Dealing with Anger

Like many others, I also have a lot of things going on that I sometimes, struggle controlling my temper when things don’t go my way. It’s a journey – still not there yet. Sometimes, I am able to keep things in check, sometimes not. I would like to share some materials that may help you in your own journey.

Just to be clear, losing your temper from time to time is not a major issue. But if you consistently get angry then, you may need to reflect if there is something deeper that needs to be addressed. To understand what I mean by anger, read also my post – Are you angry all the time?

Firstly – we need to understand how NOT to deal with anger

  • Go into an emotional outburst every single time
  • Repress the anger and let it remain unresolved leading to depression, and trigger an uncontrollable outburst at some point (especially at the wrong people)

Controlling Emotional Outburst

I may be saying the obvious. But everyone needs reminders from time to time even of some of the very basic things.

Step 1 – Be Aware of the Trigger

If you are able to recognise the trigger, then you can do the next steps, which is to calm down. Signs include

  • Increased heart rate
  • Tension throughout the body
  • Restlessness
  • Blushing and/or sweating

Step 2 – Calm Down

‘When you are angry, be silent’ – Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

If it’s too much to handle at the moment, walk away. Or breathe deeply and count to 10. For some of you, if relevant, say a little prayer to help you calm down. In Islam, the Prophet (PBUH) also says that other than keeping silent, to help you calm down, change the position of your body – if you are standing, sit down. If you are sitting, lie down. What you need is a ‘quick time out’ before you make a decision of how to react.

Another thing that can help you come down, is to quickly reflect on the likely outcome of your anger. Sometimes your anger is triggered by something that you cannot control, like a massive traffic jam and you’re already late for work. Instead of getting angry, reflect if getting angry is going to get you to your office earlier. The answer is likely not – so just take it easy and drive safely. If your reaction will not bring any positive outcome, what is the point of stressing yourself out? I actually practise this a lot because I admit, the traffic during rush hour sometimes get to me especially since Malaysian drivers can be quite aggressive.

Step 3 – Think Before You Speak

‘You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger’ – Buddha

If it’s something you can control/feedback on – once you have calmed down, and the place and time are right, express your frustration in a non-aggressive manner. Explain how whatever incident made you feel. Be specific and be careful not to use hurtful words. Sometimes when you’re angry, your emotions make you see things far worst than they really are. Be careful to not use words like “never” or “always”.

Forgiving is the next step – everyone makes mistakes. And you are not a saint either! So once you have expressed your frustration/disappointment in a constructive way, forgive and move on.

Just to add – I think the problem why we find it hard to forgive and forget is that we don’t address the issue after the incident. When the feedback process does not happen immediately – sometimes when we finally have that conversation the words don’t come up right as the particular incident gets padded up with other incidents. This can lead to different outcome/conversations.

Managing Your Anger – For The Long Run

If your anger comes out from something deeper inside, you need to examine the root causes and address them. Otherwise, you may find yourself not being able to control your ’emotional outburst’ in the long run. Two of the most common causes of anger is stress and pent up negative feelings.

Stress – Re-Prioritise and Let Go

Stress management is a whole topic on its own. There are many reasons for stress – it could be work, financial, relationships, and so on. When so many things are happening, you can lose control without you realising it. There are many materials around stress management that you can read on. I have also had to deal with this personally over the last few years. A couple of key things you can do when you are overwhelmed with things that helped me:-

  • Re-examine each element that is causing you stress/worry, and assess what you can and cannot control.
  • On things that you can control, re-prioritise your actions – what are nice-to-do vs the must-do. Basically, stop trying to do it all. Take things one step at a time.
  • Look for avenues to make life simpler, or look for quick wins, so that you re-focus your time on the more critical issues
    Example – for Mums, if you find you’re always busy running around, cooking and cleaning – plan take out meals alternate days. Probably not the healthiest solution but we can’t have it all. Do what it takes to stay sane so that you can re-focus your energy on the key things that need your attention.
  • Get help from family and friends. Seek professional advice or join a support group
  • Find an outlet to release the stress – Life is stressful. Sometimes it’s just that. You cannot run away from it. So, create an outlet – get a hobby – painting, writing. Or just simply get away every once in a while for some ‘me’ time.
  • For those who believe in religion – I believe every religion preaches the same – ‘everything happens for a reason’. For everything that happens to you, that holiday that you missed, that promotion that you didn’t get – there are reasons for that. Maybe the holiday would have busted your savings (in my case – the volcano erupted and people were stranded not being able to fly in/out – so good that I missed that particular holiday – true story). Maybe that promotion will cause you too much stress because the line manager is unreasonable and demanding. So don’t be stressed about things that are beyond your control. Believe that everything happens for a reason, and things will work itself out. Just do your best in what YOU are able to control.

Whatever it is, everyone’ situation is unique. If it does get overwhelming for you, do reach out for help.

Pent-Up Feelings/Anger

Avoiding confrontations, and keeping things bottled up, especially in a relationship is dangerous. Over time – it creates mistrust and resentment. You may also end up snapping at every little thing or make sarcastic or hurtful comments every now and then, or even just give the silent treatment to the person you are upset with, (or other unrelated parties). If not managed, anything can trigger a major outburst from you.

Having difficult conversations is not easy. But to work things out and for your peace of mind, you need to get the issues out in the open in a non-aggressive manner; and have an honest conversation of how to move forward. Look also at the positive sides of the person and situation. Sometimes you have so much pent-up that you see only the negative. For couples, seek counselling if needed – sometimes it helps to have an outsider mediate the conversation to ensure a balanced conversation.

Final Words

Everyone gets angry, most important is to be able to channel it appropriately. You may think this is a trivial topic, but it is not especially to those at the receiving end. Life is short – isn’t it better to focus on making happy memories?

Disclaimer: I am not a professional. This is a personal sharing of my own journey. If you have chronic anger issues, please reach out for professional help. If your family member or friends are having anger issues and it is impacting you and may or causing mental/physical harm, please get support from professionals.

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