SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim and Coach Kristena Eden help you understand why anger is a choice and how to stop it.
I am a good person, but I do lose my temper and get excessively angry at times and often take it out on my kids and spouse. I don’t understand why this happens and I don’t know how to stop doing it. It is not the person I want to be. Do you have advice on this?
When you get angry and lose your temper, it’s usually because one or both of your core fears has been triggered. Your two core fears are:
1. The fear of failure (the fear you won’t be good enough) and
2. The fear of loss (the fear your life won’t be good enough).
The fear of failure is about feeling insulted, unloved, unvalued, unappreciated or unwanted. The fear of loss is a fear that you won’t have what you need, want or deserve, so you feel mistreated, cheated, robbed, short-changed or taken from at some level.
Take a minute and think about the last time you were angry. Did you feel dishonored or mistreated in some way? Was it a fear of loss issue, or a fear of not being loved, honored or appreciated issue? Do you find yourself feeling this same way often? Do you have an easy button to push in this area?
Your children trigger your two core fears better than anyone. When they do things wrong or make messes, you will either experience fear of failure (looking bad) or fear of loss (losing them or reputation or money). That is the reason you get angry with them so often.
Most people have one core fear that is more dominant though, and is their easiest to trigger. If failure is your trigger, you might feel insulted and get defensive too easy. If loss is your trigger you might be overly protective of yourself and feel mistreated all the time. See if you can see a pattern with your anger. Are you always feeling taken from or do you get angry when you feel insulted? If you can figure out your core trigger and recognize it, you will have more power to stop it.
The problem with anger is it’s a very powerful emotion, even more powerful than love. Because of this, it can completely take over, confuse your judgment and cause some really bad, selfish behavior.
Here are some tips for getting control when anger strikes:
1. Calm down your body first
When you are angry, you experience the fight or flight response and your frontal lobe (the part of your brain that makes good decisions) shuts down. You will need to stop this physiological reaction and get your frontal lobe back on board, if you want to think your way through this maturely. You can get control by relaxing your body first. Step back, go in another room, ask for a timeout and then do some diaphragmatic breathing or relaxing muscle exercises. This is something everyone should learn to do to combat stress too. There is a worksheet on Clarity Point website with different ways you can do this. Once your physical body is calm and you are thinking straight, go on to these other steps.
2. Recognize you have a choice
It is easy to believe that external events are what made you angry. It is even easier to blame other people, especially when they annoy you or they get on your nerves. The truth is you create your emotions. Your past experiences, perspectives and subconscious beliefs cause you to attach meaning or significance to events. This often involves inaccurate meaning that drives your angry reactions. But this first reaction is never your only choice. You could stop and think through some other options. Write them down and write what the outcome of choosing each option would be. You will quickly see that anger never produces the outcome you want. There are always better ways to discuss problems, find solutions and change things.
3. Find the real problem
Anger is an indicator there is a problem. The question is, “Is it your problem or is it someone else’s problem?” Is it a problem that can be changed or influenced by you or is it beyond your control? Do you need to get help with it? Is this really even about you? Or is another person having fear issues about themselves and just projecting that towards you. If this problem doesn’t belong to you, set it down and walk away. If it does belong to you, figure out a mature, balanced, calm way to address the issue. You may want to run it past someone less emotionally involved to get some advice.
4. Use empathy to change how you feel
Empathy is the ultimate game changer. Ask yourself, why would this other (intrinsically good) person do what he or she is doing? What are they scared of or why might they feel threatened or insulted? When you start to understand the issue from their position, you may gain some wisdom on how to solve it. You may need to give the other person some validation or reassurance to calm their fears. Even being willing to let them vent and get it out may calm things down. Focus on giving love, understanding and attention to the other person, because when you are focused on love you can’t be as angry.
5. See this experience as a lesson
What can you learn from this incident? How can you use this situation to help you become a better, stronger more loving person? How were you part of the problem? What could you do differently next time? If you focus on these questions you will process your anger better and quickly get past it.
6. Get some exercise or do an activity that releases angry energy
Take a walk, go for a jog, run up and down your stairs or hit a pillow. Just getting the anxious energy out will help.
7. Remember no person or situation can make you upset or angry
It is your thoughts about the situation that create your angry feelings, and you alone are the one responsible for those thoughts, so only you can make you angry. Situations themselves also don’t mean anything until you apply meaning to them. This means there are always other perspective options that might make you feel better. When you are responsible for your anger, you also have the power to change it. Stay responsible for everything you feel.
One Step at a Time.