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Controlling Anger

By Stephen Britchkow, Licensed Psychologist

Bucks and Eastern Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania

Many people do not realize when they are feeling angry. It creeps up and they explode. Because we are intolerant of anger, it is often expressed in unhealthy ways: violence, cold shoulder, blaming, trying to make others feel inferior, affairs etc... The first step to control anger is to recognize it at a low level, paying attention to body signals: tension in the chest, legs, forehead, face, neck, stomach, sweating, increased heart rate. At this early stage, take (a one hour) Time-Out- walk away before getting close to losing control.

There are three choices to manage the anger:

  1. Denial, blaming, self-doubt, low self-esteem thoughts. This can lead to feeling withdrawn, depressed and later exploding.
  2. Do what makes you angrier- insult, obsessing- both can lead to violence.
  3. Communicate clearly and concisely how you feel and what you would like changed in a way that allows you and others to feel positively connected. The formula is two sentences: I feel angry that (e.g. you came home late tonight; I would like (e.g. you to call me if you are going to be late).

The Time-Out is an example of directing your anger to avoid suppressing feelings, escalation, and ultimately, some kind of violence.

Becoming aware of which of the above or combination you have done in the past allows more control over how you will express anger in the future. The act of recognizing and acknowledging to yourself that you are feeling angry will bring your anger level down one notch.

Example of healthy self-talk:

"I'm feeling angry right now and I need to take a Time-Out. I'm in control of what I do. I need to do something physical like take a walk or run to cool down. We could then talk a lot more calmly about this problem. I can then begin to rebuild trust with my partner."

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