It’s easy to get angry—everyone does—but it’s not so easy to tame that anger. It’s worth making an effort because you can sometimes do real damage when you let your temper get the better of you. Once angry words are out of your mouth they can’t be put back in. They can’t be unsaid. And someone—perhaps someone really important to you—may remember those hurtful words for a lifetime.
So it’s worth making an effort to control your anger. Here are some suggestions:
- Count to ten. You’ve heard this idea before, but it’s worth repeating. Taking a few minutes off to think before you speak can save you from saying something you’ll later regret. If you’re in the midst of an argument, hold your hand up for a time out. Or walk out of the room. Or just say, “I need to take a moment.” And then gather your thoughts. Resolve not to speak until you’re calm, and can state your concerns in a rational way.
- Breathe deeply. This is very much like counting to ten. You take time out to calm yourself. Deep breathing will help you. Imagine yourself in a tranquil scene. Maybe you’re at the beach, and the waves are softly lapping the shore. Palm trees are swaying in the tropical breeze. You’re listening to beautiful music, doing Tai Chi, writing in your journal. There. Don’t you feel better already?
- Focus on solutions. When something makes you mad, you can play that angry tape in your head over and over and get madder and madder. Instead, resolve to find a way to avoid the problem in the first place. If your son won’t pick up his room despite repeated entreaties (or possibly nagging), make up your mind not to let it get you. Close the door and let the chips fall where they may. Nobody ever died of a messy room.
- Find the humor. Some people are better at this than others. I have a friend who says she married her husband because of his skill at making her laugh in the middle of an argument. When he does, it takes her mind off the thing that made her mad. Laughter is the best balm of all. So lighten up. Make it a point to try and find the humor in the situation. It’s there—you just may have to work to find it.
- Say how you feel. For example, “I feel you don’t respect me when you don’t do as I ask.” Instead of, “You never clean your room. You’re such a slob.” Accusing people puts them on the defensive. Criticism heightens the tension to the point where they can only hear a negative message. And sarcasm ignites the situation and makes it worse. But when you calmly put forth your point of view, there’s a chance the other person will see it your way.
- Learn to forgive. This is a tough one, but it’s worth trying, no matter how wronged you have been. Because forgiveness is your gift to yourself. Without it, your enemy has taken up more of your valuable time than he deserves. And without it, you cannot move forward with peace in your heart. You don’t have to forget—it’s useful to learn from those experiences that anger you. But try to forgive. You’ll be a better, happier person for it.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.