Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anger is a brief treatment that has proven to be a highly effective anger management therapy. Everyone experiences anger from time to time. However, ineffective management of angry impulses can result in a pattern of bottling feelings up until they explode, causing serious problems in work and/or social relationships. Additionally, poor stress management can lead to increased anger and resentment, and inevitably ineffective expressions of these emotions. Below is a discussion of some helpful strategies used with clients seen at Healing Path Counselling Services:
1. Mindfully acknowledge your anger: One of the first things you can do is to simply acknowledge that your anger is present. When anger rises to a fever-pitch, we often get strong urges to act (think honking your horn). The more intense the anger, the shorter the time between the angry urge and our action. This is when we act without thinking. To slow this process down to allow time for a little more choice and rational thought, mindfulness can be helpful. Whenever you notice physical manifestations of anger – such as a flushed face – describe the feelings silently in your mind: “I notice a feeling of my face flushed.” As angry thoughts arise, do the same: “I’m noticing thoughts about how I should be treated,” or “I’m noticing urges to react.” Putting words to our experience rather than being hooked in by them can be a helpful tool in reacting differently to angry impulses, and reducing the intensity and duration of anger.
2. Weigh the pros and cons: Do some cost-benefit analysis in your mind about acting out of anger. List all of the benefits of reacting in anger “feeling of relief, feeling of control, people listen, etc.” Now list all of the cons “say hurtful things to others, stress relationships, regret…” It is likely that the pros are more short-term and the cons are more long-term. Human beings are more likely to be influenced by short-term consequences rather than long-term consequences. So by reminding yourself of some of the long-term outcomes when the anger arises, it forces the negative consequences into the short-term, and makes them more compelling to consider before reacting.
3. Remove yourself from the situation: It’s likely that the longer you’re in a triggering situation, the more triggered you will be. Take a 5-minute break (a bathroom break works great for this) from whatever you are doing to allow the emotion to return to baseline. That way you’ll be able to handle things more effectively when you come back with your judgment not being clouded by anger.
4. Consider alternate perspectives: Notice the way you are thinking about what is making you angry. It’s likely that the angrier you get – the more rigid your thinking is becoming. To loosen up your thought patterns and consequently reduce your level of anger, think of the triggering situation from a few different viewpoints. Take different perspectives. In the grand scheme of things, is this really that important? What would be the worst-case scenario, and is it really that bad? What are some reasons the other persons position makes perfect sense? Why might it be a good idea to reconsider your point of view? Rather than focusing on the problem, consider focusing on the solution.
Using any of these strategies may help you control your anger in a more workable way. If you or someone you know struggles with anger and behaviour responses, please reach out to Healing Path Counselling Services.
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