Anger is one of the most common reasons that someone enters counseling. However, most people are surprised when I suggest that anger is not the primary emotion they are experiencing. Anger typically results from a different emotion, such as anxiety, disappointment, frustration, worry, or sadness. Subsequently, I often try to explore all emotions when working with an individual and rarely just offer anger management. Here are some simple tools to help manage anger.
One of my favorite quotes is "you can't control what happens to you, you can control your attitude." This applies to anger. A person can control their feelings, once they realize that their thoughts are connected with their feelings. A simple step to controlling anger is to reframe your thoughts. Try not to overgeneralize or catastrophize a negative situation. This means not to make one bad situation bigger than it is. For instance, if a child makes a failing grade on a test they could exclaim, “I’m stupid, I always fail.” Instead, making a statements, such as “I wish I performed better on this test. I will try to study harder on the next one.” By changing our thoughts, we can better control our anger.
Another simple step to control anger is to speak up. Many times I witness someone trying to “control” their anger by pretending that everything is okay with a situation. This leads to resentment and eventually an outburst of emotion. Instead try working on your communication. One suggestion is to use ‘I’ Statements. ‘I’ Statements teach individuals to express how they are feeling in an assertive, instead of aggressive or passive aggressive manner. For instance, an ‘I’ statement usually starts with “I feel ______, because of _________.” Practice using this communication style to speak up before your emotions turn to anger.
A great tool to calm down the body is to use behavioral management techniques. One simple solution is to take deep breaths. It is amazing how much a deep breath can calm your body down. Square breathing requires a person to breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath in for four seconds, release it for four seconds and repeat the process for four times. Other behavioral management techniques could include mindfulness. The means being present in the moment and not thinking of past difficulties or future worries. Try yoga, meditation, or taking a walk while being present of all the senses you are experiencing in the moment.
Lastly, when your emotions become too big, take time to work with a counselor. Working with a counselor can help you express your emotions in a safe environment while teaching coping skills. Remember anger is often the secondary emotion you are experiencing. Sometimes working with a counselor can help with all the emotions you are experiencing, such as sadness, fear, frustration, or regret.
Written by: Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S
Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and the Clinical Director at Cy-Hope Counseling. Amy has been practicing for over ten years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Cypress, Texas and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Learn more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.amyrollocounseling.com