How you control anger may depend on the root of your rage. Here are a few tips on managing angry feelings, to help you figure out why you’re enraged and how to control your anger.
These tips are inspired by a reader who is struggling with anger over pet loss. Of course, her anger isn’t completely about her pet’s death…it’s about something deeper and more primal. She says:
“I lost my beloved cat on Ash Wednesday, and her adopted sister, whom I love dearly, passed away last week,” says L. on my article about coping with death. “I can’t seem to pull it together. I don’t want to hear ‘oh you had them for so long’…doesn’t help. My heart is bleeding like it will never stop. Four months after the first death, I have to face another. REALLY? This is the hand I’m dealt. Oh yeah, I’m furious, I’m so mad I could chew glass. I hate my house I hate everything around me right now. There is no way out.”
Grief, anger, and heartache are normal responses to losing a pet, but hatred and chewing glass may not be. It depends on your personality and past experience.
Remember that you need to walk away if you feel like you want to explode with anger. That’s the most important, practical tip. Here are a few tips for coping with uncontrollable anger…
How to Control Your Anger
I walk my dog Georgie at 5:30 am in the forest every day, and sometimes I meet Duanita and her dogs. Duanita Eleniak is a registered clinical social worker, a registered art therapist, a philosopher, a writer and an educator – and she’s also fun to walk dogs with. When she asked what I’m writing today, I said I want to write an article to help L. cope with her angry feelings. L.’s anger seems out of control, and I’d like to help her.
Here’s what Duanita said (paraphrased, summarized, Laurie-ized)…
Anger is like fire. A controlled fire can warm your home and cook your food. It can be healthy and even life-giving! Controlled anger can help you learn what you don’t like and don’t want. But, an out-of-control fire can take down a whole forest – and uncontrolled or uncontrollable anger can destroy your relationships, health, and life goals.
Anger isn’t something to be avoided at all costs; it’s a normal, natural, healthy part of life. Like fire! But also like fire, anger needs to be controlled and managed or it’ll consume you. You have to learn how to control your anger by getting help in person.
Anger is addictive. Duanita described how our neurons and synapses are affected by anger. I don’t remember the details, but the bottom line is that we can actually become addicted to feelings of anger, which is why many people keep “defaulting” to anger. Anger has a very real, immediate, specific physiological effect on our bodies; this physical response is why a glass of spilled milk or a misplaced set of keys can be the trigger to uncontrollable rage.
Anger is a low-energy vibration that makes us emotionally and physically unhealthy. One anger management tip is to raise our vibrational energy so it’s higher and healthier.
“Thought stopping” as an effective way to manage angry feelings. Thought stopping is involves replacing angry feelings (low vibrations) with positive ones (high vibrations). Gratitude, for instance, is a high vibration positive energy that can take the place of anger. Thought stopping isn’t about suppressing or trying to stop angry feelings. It’s about replacing them with healthier, more positive ones.
L.’s grief and anger over the loss of her cats is a normal response to death, I think. After all, our pets are our beloved companions – they’re definitely not like a spilt glass of milk! When we’re in mourning – which L. is – we need to work through our grief.
But if grief is tainted with uncontrollable rage or anger, then we need to find ways to cope with it. I asked Duanita if figuring out the source of past anger is helpful (because the past can fuel today’s rage), and she said not really. Diving into past pain may just magnify anger and immerse you in it, instead of directing your thoughts away from it.
Some people learn how to control anger by expressing themselves in writing or in music. Read How Music Therapy Helps People Heal.
Anger Management Tips
Different things work for different people, but it’s important for many people to express or work through their anger somehow. Getting rid of negative, toxic energy can be a good way to control anger.
Vigorous aerobic activity. On my article, L said, “I’m working out more, trying to get through the anger.” I think that’s great. Me, I like to run or go to a kick boxing class. Different activities work for different people, but doing something physically strenuous can be a great way to work through anger.
Writing – lots of angry, explosive writing! Have you heard of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages? If not, let me know in the comments section below and I’ll describe it. Expressing your anger and rage in writing – with pen and paper – is one of the best ways to work through those feelings. You’ll get them all out, and be clear-headed and more in touch with why you’re so upset. Writing is one of the best ways to cope with negative emotions. If you want to write about your angry feelings in the comments section below, it may be a step towards learning how to control your anger.
Do something productive or beneficial. When I asked my Google Plus circles how they cope with anger, I got an interesting response:
“I give myself 10 seconds to be as angry as I want (to myself),” says Matthew Knights on Google Plus. “Then, I focus my attention on productive work (i.e. any given task). Whether my concentration goes to fixing a problem at work that has made me angry or cleaning the house, or working out. The simple act of doing something beneficial will lift me out of that angry state of mind. The 10 sec. thing gives me time to acknowledge the situation but doesn’t let me dwell on it. Sorry so lengthy. Long responses make me ANGRY!!!”
Another healthy way to manage anger:
“I clean or take a long walk,” says therapist Heiddi Zalamar. “It helps so much to be active when angry. Once I cool off, then I can make better decisions.”
When anger is enmeshed with grief, it’s not as simple as going for a walk or cleaning the house. Anger as a result of loss or trauma takes longer to work through – but I think L. is on the right track. She’s expressing her anger in healthy ways by writing about it here, and she’s working out physically.
Resources on How to Control Angry Feelings
Do you think your negative feelings — anger, rage, guilt, regret, shame, bitterness, depression — are out of control? Are they out of proportion to the event? Get in touch with your anger by reading books like The Language of Emotions: What Your Feelings Are Trying to Tell You by Karla McLaren.
If you’re looking for specific anger management techniques, read Angry All the Time: An Emergency Guide to Anger Control.
If you’re consumed with angry feelings and don’t know if you’ll ever learn how to control your anger – especially when you want to explode – it may be time to talk to a counsellor or anger management specialist.
You might also read How to be Joyful and Find Inner Happiness…but sometimes you need more professional, supportive help when you’re learning about anger management.
How do you control your anger – do you have specific techniques for managing angry feelings? Thoughts welcome below…