Stephanie Misaki Whiting, ENFJ, MS


. . . Part 2 of a series of four articles on Anger Management

Concerned about your anger? Does it feel like a symptom of "worseness" rather than wellness? Is your anger behavior becoming noticeable or disruptive in the workplace? Have your personal relationships begun to suffer?

In this series of four articles, I will focus on practical steps that can help you change how you experience and deal with your anger. Following these steps, you will learn how to pay attention to your anger and how to handle it in a calmer, more effective way. You can learn to use your anger constructively by letting your anger become a wellness lesson.

Review of Step 1: Becoming Aware of Your Anger Behavior

The first article in this series focused on learning how to pay attention to your anger. You were asked to become aware of your anger reactions by writing down the details of situations which evoke your anger: the triggers, problematic relationships, and your typical reaction. From the first article, you learned how to gauge your anger feelings on a 1-10 scale. You learned how to use this scaling to catch yourself at a "3," the point at which you start feeling angry. I encouraged you to practice observing yourself as you reach this point and to mentally say to yourself, "I'm noticing I'm starting to become angry."

With this practice of observing yourself, you will be able to slow down your automatic anger reaction - the behavior you have targeted to change. You will have a chance to understand what is your anger telling you. Here is the next step in understanding your anger. Review the situations that you wrote about and pick one. Ask yourself what is important to me about this situation? What are my beliefs about what is happening? What other emotions do I have about this? With each of those identified emotions, what is my underlying thought? Take some time to write down your answers. Writing will help you sort out what is going on for you.

Step 2: Understanding What Your Anger is Telling You

When you become angry, your emotionality is heightened and your energy is directed outwards. You are much more involved in expressing your feelings than in being able to listen to what others are trying to communicate. At the same time it is very difficult for you to pay attention to your own unmet needs. You miss important information for dealing more effectively with the situation. Observing yourself, slowing down your anger behavior and articulating your thoughts and feelings will help you respond more appropriately.

Case example: Mary and Work Stress
Mary is finding that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for her to go to her job. She is fine when working on projects in her own workspace, but dealing with the front desk staff feels like combat. Her interactions with them do not go well and Mary frequently spends the afternoon stewing about the latest battle. Her productivity and ability to focus suffers, her general demeanor has turned negative and now other coworkers are noticing her irritable anger behavior and attitude. Mary is unhappy with her own inability to deal with the situation.

Following the steps above, Mary writes down the situation simply stated. "I routinely need client information from the reception staff. When I request this information, they seem unwilling or unable to comply in a timely manner. I cannot proceed with my sales projects. I end up feeling angry and frustrated." What is Mary's belief about the situation? "I believe the staff is uncooperative and unsupportive." What other emotions does Mary have about this? She writes, "I am fearful." Her thoughts are that she has lost good work relations, that she is losing productivity and that she cannot do her job well. What else is she feeling? She writes "I am embarrassed, because I have snapped at the staff people. My belief is that I am handling the situation poorly."

What is Mary's anger telling her? As Mary reads her writing, she realizes she has feelings underneath her anger and that these feelings have also been fueling her emotional upset. She also sees the possibility that she may have made an incorrect assumption about the reception staff - that they are uncooperative and unsupportive. She asks herself what may be some other reasons why she is not receiving the data as quickly as she would like. It could be that the staff is overworked or that they are not aware of her urgency or that Mary has not given them the data they need to retrieve client information or a combination of all these possibilities! Mary realizes her situation is a result of insufficient communication with her coworkers. In order to get her needs met, she resolves to meet with them to exchange viewpoints and establish clearer communication.

What can You Do?
Like Mary, you can identify your thoughts, assumptions and feelings about the situation you have chosen. Explore the thoughts and feelings underneath your anger. Challenge your assumptions and beliefs. Taking a different perspective on the situation can lead to insight on how to problem solve appropriately and effectively to get your needs met. Being able to reframe your perspective is also an important step in letting go of draining, negative emotions. When Mary challenged her thinking and saw possibilities for action, she experienced a significant decease in frustration and anger. By using the strategies described above, you may similarly benefit by reducing your emotional upset.

The next article in this series will continue with strategies on getting your needs met - how to talk to others without shutting down communication, expressing anger without losing control and using new language to talk about anger. Remember to continue noticing when you are at a "3," then use your analytic skills to find out what your anger is telling you. Use your anger constructively. Your family and friends may have already begun to notice a change in your anger behavior.

>>Part 3: Getting Your Needs Met

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