Anger Management: Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers all wrongs

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh tongue stirs up anger”.

–Proverbs 15:1

anger

How do you respond when you’re angry? What mentality overcomes you—the “turn the other cheek” philosophy or the “eye for an eye” mentality?

In situations where we experience anger, our reaction to the situation can often times be the deciding factor that either fans the flames or diffuses a situation.

When I worked in the inpatient psychiatric hospital setting, I taught a behavioral management course to incoming staff. Amongst many techniques, the technique that deescalated a situation almost every time was remaining calm in response to a heated situation. Remembering to keep your voice low in response to the angry person, body language relaxed, and eye contact continuous but not overbearing, were the key responses in bringing a person’s anger down to a reasonable and communicative level.

It is in our biological make-up to mirror the actions of another human being (i.e. mirror neurons in action!), especially when we like that other person. So by remaining calm and lowering our voices, it has the ability to cause the person that you may be in opposition with to instinctively lower their voice, and in turn, calm them down.

While you and the other person may not have a positive relationship, the key here is that one person’s reaction to the other has the ability to completely calm the other person down or oppositely, incite them. Next time you are in a heated situation, I encourage you to try this.

When we lash out at another person in response to their anger, it only adds the proverbial fuel to the fire. As in the Proverbs verse above, our response to a situation is very powerful. How we choose to conduct ourselves has great bearing on almost any situation that we are in.

Consider this scenario. Your child is misbehaving. They’ve torn the house apart and are not listening to you when you’re telling them to take a bath. You have two choices here. One, you can scream at them until the cows come home which will most likely result in tears and a spanking—and you losing your cool. Or you can take a deep breath, approach them calmly, offering choices and speaking quietly.

kid

A child’s response to the situation will become directly influenced by how you respond to them. While the first option I mentioned may be effective for the short term, it will most likely help your child develop a maladaptive set of behaviors and they will learn that “screaming gets stuff done”. The second option, although more time-consuming and requiring more patience, will inadvertently teach your child how to handle a tough situation. See the difference?

Second example. Your partner has just really angered you. They forgot to pick up milk and laundry detergent on the way home, are now totally engrossed in that “stupid video game” they like, and their dishes from breakfast are still sitting on the counter.

Once again, you have two choices. The first choice is to give into that disproportionate rage you may feel as a result of working all day, not getting enough sleep the night before, and feeling brain fried-lashing out at your partner and screaming “You can’t do anything right!! What a loser! You are so lazy!”. Or you can calmly make your way to where your partner is, sit down to ask them to clean up after themselves, and or ask them to go with you to the store to get the items that they forgot, turning the anger into a proactive response where you actually get to spend time with your partner reconnecting.

couple reconnecting

I’ve seen the first reaction play out time and time again with the couples I work with in therapy and I will tell you that after a time, the angry partner ends up causing the other partner to shut down. When the screaming starts, the other partner either leaves or slowly begins to detach from the relationship—losing the desire to make their angry partner happy.

Remember: You have no control over what the other person’s response will be to your calmness. But by you taking the responsibility of staying in control of your emotions and reacting calmly and assertively to a situation, it will diffuse your own anger and allow you to become more approachable in the long haul. Not to mention, your blood pressure will stay at a healthy level and after continuing to practice peaceful communication, it will become second nature to who you are!

Developing and cultivating a calm response to situations takes time, energy, and practice. For many people, it is not an intrinsic response. Perhaps you grew up in a household where you watched your parents yell, fight, and slam doors to prove a point. Perhaps over the years, the only way you felt heard was to yell. Either way, when we continually exhibit a negative set of behaviors, they will become engrained pieces of our personalities—humans are patterned creatures with a propensity to gravitate towards the familiar.

Being the best version of ourselves and making healthy choices in responding to anger calmly can be very difficult! Especially if you feel that your newer healthy responses are not as effective as your previous angry self.

Anger has the ability to corrode even the healthiest of relationships. Disproportionate anger especially. Taking out our own personal stress on the people that we are closest to and not giving them a pass for those simple shortcomings (forgetting to buy groceries, leaving the bed unmade, forgetting to take the trash out) are the quickest ways to alienate your partner or children.

The next time that you can feel the rage start to bubble up, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Where is this coming from?” Seeking to understand yourself and what is causing you to react in a certain way is a powerful key in behavior change. I encourage people to use the Alcoholics Anonymous acronym HALT for a quick assessment on what’s going on. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and or Tired? If you answer yes to any of those questions, chances are you are not in a good place to begin with.

