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Help YourSelf
Strategies to Control Anger

Anger, like happiness, is an emotion which affects our psychological, cognitive and physiological functions. Anger tends to become aroused when we feel we are in danger, or we feel we have been deliberately provoked. Our heart rate increases, stress hormones are released into the blood stream, and that familiar 'fight or flight' instinct rears its head.

By its very nature, anger is hard to ignore. Robert W. Westermeyer, PhD, an anger management specialist, writes about 'anger myopia' -- our focus becomes exclusively narrowed to the perceived injustice. Because anger tends to strike very suddenly, it is particularly difficult to control, and early on it becomes very hard to empathize with others.

Here are some tips on dealing with our own anger:

  • Slow down. This is key in anger management. Once you recognize early arousal symptoms, step back. If you need to, just walk away. This is not denial, but rather taking a second look. By then, your anger may have lost a lot of its power.
  • Look for the evidence. Is this person really a selfish jerk? Pretend you are a defense attorney. What specifically have they done to provoke you? Is getting stuck in traffic grounds for ruining the evening? Force yourself to empathize early on.
  • Practice the big 'So What?' So what if we are late to the party? So what if it's raining today? So what if the laundry isn't done? Are there alternatives to getting angry?
  • Imagine the outcome. What will be the likely response to my rage? Frequently, fire brings on fire. Is it worth starting a turf war over this?
  • Project into the future. Will this matter tomorrow? Next year? In fifty years?

Interestingly enough, most specialists agree that the traditional 'punching a pillow' doesn't really work. Although it may feel good in the moment, it does nothing to reduce what is bothering you. Venting may in fact intensify your feelings of rage. Try to identify clearly and specifically what has provoked you. If your feelings are justified, try following some of the steps detailed in Redford and Virginia Williams book, Anger Kills. Or check out the Managing Anger part of this week's episode of Body & Soul.

Program Description
Managing Anger
Robin Casarjian
Houses of Healing
Tell Me More
Help YourSelf

Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.

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