. . . Part 1 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.
Step 1: Becoming Aware of Your Anger Behavior
You or others have begun to notice that your anger is problematic. You are feeling that it is time to do something about it. Congratulations, you have entered the first stage of behavior change - awareness. Because our emotional and behavioral reactions to situations are often deeply ingrained, it is as though we operate on automatic. Many people say that when they are angry, it is too late, they've lost control. Before they know it, the harmful words are said or shouted and physical behavior, such as the slamming of a door, has occurred.
Increasing self-awareness by becoming aware of your present behavior increases the possibility for choice and change. To change automatic behavior, you need to take stock of your actions first. Take a few minutes to jot some notes or make a list of what your anger has cost you in as many facets of your life as you can think of --in relationships, in the workplace, in regard to your physical health and emotional well-being, even as far as your own self-regard. Has your anger resulted in any legal or financial issues? What is the total impact of the consequences of your anger? This type of assessment will give form and body to your motivation to change, an important key in learning how to handle your anger well.
Now that you have started to review the role of anger in your life, can you identify trigger situations? Is your anger worse in certain relationships? Does your anger behavior occur only in certain arenas of your life, such as in the family setting, or in recreational situations or in the workplace? Does it occur during certain times of day? What is happening during these times and what is your typical reaction? Take some time to write down the answers to these questions. Writing will help you to clarify thoughts and ideas that may have been fleeting or unclear in your mind. You will use these answers in Step 2, the next article in this series.
Next, learn to use a 1 - 10 scale to gauge the intensity of your anger. With 1 being "not angry, just concerned" and 10 being about as angry as you can get, how would you rate some of the situations that you have just identified? Go through your list of situations and write down where you would be on the anger scale. People with anger problems say that many times they are in the 8 -10 range. At this point, emotionality is extremely heightened and any chance to handle the situation in a different way is minimal.
In order to give yourself a chance to think and choose another course of action, you will need to pay attention to where you are on the 1 - 10 scale. Practice observing yourself when you start to get angry, for instance, when you are at a 3. When problematic situations occur, take note and think to yourself, "I'm noticing that I am starting to get irritated, I'm at a 3." When you stop to notice, you are giving yourself a chance to understand what your anger is telling you, before automatically reacting in your usual manner. The practice of observing yourself as you start to become angry is important. Modifying your typical anger reactions will depend on developing this skill. Practice!
The ultimate goal in anger management is not to
extinguish the emotion of anger. Anger is a normal part of life. Like
other emotions, it is a signal. Learn to use this signal as information
so that you can respond thoughtfully and appropriately, rather than doing
or saying anything hurtful.
The next article in this series will explain how to understand what your anger is telling you. Prepare for this next stage by using the tips from this article.