By David Joel Miller.
Does your anger get out of control?
People with an anger management problem seem to have only one setting on their anger control.
The anger is either off or it is on. This leaves them with only two settings,
I think I am not angry and I am boiling over with anger. Those boil overs are what gets them in trouble.
Learning to recognize you are getting angry helps avoid boil overs.
A first step in learning to regulate your anger is to install an anger thermometer in your brain. Having this anger thermometer in place helps you monitor how angry you are and what is causing that anger temperature to rise.
Ever notice that in the summer a room that is 68 degrees Fahrenheit ( 20 degrees Celsius) seems refreshingly cool, maybe even downright chilly if you just came in from outside where it was 100 F ( 37.8 C) In the winter that same room may seem hot if you just came in from outside where it was below freezing?
The same sort of thing happens with anger. When you are tired, have not slept well, are hungry or thirsty, you are more likely to become angry. Small irritations can set someone off when they do not feel well. Failing to recognize what you are feeling and to respond appropriately can also result in anger flare-ups. Mad, as in anger, can often just be sad in disguise.
These things will reduce your ability to control anger.
Alcohol use and abuse or drug misuse can also reduce your inhibitions and make small anger problems into serious events. Unresolved problems in one area of your life, financial or relationship issues can pop up as anger over things that might not otherwise set you off.
Rumination, that repetitive thinking about the same thing over and over, can also heat up your emotions to the vapor point. By rumination I am not referring to evaluating past actions or events to learn from them, what we mean by rumination is that habit we humans have to keep chewing on things that bother us until they make us sick. Rumination is an exercise in creating and maintaining unhelpful thoughts. More on rumination and its role in creating emotional problems is coming up in other counselorssoapbox posts.
How will you measure anger?
Begin your exploration of your anger feelings by creating a scale that works for you. Some people use a temperature scale. Other people find it more helpful to use a scale of zero to ten or zero to one hundred. Having created this Anger scale, begin to take periodic readings of how angry you are at any given moment.
It may be helpful to take your anger reading at the same time each day. Pay special attention to times you notice anger beginning. What was happening just before you felt your anger rise? Try taking your anger reading every day when you rise and when you go to bed. Do you wake up in a grouchy mood or does your mood get worse as the day progresses?
A further refinement to this scale would be to list some words for feelings related to anger and then try to arrange them on a scale from least angry to most angry. Is irritated the same as angry? Is strong anger enraged but moderate anger annoyed? Adding these other feeling words allows you to develop a range of feelings you could be having between not angry and violently boiling-over angry.
The goal of this effort is to learn to measure your anger so that later in the anger management process you can install an anger thermostat in your brain that allows you to turn the anger up or down at will. Most people have little difficulty angering themselves up but learning to keep the anger on low or even turn it off at will, that is a valuable skill.
Clues that anger is growing.
All this anger regulation stuff works if you are able to recognize your anger as it ebbs and flows. But if you find that you did not know you were getting angry and then suddenly you are boiling mad how can we help that?
Think about your past experiences with anger. Have you ever noticed someone becoming angry? They may have given off clues by their behavior or their body language before that anger outburst occurred. There may have been changes in their behavior or language. In an upcoming post, I want to make some suggestions about how you might recognize that anger in others and in yourself before you hit the boiling point.
What kind of relationship do you have with your anger? Does it keep danger away or does it harm your relationships? Maybe a little of both? Stay tuned for more posts on Anger and how to tame that be
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page or my Facebook author’s page, David Joel Miller. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.