Have you ever felt enraged to the point where you are not in control of anything you are saying or doing? Chances are, you are letting your anger take over your thoughts and words, and you're hurting your relationships as a result. Here are eleven steps to befriend your anger and to not let it control you anymore:
1. Assess how you personally deal with anger.
Anger is like a child in the car. You don't want them to drive the car, and you also don't want to shove them in the trunk. You simply want the child to ride along in the backseat with you.
There are two types of people when it comes to anger: "The Anger Stuffers" and "The Anger Bursters."
The anger stuffers are the ones who suppress their anger or any emotion for that matter. They bottle up all of their emotion and act like they are not feeling anything. Their defense mechanism is acting like they do not care or coming off as unaffected to those around them, when in reality, they are extremely hurt or angry about something. They do not like to hurt people's feelings, and they often believe that they will cause drama if they speak up about anything that is bothering them, so they tend to keep to themselves. They do not want to be a burden to their peers or relationships and are very uncomfortable in settings where there is conflict. If there is an ongoing problem, anger stuffers will eventually erupt like a volcano after bottling up all of their emotion, which can then throw people off because there was a lack of communication.
The anger bursters are the complete opposite. They immediately act in emotion without thinking about the potential outcome. They are often defensive and may act as the victim some of the times. They may also be easily jealous or insecure with themselves. Anger bursters are usually people who have been hurt by others in the past and are worried that their loved ones are going to hurt them in the future. A lot of past grief and baggage usually sit with anger bursters. They may erupt because they are protective over a friend, a family member, or the person they are arguing with. They may often think that no one understands them and that they have to be in control or right about everything. These people are usually the ones that let their anger take control of them without realizing it until afterwards. They often make the argument about themselves or how they are affected.
It is important to understand the difference between anger stuffers and anger bursters because this will determine what you need to work on in order to gain back the reigns of your emotions.
2. Listen to your body.
Your body is always communicating with you. When you are thirsty, your lips tend to be more chapped and your skin dries up. When you are hungry, your stomach begins to make noises. The same thing goes for anger. When we are angry, we usually feel tense or our heart rate may increase. Some people may feel a pit in their stomach from feeling hurt. Your body is usually telling you that you are feeling upset when it is showing these physical signs. It is asking for that internal peace to feed that hunger and to pour water on the fire to maintain your own mental homeostasis.
3. Remove yourself from the situation.
Once you have identified the physical symptoms of anger, it is important to be able to recognize them in action. The next time you do find yourself to be seeing these signs, remove yourself from the situation. Go to the bathroom, another room, or simply go home if you are at a friend's house. If you are with someone who is making you upset, it is important to leave that fire, that way you do not fuel it with your words. If you know that you are feeling tense, leave the situation so you will not act out on your emotions and regret something you said later on.
When you leave, do not storm out or slam the door. Passive-aggressiveness is the same thing as arguing to the person's face. If you give them the silent treatment or act in a petty manner, you are still adding fuel to the fire. When you leave, simply smile and let them know that you will talk to them later.
Once you have learned to control your emotions, you will not need to leave the argument every time, but for starters, this is an exercise that will help you get to that point.
4. Let it out.
If you are feeling these intense emotions, and cannot seem to collect your thoughts at the moment, try to do an activity that will unleash your energy and help you feel better. Intense cardio such as running, cycling, or boxing are great ways to get your heart rate up and release endorphins into your bloodstream. If you do not like exercise, you can try doing something you are passionate about, such as playing a musical instrument or singing. Screaming into your pillow also works, but make sure you are doing something that will put you in a better mood. You can even wash dishes or cook if you want to! I personally clean my entire house when I am angry because a clean environment makes me feel at peace.
5. Address the problem.
Once you are feeling better, you can ask yourself what made you upset in the first place.
If you can write out exactly what you are mad about, then you are one step closer to being aware of your anger, which is crucial to fully controlling it.
