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  • Writer's pictureEric Kruse

How to Manage Your Anger

Anger is Poison

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” - Mark Twain

It has been said that “holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Anger is often labeled as a secondary emotion because it follows a primary emotion, such as fear or sadness. It is an active emotion that protects an individual from his/her vulnerabilities. There is an appropriate time for anger, such as if you are a solider in combat. Anger will help you survive; fear and sadness will get you killed. However, if you are living in a safe environment, anger is more harmful than helpful. Yelling at your partner because you feel betrayed or let down is damaging to yourself and your relationship. Even for the soldier in combat, who may need anger to survive, anger will take a toll on his/her mind and body. Eventually said soldier will return home where anger is less appropriate, and he/she will need to develop new coping mechanisms.

Identify your Triggers

Each person gets angry for different reasons, which depends on one’s emotional triggers. Our emotional triggers are rooted in our upbringing and formative experiences throughout our lives. A situation that makes one person feel angry may not make someone else feel angry. Look inside yourself and start to explore where your anger comes from. Focus on what it is about YOU that makes YOU vulnerable to getting angry. As you come up with answers, ask yourself the following question: Inside myself or outside myself? If the answer is outside of yourself, then you may be blaming others for your anger. Focus on what is inside yourself because that is where you can make changes.

Catharsis Increases Anger

It was once believed that venting anger through yelling, punching a bag, or hitting pillow would alleviate anger symptoms. This was called catharsis therapy. Although this does alleviate anger in the present, it increases the likelihood that one will be angry in the future. It reinforces and strengthens one’s anger cycle and should be avoided. Unfortunately, we know that telling someone to avoid something does not work. If I tell you NOT to think of a tree, you will probably think of a tree. Therefore, rather than resisting the urge to act on your anger, you should focus on something else, such as trying to be calm. Your mind can only handle so many tasks at once. It’s hard to focus on being angry and being calm at the same time. Focus on being calm.

Techniques to Focus on Being Calm

The following are techniques you can use to clam down: (1) Breath Slowly – Try breathing slowly into your nose and out your mouth. Breath deeply from your belly rather than your chest. If you have access to the internet, play a relaxing meditation rhythm to slow your breathing with. (2) Relax your body – Try focusing on each part of your body and practicing tensing and releasing the muscles in that part of the body. (3) Mindful Relaxation and Physical Senses Exercise – Identify 5 relaxing activities, pick your two favorites, write them down, and then focus on the five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing) that you experience during those activities. Engage in one of those activities if you can. Focus on your senses while you do it. (4) Do something to distract yourself – listen to some upbeat music and dance; do something with your hands like fixing something or making something; do something creative like coloring or drawing; write in a journal, take a cold shower.

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