The History Of Your Anger Management

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Anger ManagementYou may know that the cost of your affects your anger affects you in many ways.

Many of these costs probably led you to do one thing or another to avoid doing them in the future.

For example, you may have blamed yourself or others for your hurt. You may have insisted on you being right and others being wrong.

You may have blown up and yelled at people. Have these strategies made you less angry and happier with your life?

Have they moved you in directions you want your life to take? Now, we would like you to reflect on what you have done about your anger and how well these past strategies have worked for you.

The reason for doing this kind of reflection is that we don’t want you to go on doing more of the same, especially when old anger management strategies have not worked for you.

Successful anger transformation begins with facing – openly and honestly – each attempt at anger management, each past strategy, and seeing how it has worked.

Exercise: Taking a look at your anger management history

For this exercise, you will look at your past attempts to manage and control anger.

This two-part exercise will help you organize your memories across different situations and relationships. The left-hand column of the grid lists categories of people who might trigger anger.

If you’ve experienced anger in relation to one or another such person in your life, fill in the corresponding boxes in columns 2 and 3 (or use a separate piece of paper for your answers). Skip any people triggers that don’t apply to you.

In column 2, describe what you do to manage and control your anger when it’s triggered. What do you do with the feeling? Do you try to keep it from erupting? Do you push it down? Do you talk about it?

Do you tell yourself not to react? Do you try to relax? Do you reach for a drink? Do you beat yourself up for past episodes with lots of negative self-talk? Do you promise people you’re going to change?

In column 3, describe the outcome of your anger management efforts. Have you succeeded in reducing your anger feelings? Have you succeeded in controlling your aggressive behavior?

Have you been able to protect your relationships? Have you dealt with triggering feelings (shame, guilt, stress, frustration) in ways that don’t ignite anger.

Think about both the short term and the long term when you respond to these questions. Most importantly, what have you traded in or lost because of anger management and control efforts?

Examples could be lost time or energy, frustration, missed opportunities, or diminished relationships or activities that you might enjoy or care about. Some of these losses may be similar to the costs you mentioned in the last exercise.

People Triggers

Coping strategy
(my behaviors)

Outcome

Parents

 

 

Other family members

 

 

Supervisors

 

 

Coworkers

 

 

Friends

 

 

Partner/spouse

 

 

When doing an exercise like this, it can sometimes be helpful to see how another person filled it out. Take a look at the comments that Bob, a factory foreman, made about his anger management history.

People Triggers

Coping strategy
(my behaviors)

Outcome

My father criticized me.

I act tough, withdraw, and stay away from him.

No relationship. Talk at Christmas on the phone.

My sister cuts me down.

I tell her nothing about myself.

No relationship. Feel alone.

Boss criticizes my work.

Get cold, distant, tell him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Used to be friends. Now he doesn’t invite me to do things anymore.

Coworkers give me sloppy work.

Only give them written feedback to avoid blowing up.

People resent my notes, make jokes about me.

Friends don’t keep promises or aren’t on time.

I don’t say anything and pretend I’m okay about it.

I withdraw and stop calling them. Feel disgusted. Think about it for a long time.

Girlfriend disrespects or pressures me.

I get sarcastic or withdraw.

Feel resentful and more distant; lose sexual interest.

In the first part of this exercise, we looked at people who might trigger your anger. In the second part, you’ll identify feelings that might trigger your anger. Examples of feelings are listed in the left-hand column.

If you’ve experienced anger in response to any of the feelings listed, fill in the corresponding boxes in columns 2 and 3. Again, skip any triggers that don’t apply to you.

Emotional triggers are often less obvious that people triggers, so you may find it harder to identify them. Pay special attention to feelings you don’t like or that have an unpleasant quality to them.

As before, in column 2, describe what attempts you make to manage and control anger when it is ignited. In column 3, describe the outcome of your anger management and control efforts.

Some of these may be similar to the costs you described previously. Use a separate piece of paper for your answers if they won’t fit on the chart.

Emotional Triggers

Coping strategy
(my behaviors)

Outcome

Frustrated

 

 

Ashamed/guilty

 

 

Stressed

 

 

Afraid

 

 

Controlled

 

 

Disappointed

 

 

Threatened

 

 

Here is how Bob completed this part of the exercise. Notice that he altered the feelings category to more closely reflect his personal situation.

Emotional Triggers

Coping strategy
(my behaviors)

Outcome

Frustrated

I try to keep frustration to myself or come up with a reason for why things have gone wrong.

Sometimes I hit something (like the wall) to release my frustration.

Ashamed/guilty after screwing up

Try to say nothing and just fight for control of how I feel.

End up feeling worse for it; push people away and they resent me.

Feeling stressed when rushing or late

Try to stay controlled and keep my voice calm.

Eventually lose it; blow up if slightest thing goes wrong.

Feeling controlled by my girlfriend

I get sarcastic and withdraw.

Feel resentful, distant, “not there.” We fight about this.

When Bob reviewed this exercise, it was clear that his usual coping strategies such as being cold, distant, controlled, withdrawn, sarcastic, or silent weren’t working. That is because the outcome was usually to get so distant from others that relationships were damaged or lost.

After completing this anger management history exercise, look at what you’ve learned. Have your efforts to control anger worked? Have you kept relationships safe from the corrosive effects of your anger?

Have all your efforts to manage rage still ended in episodes of lashing out? Have your efforts to keep anger feelings down actually kept them down? Or has anger continued to eat at you?

Chances are, if you are like a lot of people nothing you’ve done to control anger has really worked. You keep doing things you regret. You keep damaging the ones you need and love. And you keep trading in more and more of your life flexibility in an effort to get a handle on your anger.

What does your heart and your gut tell you about your history of anger? In your heart, do you feel sick about it? Helpless? Hopeless? What does your experience tell you about your response to anger? Take a minute to take stock.

Anger is a powerful feeling that can sweep away your strongest determination. Despite your efforts to manage and control anger, you still pay for it. You keep feeling bad about yourself and those who trigger anger.

You want to change, but no amount of remorse or effort seems to control the force of your ignited rage. This is not a time to apply more willpower, either.

You’ve already been down that road. More willpower is not the solution. You only need to be willing to adopt a different strategy – take a different path.

Stuck in Anger, Now What?

Feeling stuck and at your wits’ end is an important moment because there is a lesson here that can change your life. Knowing in your mind and heart – with absolute certainty – that the things you’ve done because of anger and to manage anger doesn’t work is the first step of a journey down a new road.

Admitting and accepting that your anger feelings are stronger than your efforts to stop them creates a new freedom. You can do something new – because all your old ways to cope aren’t working and will not work.

When you look back at your responses to the previous exercises, you might think your situation looks hopeless. Yet there is hope, because there is another way. Hope starts with giving up on and stopping all your old anger management and control efforts.

They haven’t worked and will not work in the future. They’ve kept you trapped with a false belief that control is possible, that anger management is possible, and perhaps, if you work harder at it or trade in a little more of your life, things will get better.

Your experience tells you this isn’t so; so as long as you keep trying, you keep failing.

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