Maybe it was because someone was talking behind you behind your back. Or maybe your partner did not wash the dishes when they said they would. Whatever the problem is, make sure you know and fully understand what it is that is upsetting you. It can also be a multitude of things. There could be a collection of behaviors that have pushed you to your limit, and you are ready to cut someone out of your life or break up with your partner because of it.
If you find yourself becoming angry when you are thinking about the problem, simply take a couple of deep breaths and focus on yourself. You are doing this for yourself to grow, which is amazing! It is definitely going to be hard at first, but with practice, it will get easier to spot the problem and learn how to overcome it. Being aware of what is making you upset is important because it will allow you to stop and think about yourself. In addition to controlling your anger, you are actually practicing self-love while you go through these steps. You will understand not only what is upsetting you, but what your boundaries and limits are.
6. Identify the "why."
Now that you have addressed the problem, you can now assess WHY it upsets you.
Why did that girl talking behind your back upset you? How come your partner not giving you enough time makes you mad? With your specific problem, try to come up with an answer as to why that behavior or situation became unsettling to you. For example, a girl could be upset that her boyfriend is not giving her time because, "I do not feel enough or important whenever my partner does not pay attention to me. This is because my parents neglected me when I was younger." Or, a boy could be insecure when his girlfriend talks to other guys because, "I've been cheated on before and it's hard for me to trust people." These situations are completely made up, but if they apply to you, try to dig deep into what you are feeling.
The majority of the time, people have underlying insecurities or baggage from their past that correlates to why certain things upset them. I, personally, am adopted from Asia, and I have abandonment issues. In other words, when people shut me out of their life or are mad at me, I take it very personally and try to do everything I can to fix it because of the underlying insecurity that I was left by my birth parents.
There does not need to be a hidden underlying problem that makes you upset, either. People can simply be mean or petty which is a big turn-off in today's society. Bullying can make someone feel like a nobody and really hurt people's feelings. Your answer can simply be, "I am upset that she was talking behind my back because that is unkind, and it hurt my feelings."
7. Ask if your "why" is justified or not.
Here is where we have to be vulnerable and honest with ourselves.
Are you mad because that girl was talking to your boyfriend and you think she is out to get you and steal him away because she asked him about their homework assignment? Maybe that is not the best reason to get upset at your partner because of someone else. It can still hurt your feelings, of course, but you also need to ask yourself if getting angry over jealousy is a valid reason to start an argument.
If you are upset because that same girl has been consistently texting your boyfriend and has openly confessed feelings for him, then that is a different case. It can be frustrating to have girls make goo-goo faces at your man and that may be an appropriate time to start an open conversation about it.
Another example of an unjustified reason to be angry is if you received a bad test grade, but in reality, you did not study for it at all. However, maybe you are not upset with the grade itself, but for forgetting to study in the first place - which is a justified reason.
It is important to ask yourself if your feelings are justified because they help us understand if we are truly uncomfortable or if we are acting out on emotion. Something you are truly upset about will usually continue if there is no solution to it.
8. Figuring out the solution.
So, you've written down your problem, asked yourself why it is making you upset, and justified it; now, it's time to come up with a solution.
What needs to change? Is it your behavior? Is it your partner's behavior?
Going back to the previous examples, even if your "why" is not justified, you can still find a solution for that problem so it doesn't make you mad anymore. Jealousy is an internal problem that we must overcome ourselves, so the girlfriend who got angry at her partner over the homework help needs to find an internal solution. It can only go away with the practice of self-love so that we do not compare ourselves to other people or become possessive over the things we have. We learn to share with self-love and become confident in ourselves, to the point where another girl talking to your boyfriend doesn't even cross your mind as a problem.
