Got Anger? Don't Manage It.
More and more clients, friends, colleagues are reaching out for help with 'anger management'.
This makes sense given the fast- paced, pressure-driven, anxiety-producing modes of modern society. And managing or controlling our anger also seems like a perfectly understandable desire given we all have seen the destruction of what I call the three Rs: Reactivity, Rage outburst, then Regret. How many times have you or someone you know been in this scene: our child says or does something upsetting to us, we react and yell or say something nasty, then regret it later.
Speed and rigidity lead to anger
We try to cope with our hectic day-to-day lives by speeding up: we rush to work, multitask, and put too much on our schedules. We also get very invested in things going MY way: 'there better not be traffic to work this morning', 'my boss better give me the raise I asked for'. These coping strategies are, ironically, a good formula for creating anger. When we live by this sped-up pace, we are more tired and worn out, we get lost in the to-do lists, and things can get in our way when we are operating on high velocity. Similarly, if we are not flexible and open to what comes our way in life, we are prone to being more upset, uptight, and less flexible in our responses to the million ways things actually do not go the way we want them to daily.
But what if management of our anger is not what will ultimately help us?
Similar to the now popular adage that we don't merely want to survive but we want to thrive, what if we can become even more evolved than managing or controlling our anger? What if instead we can learn to do something different, more proactive and productive with that emotion? What would that look like? Here are some skills to practice.
Slow down. In this way you can get perspective on things and respond to what is going one versus react. This is hard to do in our fast-paced culture, but do whatever it takes:
- Breathe deeply three times
- Take 10 seconds of meditation
- Put yourself on a time out
- Say 'hi' to frustration and feelings of anger. Tell them they don't have to be the boss of you!
- Laugh, forced if necessary, it helps a lot
Be Flexible. Remember that things often do not go your way or as planned, and that's fine.
- Go with the flow--enjoy being stuck in traffic. Refocus your attention to the sites and sounds around you.
- Smile. The simple act of smiling can change your mood.
- Live life improvisationally -Invite your child to create a new scene with you next time you want to yell angrily
- Be more curious -ask questions versus making accusations when you are mad
- Be silly and playful
I gave up my road rage by deciding to smile and wave vigorously at all the nasty drivers around me. This is much more fun than the alternative, for me and the other drivers.
In practicing these skills for being slow and flexible when angry, we can replace mere "anger management" with 'anger flexibility', 'anger creativity', or 'anger slow down'.