Attempt to alleviate the HALT issues that are occurring and then tackle your grievances—calmly.

Food for thought: if you have “lost your cool” today, remember that you are human and tomorrow is another opportunity to practice peaceful communication and anger management.

tomorrow

 

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” –Proverbs 12:18

Encouraging you to practice calmness and peace in your interactions today and everyday,

Rachel Ann

What purpose are your thoughts serving you? 5 ways to check in and change them

Almost every time that I attend a yoga class, I’m asked to check in with myself on this very question. And almost every time, I am able to think about some of the daily thoughts that go through my head and nix out certain ones that aren’t serving me a healthy purpose!

Whether you want to admit it or not, there is always room for improvement when it comes to daily living and thinking.

Our thoughts have a direct impact on our actions. If you are crippled with anxiety then the results will be manifested in your daily choices. Maybe you decide not to go out to lunch with your friend because you’re worried about navigating through traffic to arrive there. Maybe you aren’t able to start on that work or school assignment because you’re experiencing paralysis by analysis.

Thoughts are very important. Examining your inner self-talk is the first way to understand what purpose those pesky negative thoughts are serving you.

1. When you wake up in the morning, check in with yourself each day.

Take a mental inventory of what is going through your mind. Are you berating yourself for eating that extra piece of pie last night? Are you worried about the lunch meeting? Identify what is going through your mind to cause the discomfort.

2. Ask yourself—what benefit am I getting from having that anxiety/negative thought about A, B, and or C?

How will that positively serve me throughout the day. Let’s think back to the person who is upset with themselves about eating the extra piece of pie. Instead of giving up on healthy eating for the day, use that feeling of angst to propel you to make healthier eating choices throughout the day. Skip out on the bread at lunch and go with a salad. Do you see what I mean? Use those negative thoughts to make positive choices.

3. Examine the self-talk.

What you tell yourself in your own mind will manifest itself daily. We all have self-talk. We all have preconceived notions about what is going to happen throughout the day—some people have the notion that ‘no one will like me’ while others may have the notion that ‘I can’t wait to see who I will be working with today, maybe I’ll meet a new friend’. If you are experiencing negative self-talk, identify what those messages are and work proactively to counteract against them. Examine where those messages have come from and consider the source.

For example, I work with many women who have come out of an abusive relationship. Some have stayed for 6 months, others for 5 years or longer. These lovely ladies have received all kinds of messages from their abusive partner that have negatively impacted their self-talk. Much of our work is identifying the negative messages that their partner has implanted in their minds and listing reasons why they are untrue, and replacing them with positive messages that are true.

Telling yourself that ‘no one will ever love me’ is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of constantly allowing that message to pass by in your brain, replace it with ‘I love myself’ or ‘I choose to love myself’.

4. Be kind to yourself.

Some people believe that they are undeserving of receiving kindness from others, being in a healthy relationship, etc. Instead of focusing on being on the receiving ends of external kindness, start with being kind to yourself! Work from there. People are fallible. They will have good days and bad days—sometimes another person will go out of their way to be nice to you, sometimes they won’t even speak to you. The common denominator in the equation is you. If you can learn that kindness starts from within, then you will save yourself a lot of heartache that can come from depending on others to provide kindness for/to you.

5. Seek out a therapist to assist you in identifying your self-talk and where it comes from.

Therapy is what I do, so of course I believe that a skilled therapist can help a person with their self-growth exponentially. If you are still struggling with changing your self-talk and thoughts, then seek out a trusted mental health professional to help you with this process. Change can be very difficult, especially if the things that you need to change are deeply engrained in who you are as a person. The very act of talking about what ails you is healing. That release, or cathartic experience, is freeing in itself. You don’t have to do everything on your own, seek out assistance if you have noticed that your self-talk and thoughts are negatively impacting your ability to carry out activities of daily living.

Tying it all together…

I have said it before, but definition is clarity. Experiencing the aha! moments about why you are thinking and acting the way that you are is beneficial to your mental health and daily living.

Thoughts only have as much power as you allow them to.

Understanding what purpose your thoughts and self-talk are serving is the beginning of understanding what must change in order for you to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Wishing your freedom to understand and thrive today and every day,

Rachel Ann