rational, less extreme and more grace- filled. If you feel yourself becoming physically aroused, practice a few calming techniques. Slow deep breathing helps. Go for a walk, take a time-out and count to 10 before you speak. It  may take time and practice to get angry thoughts under control, but you can make this change. And certainly, the deeper your spiritual life, the more self-control comes from the Holy Spirit living in you.

Finally, consider these 10 tips:

  1. Refuse to be easily offended. Often, we choose offense and question the motives of others. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  2. Refuse to keep thinking about the injustice. This often leads to unforgivness and bitterness.
  3. Don’t vent your anger as this makes it worse, not better.
  4. Don’t allow your anger to build. Deal with each situation when it happens.
  5. Determine not to raise your voice.
  6. Resist the urge for revenge-leave that to God.
  7. Deal with underlying feelings of insecurity, low self-esteem and past woundings. These contribute to your anger.
  8. Don’t react impulsively–count to 10, breathe!
  9. Have regular physical outlets to release tension and stress.
  10. Agree to disagree with others.

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