Simple relaxation tools, such as deep breathing and
relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books and
courses that can teach you relaxation techniques, and once you learn
the techniques, you can call upon them in any situation. If you are
involved in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it
might be a good idea for both of you to learn these techniques.
Some simple steps you can try:
Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your "gut."
Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as "relax," "take it easy." Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
Nonstrenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.
Practice these techniques daily. Learn to use them automatically when you're in a tense situation.
Simply put, this means changing the way you think. Angry
people tend to curse, swear, or speak in highly colorful terms that
reflect their inner thoughts. When you're angry, your thinking can get
very exaggerated and overly dramatic. Try replacing these thoughts with
more rational ones. For instance, instead of telling yourself, "oh, it's
awful, it's terrible, everything's ruined," tell yourself, "it's
frustrating, and it's understandable that I'm upset about it, but it's
not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it
Be careful of words like "never" or "always" when talking
about yourself or someone else. "This !&*%@ machine never works," or
"you're always forgetting things" are not just inaccurate, they also
serve to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there's no
way to solve the problem. They also alienate and humiliate people who
might otherwise be willing to work with you on a solution.
Remind yourself that getting angry is not going to fix
anything, that it won't make you feel better (and may actually make you
Logic defeats anger, because anger, even when it's
justified, can quickly become irrational. So use cold hard logic on
yourself. Remind yourself that the world is "not out to get you," you're
just experiencing some of the rough spots of daily life. Do this each
time you feel anger getting the best of you, and it'll help you get a
more balanced perspective. Angry people tend to demand things: fairness,
appreciation, agreement, willingness to do things their way. Everyone
wants these things, and we are all hurt and disappointed when we don't
get them, but angry people demand them, and when their demands aren't
met, their disappointment becomes anger. As part of their cognitive
restructuring, angry people need to become aware of their demanding
nature and translate their expectations into desires. In other words,
saying, "I would like" something is healthier than saying, "I demand" or
"I must have" something. When you're unable to get what you want, you
will experience the normal reactions—frustration, disappointment,
hurt—but not anger. Some angry people use this anger as a way to avoid
feeling hurt, but that doesn't mean the hurt goes away.
Sometimes, our anger and frustration are caused by very
real and inescapable problems in our lives. Not all anger is misplaced,
and often it's a healthy, natural response to these difficulties. There
is also a cultural belief that every problem has a solution, and it adds
to our frustration to find out that this isn't always the case. The
best attitude to bring to such a situation, then, is not to focus on
finding the solution, but rather on how you handle and face the problem.
Make a plan, and check your progress along the way. Resolve
to give it your best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer
doesn't come right away. If you can approach it with your best
intentions and efforts and make a serious attempt to face it head-on,
you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing
thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away.
Angry people tend to jump to—and act on—conclusions, and
some of those conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do
if you're in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your
responses. Don't say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow
down and think carefully about what you want to say. At the same time,
listen carefully to what the other person is saying and take your time
Listen, too, to what is underlying the anger. For instance,
you like a certain amount of freedom and personal space, and your
"significant other" wants more connection and closeness. If he or she
starts complaining about your activities, don't retaliate by painting
your partner as a jailer, a warden, or an albatross around your neck.
It's natural to get defensive when you're criticized, but
don't fight back. Instead, listen to what's underlying the words: the
message that this person might feel neglected and unloved. It may take a
lot of patient questioning on your part, and it may require some
breathing space, but don't let your anger—or a partner's—let a
discussion spin out of control. Keeping your cool can keep the situation
from becoming a disastrous one.
"Silly humor" can help defuse rage in a number of ways. For
one thing, it can help you get a more balanced perspective. When you
get angry and call someone a name or refer to them in some imaginative
phrase, stop and picture what that word would literally look like. If
you're at work and you think of a coworker as a "dirtbag" or a
"single-cell life form," for example, picture a large bag full of dirt
(or an amoeba) sitting at your colleague's desk, talking on the phone,
going to meetings. Do this whenever a name comes into your head about
another person. If you can, draw a picture of what the actual thing
might look like. This will take a lot of the edge off your fury; and
humor can always be relied on to help unknot a tense situation.
The underlying message of highly angry people, Dr.
Deffenbacher says, is "things oughta go my way!" Angry people tend to
feel that they are morally right, that any blocking or changing of their
plans is an unbearable indignity and that they should NOT have to
suffer this way. Maybe other people do, but not them!
When you feel that urge, he suggests, picture yourself as a
god or goddess, a supreme ruler, who owns the streets and stores and
office space, striding alone and having your way in all situations while
others defer to you. The more detail you can get into your imaginary
scenes, the more chances you have to realize that maybe you are being
unreasonable; you'll also realize how unimportant the things you're
angry about really are. There are two cautions in using humor. First,
don't try to just "laugh off" your problems; rather, use humor to help
yourself face them more constructively. Second, don't give in to harsh,
sarcastic humor; that's just another form of unhealthy anger expression.
What these techniques have in common is a refusal to take
yourself too seriously. Anger is a serious emotion, but it's often
accompanied by ideas that, if examined, can make you laugh.
Changing Your Environment
Sometimes it's our immediate surroundings that give us
cause for irritation and fury. Problems and responsibilities can weigh
on you and make you feel angry at the "trap" you seem to have fallen
into and all the people and things that form that trap.
Give yourself a break. Make sure you have some "personal
time" scheduled for times of the day that you know are particularly
stressful. One example is the working mother who has a standing rule
that when she comes home from work, for the first 15 minutes "nobody
talks to Mom unless the house is on fire." After this brief quiet time,
she feels better prepared to handle demands from her kids without
blowing up at them.
Some Other Tips for Easing Up on Yourself
Timing: If you and your spouse tend to fight when you
discuss things at night—perhaps you're tired, or distracted, or maybe
it's just habit—try changing the times when you talk about important
matters so these talks don't turn into arguments.
Avoidance: If your child's chaotic room makes you furious
every time you walk by it, shut the door. Don't make yourself look at
what infuriates you. Don't say, "well, my child should clean up the room
so I won't have to be angry!" That's not the point. The point is to
keep yourself calm.
Finding alternatives: If your daily commute through traffic
leaves you in a state of rage and frustration, give yourself a
project—learn or map out a different route, one that's less congested or
more scenic. Or find another alternative, such as a bus or commuter