BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – It may seem like an increasing number of people are expressing their anger through aggressive acts of violence.
According to one statistic, road rage is the cause of approximately 30 murders every year in the U.S.
And on a local level, last year, 171 of the 4,928 deaths that occurred in East Baton Rouge Parish (EBRP) were homicides.
A recent article in Psychology Today states, “We live in a time when many people view civility and thoughtful discussion as weakness—and acting out anger, a virtuous example of strength.”
This perspective is illustrated by the statistics mentioned earlier. Giving in to anger and even becoming violent is often viewed as a sign of strength.
But health experts argue that this perspective is flawed as it often results in shattered relationships, criminal acts that lead to run-ins with law enforcement, and even death.
The same article in Psychology Today promotes the exploration of a healthy view of anger, saying, ““Healthy anger” demands reflection. It requires that we take time and exert the effort to empower the rational mind to override the emotional mind. As such, it calls on us to more fully embrace a major aspect of our humanity – our capacities to reason and problem solve.”
So, how can a person who has a ‘bad temper,’ or who frequently leans in to an unhealthy form of anger change this tendency?
Jelena Kecmanovic, a clinical psychologist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, wrote a CNN article on the topic and provided several helpful tips, which are summarized below.
Acknowledge that your anger is affecting those around you
Kecmanovic suggests writing a list of how your outbursts impact the people in your life.
Then, read the list and answer the following questions: How do I feel after losing my temper? Am I achieving my goals by acting this way? Are these angry behaviors consistent with who I want to be as a partner, friend, parent, boss, coworker, neighbor or relative?
Kecmanovic says, “The answers will give you a sense of how much damage you’ve been causing both to others and to yourself. It’s important that you keep this in mind as you embark on behavior change.”
Figure out what triggers your feelings of anger
It can be helpful to analyze what types of situations trigger your outbursts. Is it when you’re extremely hungry or tired? Or is it when you feel rejected?
Kecmanovic says, “Many of my clients are surprised to realize that anger is often a secondary emotion that masks other primary ones. Try to identify whether anxiety, depression, regret, pain or disappointment hide underneath that rage. If so, focus on coping with the primary emotion first.”
Once you’ve figured out what kinds of situations trigger your anger, do your best to modify them. For example, if you tend to lose your temper when you’re hungry, make sure to eat filling meals every day and to brings healthy snacks along with you when you’re out and about.
Or if a feeling of rejection triggers anger, work with a therapist, counselor, or self-help program to incorporate daily self-esteem-building practices into your routine with the aim of eventually lessening deep-seated feelings of rejection.
Be aware of how your body lets you know a meltdown is incoming
Usually, before anger reaches its boiling point, our bodies warn us that we’re on the verge of a meltdown.
This warning may occur in the form of an increased heartbeat/pulse, tightness in the chest, or becoming flushed with heat.
Kecmanovic says, “I often guide my clients to re-create a recent anger episode in their mind and then practice surfing the feelings again and again. It turns out that emotions don’t last long if we don’t act out of our discomfort.”
Essentially, when your body warns you that you’re beginning to get very angry, acknowledge that you’re upset while also acknowledging that anger is only one of many emotions and it will soon pass.
This knowledge may help you to ride out or ‘surf’ above the upset feelings of the moment and then move on with your day.
However, Kecmanovic goes on to say that if you simply cannot rise above the anger, you can either politely excuse yourself from the triggering conversation/incident or begin to make a habit of doing the opposite of your natural inclinations. For example, if you have the urge to raise your voice, then speak softly. Or, if you have the urge to scream at someone, keep your mouth closed until they ask you a question, and even then, keep your response low-key and polite.
Kecmanovic also addresses situations where you may find yourself targeted by a person who is extremely angry. In those cases, she says it’s key to remember that, “No discussion has ever been productive while people are flying off the handle.”
Instead of responding with rage, it may be helpful to apply the three suggestions above.
Click here to read the full article on CNN’s website.
If someone in your life is consistently lashing out at you in abusive anger, either verbally or physically, you may want to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or One Love Foundation, which are organizations that address relationship abuse.