Read part four of the anger management series written by Regesh Executive Director, Edwin Schild, B.S., M.Sc, NAMA anger management specialist, diplomate
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This is the fourth and final part on my series on personal control and anger management. I believe there are several major beliefs one must understand when it comes to anger along with other emotions. First, one must understand that when something happens causing us to have strong emotions, this is referred to as a trigger. Below you will find the “Secrets of anger” and how we can use them to gain control. These secrets can be life-altering once understood.
Secrets of Anger & How You Can Control It
Things don’t make you angry; your thoughts do.
- This is a basic belief in the journey towards anger management. The main idea here is that our brain is working at all times. Some of our thoughts are on a conscious level, meaning we are fully aware of those thoughts, and some of our thoughts are on a sub-conscious level, meaning we are not aware of them but they are there and continuously affect our feelings and behaviors. When something happens to us the brain immediately transfers thoughts, or interpretations about that situation – whether we are aware of the thoughts or not. These thoughts, or understanding of the situation, can only come from one’s past experiences and knowledge in life. It is imperative to understand that these thoughts cause the feelings and actions, not the trigger. I will explain this further below.
There is more than one way to look at the world. You never know what the other person can see unless you ask.
- Our perceptions are what we think we are seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. Often those perceptions are not the same for everyone. I could show you two men who look extremely angry at each other and we can have very different perceptions and not know which is accurate without checking it out. From viewing them, you might think the two men are ready to fight each other while I might see they are standing in front of an acting school and know that these two actors often practice their skits outside of the school. Checking it out is the only way to know what is accurate and then base our response on that; many misconceptions could be avoided by doing this task. Depending on the way we understand, or interpret, the situation is how we will feel, or develop an emotion (feeling) about the situation.
Most of the time anger will not help you. It may even stop you from getting what you want.
- This should actually read that anger will never help you. Be honest with yourself, try to find a time when anger helped you get what you wanted. It might initially seem that way, but in the final evaluation anger does not help you get what you want and almost always leads to bigger problems.
Thoughts that make you angry nearly always contain “thinking mistakes”. Correcting those mistakes will reduce your anger.
- This becomes obvious when you understand the points made above. When the trigger and misperceptions lead to mistakes in our thinking, which leads to negative thoughts, we cannot have positive feelings and rarely positive actions.
Your anger is caused by you believing that someone is acting unfairly or that some event isn’t fair.
- By definition, external anger means another person or situation is involved in the trigger, therefore feelings of victimization occur. Think about your own situations when you became angry. You felt someone did something unfair or unjust to you, took something of yours, said something unfair to you, or something that made you feel like a victim.
Getting even almost never gets you what you want. It generally makes people want to get back at you.
- Revenge and retaliation simply means you have been sucked into someone else’s anger circle. Therefore, the circle continues without anyone feeling like a winner. It is only when one person can stop the circle in a positive way that the control happens and that person becomes proud of and more confident in being able to control their emotions.
Frustration results from being let down. If you change your expectations you’ll be frustrated less.
- The definition of frustration is when I expect something to happen and then it doesn’t happen as I thought it would. Frustration is often a precursor of anger. In fact, anger is often a secondary emotion, meaning that there is another factor or emotion leading to it. If I have an expectation that someone be on time and that person is never on time, the reaction is often to be angry at that person. However, if I realize (and tell myself) that the person is always late and this is out of my control and has nothing to do with me, I have changed my expectation and thus greatly reduced my anger at that person.
You can never ever change other people — only yourself.
- This is a critical reality; I once had a client that I explained this to. They responded, “this is what I’m paying you for – that is, to change me and make me less angry”. Following this, I explained to her that I cannot change her, but she would have to do that herself. I could walk the walk with her, teach her theories and skills and strategies, but in the end, she would be changing herself. In so doing, the changes become more real and more valuable to the client. A person can only change the way he or she acts, or reacts, to another person, not the other person.
If you believe you can walk away — you probably can.
- This is not necessarily taken literally. We cannot always pick ourselves up from an altercation, even if we know it would be the best for us. We sometimes just can’t bring ourselves around to this. However, in our minds, in our thoughts, we can use more positive thinking to move away from the situation and move on in more positive ways. If you believe you can – you probably can. The positive thinking (belief) is critical.
In successful anger management, one must understand that some of what we have done or ways we have thought in the past have to be relearned and approach situations and our anger differently. “Knowledge is power”. That is, the more knowledge I have about myself, how I function and my power to make better decisions about myself and how I handle circumstances, the more personal control I will have over my anger.
How Angry Thoughts Turn into Behaviours
There is a sequence of uncontrolled anger that we must understand in order to have the power to change the uncontrolled anger to controlled anger. The sequence goes like this:
- First there is a trigger of when something unpleasant happens; when our “buttons” are pushed by either an external or internal trigger.
Now the series of uncontrolled reactions start.
- Thoughts occur from the brain. We evaluate and we think to ourselves negative thoughts. We might think of the other person negative ideas or thoughts or we might evaluate or judge ourselves negatively.
- The thoughts lead to feelings (anger in this case). We feel the way we think; this includes our emotions of being hurt, attacked, jealous, scared, angry, etc. This is critical to understand – We feel the way we think. It’s not the trigger that causes the anger but the thoughts that follow in our mind, consciously or unconsciously. We are either aware of these negative thoughts or often not aware of those thoughts.
- The final phase of the reaction is the Behavior. This is the action or how we act out our anger. We could run, fight, withdraw, attack, cry, take revenge, pout or yell or any other means of showing our anger.
Finally, after the series of reactions, we have the Effect or the negative effects that escalate our anger. It is possible for this effect of the anger to start the cycle over and act as the new trigger to repeat the sequence of uncontrolled anger.
Change Your Thought Process, Change Your Response
Only when changing our thought processes we can change the uncontrolled anger sequence to a positive, controlled anger sequence. That would cause the negative thoughts, leading to negative feelings leading to negative behaviors, to change to positive thoughts leading to more positive feelings which, in turn, results in more positive actions or behaviors.
What is a puppet? It’s something that doesn’t think for itself, move by itself, have any control over its environment, present or future, and relies on someone else for everything. My question to people who are out of personal control of their emotions is simply, “are you a puppet”? That is, when someone else causes the trigger and you lose control, they have succeeded in drawing you into their anger circle causing you to be in their control.
Change Your Behaviours, Change Your Life
I know that most of us want to control our own destinies. We want control and don’t want to relinquish it to anyone else. However, until we learn to manage our anger, have personal control over our emotions, we are at the beck and call of the other person. Is that what you want for yourself or your loved ones?
To see how we can help manage you or your loved one’s anger, take a look at our Anger Management Clinic, proven time & time again to help relieve individuals of their anger.
Edwin Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Regesh runs many programs helping families, youth and adults dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. He is currently open to speaking engagements. Contact Ed today to learn more 416-495-8832 extension 222 or email@example.com