Is Anger Management Possible?
Anger is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. It is an acceptable emotion, but how we manage it, is what is important.
You Can Manage Your Anger – Nobody Makes You Feel
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters ” –
Epictetus, the Greek philosopher.
Philosophy, he taught, is a way of life and not just a theoretical discipline. To Epictetus, all external events are determined by fate and are thus beyond our control, but we can accept whatever happens calmly and dispassionately. Individuals, however, are responsible for their own actions which they can examine and control through rigorous self-discipline. Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power. 
That’s how the saying goes and whilst this may sound easier said than done, it is indeed possible.
We choose how we react. People do not force us to respond in a certain way. Nobody can make us feel angry, or upset. We choose our response and our reaction to any given situation.
As humans, it is our natural instinct to react with emotion; this is what makes us human. We cannot stop emotions from happening, but we do have control over how long we hold on to that emotion and how we then choose to respond.
If we have always reacted a certain way, to certain situations and that reaction is not helping improve the situation, then we need to learn new ways to react and new behaviours. This can take some time, and it will take considerable effort, but it is possible.
When we react to a situation, our brain will search for examples of when we have been in this situation before so it can identify a response we have used in the past. This is more commonly known as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. Emotional regulation will help proactively remove or reduce the ‘threat’ of a situation.
When we react, the intensity of our emotional response will also determine the nature and intensity of the behavioural response. If our emotional response is more intense, then the behavioural response may also be on the more extreme end of the spectrum, such as distress or anger.
Regulating the emotional response at the earliest opportunity will help stabilise the behavioural response and often help the individual have more control over choosing the best response to the situation.
By consciously choosing how we react and using a different response we can replace the information stored in our brains to a new behaviour that is now of use to us. We have control over what we place in the memory banks for future reference.
Is Your True Emotion Of Use To You?
It is important to not disconnect from our emotions and we must be more aware of them. Being aware of what the emotion is, means that we can identify whether or not it is of use to us and then look to change that emotion to an emotion that we need or would be better for the situation we are in.
This requires you to be honest with yourself about what the real emotion is but perhaps, more importantly, accepting responsibility and taking ownership for your response. We choose and control our emotions, we choose how we react and how long we hold that emotional reaction for.
When we respond to a situation, we cannot stop the emotion from happening. What is important is that we accept the emotion, we recognise what it is, and we consider how to react and respond to it. It is important to recognise what the true emotion is. Is it anger or is it something else?
This is why it is necessary to be truly honest with yourself. Anger, in particular, is often a mask to cover up other emotions, perhaps fear, upset, rejection or maybe even anxiety. Once you can identify what the true emotion is then you need to ask yourself if the emotion is of use to you.
There are two stages of the process;
a) Identify what the emotion is
b) Ask yourself if it is useful to you in the situation you are in?
If the second answer is ‘no’, then you need to switch to an emotion that will be of use to you.
Ways To Switch Your Emotions
Changing from one emotion to another requires conscious effort. It is important to identify something that works for you. It may be that you have one strategy that works or that you need a number of strategies to choose from.
There are several strategies that you could use. If what you are doing isn’t working, then try something different;-
- Take a deep breath. Breathe out for longer than you breathe in and just take a couple of seconds to ground yourself and assess the situation.
- Reason through to find the positive in the situation and to put things into perspective. This tactic can help transfer your mindset from negative to positive.
- Applying rationale to the situation can have a calming impact especially if the initial emotion is anger.
- Change the environment. Step outside of the room if you can to allow yourself some time before you react.
- Distract yourself. Music is great for this! Put on a song with feel-good lyrics or a tune that you associate with happiness or confidence or whichever emotional state you want to be in.
- Talk it through. People will have different ways of expressing their feelings, either as an internal conversation between their own ears or with the empathetic ear of a friend.
- Visualise yourself using different behaviours that would be of use to you in this type of situation.
- Control your environment so that you are not around people or situations that can trigger a negative response.
You may also find the post on ‘How to convert a bad day into a good day‘ helpful.
You own your emotions, how you think, how you feel and how you react. Situations, experiences and people do not dictate how you think, feel or react – you do.