by Claire Godden
“I don’t need anger management. I need everyone else to stop pissing me off”
The topic of Anger Management during recovery must not be overlooked. An addict may be using substances to control or mask anger or to numb feelings in general. But numbing and, therefore, avoiding the feeling means you will never break the cycle of anger, reactive outburst, negative consequence and subsequent fallout. Anger unchecked will destroy your relationships and your health. Handled constructively however, you can build your sense of self-worth and greatly improve relationships with others. Anger is a normal, healthy, human emotion and you absolutely can learn to manage it. The reality is that your reaction to events around you is yours and your alone.
Results of Anger
Why should you control your anger anyway? Shouldn’t you be free to express yourself?
Outbursts of anger will lead to others fearing and avoiding you. You could permanently lose important relationships or even your job. All of this in turn can lead to guilt and anxiety, both of which can lead to, or worsen, depression. Physical symptoms such as heart palpitations, headaches, and fatigue can also occur. Anger weakens your immune system. Even worse, you are putting yourself at higher risk for a stroke and heart disease.
“He who angers you conquers you” – Elizabeth Kenny
So, where to start? First, learn what triggers your anger
Anger exists because of frustration, pain, or fear. You may also be turning anger at yourself outward and blaming everyone else for things that don’t go your way. You’re frustrated because you procrastinated about job-seeking or writing an essay for college. Someone is not listening to you or doing things the way you would like them to. Your computer won’t work properly and you can’t figure out why. You feel that someone has disrespected you. You are afraid someone is deserting you or cheating on you. You’re sick and tired of your co-worker’s attitude. Your parents are asking you to do things you don’t want to do. The list can go on and on. It may take you time to practice not reacting the way you always have to situations you don’t like, but it can be done.
Emotional Intelligence (EI) is about being aware of your own emotions and learning to regulate those emotions and your behavior. It is also about practicing helping others regulate their behavior and being able to read and interpret others’ emotions. EI also looks at awareness of how different social interactions affect you and how you affect the mood of any social interaction whether individual or group. You can build your emotional intelligence by paying close attention to people’s verbal responses, body language and mood when you are around them. Learn to really listen to the other person and don’t interrupt. Listen without judgement. Put yourself in their shoes and be empathetic by tuning into the other person’s feelings, thoughts and attitudes. Practice being humble. You don’t need to seek accolades for a job well done or brag about it to others. Practice being quietly confident in whatever you have achieved. The results will speak for themselves in time. Increasing your emotional intelligence will help you achieve a calmer, less frustrated existence.
Alternatives to anger and things you can do to be more calm in general
It is possible to deal with anger in a constructive way. You do not need to deny that people or situations make you angry. Acknowledging that they do so but quickly stopping that urge to react immediately is key to anger management.
*Replay an incident in your mind where your anger was out of control. Think about the effects of your emotions on the other person or people and think about how you could have handled it differently. If you re-write the script with constructive action or a calmer reaction on your part, how does it change the other person’s responses? How does it change the aftermath? Do this regularly later on in the day after an angry outburst and you will train yourself to react less aggressively and more logically.
*Take up a hobby that induces calm and that you can practice regularly. Art, writing, yoga, music, gardening, cooking, reading, You may find that you can go to this calm place in your mind when you feel angry outbursts coming on.
*Exercise. If you don’t currently exercise, start with something you can easily incorporate into your daily routine. Maybe just walking the dog at a good pace or jogging around the block. Exercise relieves stress and anything is better than nothing. If you make your goal unattainable, you will likely cause more frustration when you find that you cannot keep it up. Twenty minutes walking the dog is 20 minutes that you weren’t sitting watching TV or fuming over something that happened that day.
*Sleep. We all know that getting enough sleep is good for us. Make sure your room is dark with no distracting lights and no TV on all night. Trying reading before you sleep but not on electronic devices as the light promotes wakefulness making the brain think it’s daytime. Try to keep a regular bedtime, too.
*Avoid certain people if necessary. Avoidance doesn’t work for the long-term, of course, but you may find it helpful to avoid certain people while you are practicing managing your anger.
*Don’t expect things to change overnight. Just as it took you time to learn to react this way, it can take time to unlearn and re-learn.
*Thinking more positively in general. Try to be more aware of your thoughts in general. Do you find your self-talk to be on the negative side? Do you think the worst of people. Is everyone out to get you? Turning around those thoughts that don’t necessarily lead to angry outbursts can instill a steady sense of well-being and can help reduce your feelings of hostility to others in general.
As you reduce and eventually stop having angry outbursts, you will find that you earn more respect from others, develop a stronger sense of self-worth, and feel better physically. You will project calm, control, and confidence to those you interact with.
“You cannot shake hands with a clenched fist” – Indira Gandhi