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Anger Management

When discussing anger and anger management, one of the most important questions is- is there a difference between anger and aggression? The answer is yes! There is a difference between anger and aggression. Anger is the emotion and aggression is the behavior, which is how we respond to what we’re feeling. If you answered no, most likely you have difficulty controlling your anger. That’s because, to you, anger and aggression are one in the same. They go together and can’t be separated. If this were actually true, none of us would be able to control our anger.

Knowing, believing and experiencing the difference between our emotions and our behavior is a vital part of anger management. That’s because we have no control of the initial thoughts and emotion that surge through our mind and body. The only part we have control over is what we do from there. How do we react to those initial thoughts and emotions? A little bit of time, seconds even, can change the way we feel about something. As we begin to calm down we’re able to process those thoughts and emotions in a more rational, logical way. We’ve all experienced this process. You just may not have been aware of it. Some examples would be when we get the urge to storm out of the room during an argument, quit when our boss is criticizing us or threaten divorce when we get into an argument with our spouse. However, after giving ourselves time to calm down we realize we may have been overreacting and that’s not such a great idea.

That initial adrenaline rush of anger shoots through our body, triggering those initial thoughts, which are usually extreme, dramatic and quite irrational in nature. Now think about if we were to react behaviorally to this, which many of us do. These behavioral reactions can be verbal or just physical. If we react off of this initial process, we would most likely be living a pretty unstable, volatile and chaotic lifestyle. This is why we must separate what we’re feeling inside and what we display on the outside. The goal of anger management is not to ever feel anger again. This isn’t even possible. Anger is a normal, common, human emotion that is often warranted. Feeling the anger is not the problem. Acting out in anger is.

In managing anger the first step is to allow ourselves to feel angry without reacting to it. This is definitely not easy but it is definitely possible! You’ve probably done it more than you think. For instance, have you ever felt like you wanted to cry but held back your tears? Have you ever felt like you wanted to hit someone but stopped yourself? Have you ever felt like you wanted to scream but held it in? Have you ever felt like you wanted to run away but stayed? This is proof that we are able to separate our emotions from our behavior and allow ourselves to feel the emotions without reacting behaviorally. When this happens say to yourself slowly in your mind, “SLOW.”

SLOW is an acronym for Stop, Leave, Open up and What’s next?

Step 1- STOP!

Give yourself a moment to calm down and think. This is usually the hardest part but it’s also the most important. The goal of this part is to keep ourselves from saying and doing anything we could later regret.

Step 2- Leave

Leave the situation. You’re probably not going to be able to calm down if you’re still in the same situation that triggered you. Walk outside, go to the restroom or go into another room. Get some physical space from what is triggering you.

Step 3- Open up

Think about what happens in your body and your mind when we’re angry and stressed. The first thing that happens is our muscles contract and become tense, our breathing becomes quick and shallow which leads to a racing heart rate and high blood pressure. This causes our thoughts to also start racing making us unable to think clearly, be more dramatic and catastrophize making situations seem worse than they actually are. This is why we have to OPEN UP! We have to counteract these reactions and open up our body and our mind.

  • Open up your muscles by stretching out your arms, chest and back.

  • Open up your lungs by breathing deeply and slowly.

  • Open up your mind by repeating the words “open up” This will help you distract your mind, bring you present and refocus on something other than the stressor.

Remind yourself that no emotion lasts forever and this, too, shall pass. If whatever you want to do in the moment is a good idea now it will still be a good idea when you calm down.

We have to accept the fact that our mind is playing tricks on us and it can’t be trusted right now. We all know when we’re angry we want to say and do things we, no doubt, will later regret so we need to put off problem solving until we can think more clearly.

Now pick a coping skill that will help you calm down. But please realize that meditation and gentle breathing techniques isn’t going to do the trick when you’re at a higher level of anger. Make sure your coping skill can handle the intensity of the emotions. For example, at higher levels you may need to punch your bed, scream into a pillow, do jumping jacks or sit up or go for a walk. The idea is to do something that can help you release that energy.

Step 4- What’s next

Now it’s time to problem solve and decide how to handle the situation. At least now you’ll be much more rational and capable of making better decisions.

This process will take a great deal of conscious effort and practice in the beginning.

However, just like everything else, the more we do it the easier it becomes. So remember, next time you feel that adrenaline rush of anger and the impulse to react take it SLOW.

For more self-help talks, guided exercises and meditations check out these resources:

Dr. Traci Moreno on Insight Timer-

Free Spirit's YouTube Channel-

Spiritual Psychology Support Group Hosted by Dr Traci and Pasquale-

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