Note: this post was written by Aaron, my son. While not totally a man’s issue, the majority of anger management cases I see are for men, so I thought that hearing about it from a male perspective might be of benefit. Click here for my personal approach to anger management.
They say that recognizing you have a problem is the first step towards fixing it. This is especially true in any kind of personality issue – no one seeks help for something they don’t think is a problem. Anger issues are very prevalent in our society – you read about stories of “road rage” or of people beating up others for perceived slights, whether intended or not.
This can stem from a person’s outlook on life; “no one’s gonna make a fool of me,” or “over my dead body,” or “the best defense is good offence.” And while it is true that you should stand up for yourself and make sure you are given a fair deal it’s the way you go about it that makes all the difference.
The first thing to understand is that you get angry because you are angry. This is not to say you’ll never feel angry, or that is doesn’t have it’s place, just that is it’s a common theme in your life, you have it in you. Calm people don’t get upset when a situation happens that doesn’t agree with them – they take it in stride. Life won’t always be a smooth ride; you can expect unfortunate events to happen. Your kids will crash the car at some point. That cop will give you a ticket, even if you think you did nothing wrong, and you will get cut off on the road. Those are just the ones that will occur – never mind the ones that can’t be predicted. If you have anger in you, you will always be looking for a way to express it…and that is the filter through which you will see the world. Subconsciously, you’ll always be looking for a perceived injustice or slight so you can give that person a piece of your mind.
You must realize that there are different ways to deal with a situation – that getting angry about something is only one way to deal with it, and that there are many others. This is a self-realization moment.
For me, while I wasn’t particularly angry, I was confrontational; I enjoyed a good fight, either physical or verbal. One time, in early March 2004 (I remember this moment clearly, right down to the kind of snowflakes falling), I was walking home from work as an ESL teacher in Korea and thinking about a situation at work. There was a new teacher there and the students didn’t like her – they were dropping out. As I was one of the more popular teachers I was given those classes – meaning although we were paid the same I was working 25% more hours. I was not happy, and scheduled a meeting with the boss. So on my way home I was picturing in my mind how it would play out, and for most of the walk it was a scenario of a blowout – yelling, threats and the like. At some point I realized this and asked myself “Why am I imagining this? It could proceed in a number of ways.” And I thought of a few different ways it could proceed – and how they would start. The meeting the next day went very smoothly (they knew it was unfair) and the issues were resolved.
It won’t be possible to imagine all the situations that could cause you to get angry, but imagining some common ones and a calmer way to deal with them will help. Also, when something out of the blue happens, just take a second, maybe take a deep a breath, and ask yourself “What is the best way to deal with this?” Because in almost every situation getting upset makes it worse – getting angry especially. If you want the best result for yourself it is always recommended to take a measured approach.
The final part of this is empathy, because most of the time when you get angry there will be another person involved, and they will have a different perspective. Maybe they didn’t see you and didn’t even realize they were cutting you off. Or they feel very badly about what happened and would just like to apologize – if given the chance. When you lose your mind about something you close off the opportunity for the other party to respond positively. They’ll fight fire with fire, as the saying goes. So there is an underlying selfishness to being angry – you are only thinking about your feelings, the rest of the world be damned. This is not good for any kind of relationship, personal or professional, because to truly be happy and get the most out of life you have to consider others feelings…especially in times of crisis.
If you are reading this page there’s a great chance you can be helped – you probably recognize that you have issues with anger. The next step is to consciously slow it down the next time something happens that makes you angry. Take a moment, and ask yourself the best way to proceed when considering everyone’s feelings. Or failing that, the best way to proceed to get what you want out of the situation. Now, that is easy to write on a page, and much harder to do in real life because you are trying to break a very established habit (or trying to not use a very established neuro-pathway, depending on how you want to phrase it). And if you don’t catch it until after the fact the first couple times, that is ok. Just keep it in mind, and sooner or later you will get to the crystallization moment – the point where you do stop before exploding. And things will change for the better. You’ll receive so much positive feedback (especially if it’s with your family or co-workers) that your life will change for the better in that moment.
If you’d like professional help with anger management please contact us for an appointment.