How do I know when I’m Getting Angry?
Anger catches many of us by surprise. Our bodies give us many hints that we are beginning to become or are angry. By keeping in touch with our feelings and listening to our words, we can stay on top of the situation and prevent ourselves from going “out of control” and into survival.
Each of us has certain physiological and emotional characteristics associated with our anger. It is important to recognize them when they happen so we can stay in control and use our anger’s energy constructively. Below is a list of some of the possible feelings you might experience when getting angry. Which ones apply to you?
____ Muscle tension (jaws, shoulders, neck, etc.)
____ Grinding of teeth (during day or night)
____ Chills and shudders
____ Sweaty palms
____ Clenched fists
____ Paling or flushing
____ Changes in arm and body positions (squirming)
____ Prickly sensations
____ Numbness (emotional and physical)
____ Loss of self-control (yelling, cursing, hitting)
____ Fear of doing something regrettable
____ Changes in thought process (panic, can’t think, tunnel thinking)
____ Rapid heart rate
Twelve Reminders about Our Anger:
1. The events of our world don’t make us angry. It’s the meaning we attach to the event that determines our emotional response (our personal reality). Ultimately we can choose what meaning we want to attach to an event.
2. It is not possible to feel anger and joy at the same time so try substituting a happy or pleasant memory when angry thoughts are trying to take hold.
3. Angry thoughts frequently contain distortions. Correcting these distortions will help reduce our anger. The longer we hold onto the distortions the bigger they seem to grow.
4. Ultimately one’s anger is caused by his or her belief that someone is acting unfairly or some event is unjust.
5. Try seeing the world from the other’s perspective. You will be surprised to find their actions are not unfair from their point of view. The unfairness turns out to be an illusion that exists only in your thoughts. Try letting go of the unrealistic belief that everyone shares your concepts of truth, justice, and fairness. They are products of your beliefs and past experiences, not everyone else’s.
6. Others usually do not feel they deserve our punishment. Retaliation is unlikely to help you achieve any positive goals in your interactions with others. Our anger will often just cause further deterioration and polarization in the interaction. Even if we temporarily get what we want, any short-term gains from hostile manipulation will often be offset by a long-term resentment and retaliation from the people with whom we are angry.
7. Anger as a result of our frustration is usually caused from unmet and unrealistic expectations on our part. If we are harboring unrealistic expectations (about our abilities or others) the easiest solutions it to change our expectations.
8. Much of our anger is a result ofa personal defense system to save self-esteem. When events don’t go the way we think they should or we think someone is criticizing us, often we apply anger to save that self-esteem.
9. Frequently we “justify” our angry thoughts and behavior on events and others. Once we justify our behavior we place the blame for it on others. When we do this we are only kidding ourselves.
10. Anger can be used as a tool to control others. Some children while growing up are successful in using angry behavior to control others, even their parents. Many continue using it into adulthood. Ask yourself if you know anyone like that in your circle of acquaintances. Don’t forget to look in the mirror.
11. With some people the use of anger has become a tool to gain control of others and to shape their behavior to conform to one’s wishes. If this type of person is successful using their anger to control others they will keeping using it. Frequently right into adulthood.
12. Remember that anger in itself is not bad, it’s what we do with it that can be. It is up to us to choose if we want to go up the left-hand (non-control) side or right-hand (growth) side of the Anger Tree. Ultimately we are responsible for our actions and not the ones we place the blame for it on.