Solutions can also be an open conversation with the source of the problem if it has not been addressed already. If you are within an ongoing problem with someone, you may need to reassess what is best for you and what you need right now. Notice how I said "open conversation," not an argument. We are learning to control our anger and having that open conversation coming from a place of love and care will allow the other person to be vulnerable, as well. If you find yourself getting upset during the open conversation, simply take a deep breath and remember to stay grounded. The more you are aware of your anger rising, the more control you have over it and can stop it if it tries to grow any more.
9. Put it into practice.
Remember that practice makes progress.
The first couple of times you try to have that open conversation with someone - your mom, partner, or even yourself - it's going to be difficult. Practice it first. Look into the mirror and say out loud what you want the other person to know. Express your feelings in a way that comes from your heart and not just because you're sensitive or easily angered. If something is truly bothering you, you have every right to address it and tell the other person that it is hurting your feelings. If they are an important person in your life, and vise versa, they will understand.
After a while, you will be able to recognize if you are starting to become angry and know what to do when it does come. Further down, in the heat of the moment, you will already know how to have that conversation right then and there, or you can simply let it go if you know your "why" isn't justified.
The best thing is to take a deep breath when you start to feel that tension and go through the motions. Remember that growth takes time. It could be months or years before you finally learn to control your anger. However, if you maintain that positive mindset, the result will come.
10. Be empathetic with the other person.
In any one of these steps, try to empathize with the person. If you are mad at a specific person, try to put yourself in their shoes and understand their motive. Unfortunately, some people are just mean; however, most people are not intentionally trying to upset you, especially if they are your loved ones. If it is somebody that is important to you, try to give them the benefit of the doubt and understand them more. In doing so, you will strengthen your relationship with that person, and it will be easier to understand them and their actions.
You can also try to apply the situation to your life in reverse. What I mean by that is to try and flip the roles between you and that other person, and if you feel the same way about the problem that is upsetting you. For example, if your boyfriend has a best friend that you do not like for whatever reason, maybe because you're jealous they hang out all the time, try to imagine if your boyfriend was getting angry with you for hanging out with your bestie all the time. You wouldn't want your partner to make you stop being friends with your bestie, so why would you do the same thing to them?
Empathy is a good way to stop ourselves from thinking about us all the time and to understand the feelings of others and how our actions impact them. It is important to practice because it deepens our relationships significantly.
11. Befriend your anger.
Lastly, anger is not always a bad thing. Make it your ally.
Sometimes anger can open up a curtain that has been in front of our faces to see the truth. When your body is communicating with you, your anger is, as well. Anger can open our eyes to see things from a different perspective and allow you to accept a hard truth that has been bottled-up inside of you.
For example, before my boyfriend and I broke up, I was angry in the relationship a lot of the time. I did not understand why I was so upset with the tiniest things he did. He was not a bad person, but I was still unhappy. I went through the steps of controlling my anger. I listed the problem that I was upset about, I understood my "why," and I justified it. I tried to let go of the things that were upsetting me and tried to have open conversations about it all. Yet, for some reason, I was still unhappy. After fighting it and fighting it, I listened to my anger and realized that I had never had time to focus on myself and practice self-love. My anger opened my eyes and told me that I was not ready for a relationship because I didn't even have that relationship with myself. It was a hard decision to make, but since then, I have felt so in-tune and happy with who I am. It was not anything on my ex's part, but a decision that I decided to make for me because my anger was lingering and trying to tell me to end it already.
In conclusion, if you need to let go of somebody, evaluate every part of it first. It goes for people that are both easy and hard to let go of. When you are in that emotional state, your thoughts are not collected, and you could make a mistake that you regret. The beauty of anger is that it is an emotion for a reason. We are human, and it is normal to feel anger. It is completely okay to be mad and have a breakdown or to be pissed off about something tiny. How we unleash that anger and emotion is what needs to be under control.
You are not alone in this. I am on my own journey of controlling my anger. It has only been one month, and I still slip up. It's okay to regress once in a while. As long as we recognize it, forgive ourselves for being human, and move forward with an open mind.