How To Deal When You Feel Yourself Getting Angry

Written by Gail Brenner, PhD

In my work as a psychotherapist, I've seen how anger damages relationships, ruins careers, and blocks our experience of joy and well-being. We know that stuffing anger doesn't work, and doing nothing lets it run wild.

Be honest with yourself if anger is a problem for you, and don't wait one more minute to start dealing with it. Learn these ways of working directly with your experience of anger, and it will soon become more controllable.

1. Form a friendly relationship with your anger.

Rather than avoiding it, hating it, or wishing it would disappear, turn your attention toward the anger. Acknowledge that it's present, and commit to doing what it takes so it doesn't overrun you.

2. Get to know what triggers you.

The trigger might be a person, a situation, or an internal state such as hunger or stress. Once you identify the triggers, write down a plan to deal with them more effectively next time they arise. Re-read the plan often and visualize yourself carrying it out so these new options come to mind in the heat of the moment.

3. Remind yourself what you really want for your life and your relationships.

Do you want to fight to be right, or do you want inner peace and harmony with others? Make your actions consistent with your most authentic priorities.

4. When you catch yourself in anger, stop, take a breath, and feel the physical sensations without acting on them.

Anger has a strong physical component. When you stop to notice, you might realize that anger evokes intense physical sensations. That's OK. Taking time to notice how you feel immediately interrupts the familiar momentum of anger and its negative impact.

5. Don't get stuck in guilt and regret.

Transform these feelings into positive action by having compassion for yourself and taking steps to heal your relationships. Next time you lose it, learn from the experience and feel good about the fact that you're now trying to make better choices. Be heartfelt when you apologize and empathize with others' suffering, but don't wallow in guilt as it doesn't serve you or anyone else.

6. Be willing to explore your feelings.

Your anger may be a strategy to avoid feeling pain, fear, and sadness. By opening to these deeper emotions, you're enriching your life experience and diminishing the need for anger.

7. Don't just vow to control your anger. Make a plan to consciously deal with it.

You will be in control and not your anger. And you'll feel confident that you'll know how to respond when anger arises.

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