“Conquer yourself rather than the world.” This indeed seems to be the motto of the most inspiring and convincing people throughout human history. From today’s neuro-scientists and quantum physicists to the most famous sages in the past, all point to one simple fact – that heaven and hell is located between our ears. It is WE who determine what reality truly is. Our views, our conditioning, our habits, and our experience all play a role in how we see and interact with this world. While it is clear that we can not always control the outer environment around us, we can certainly have more control of our internal mental states.
Introduction to Anger Management Techniques and Mindset
Anger is the most destructive of all human emotions. Learning ways to tame this wildebeest is going to be one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself and to the people around you. It is not an easy task. There is no pill you can take for it. It requires patience and lots and lots of practice.
Its important to understand that dealing with anger calls for a multi facet approach. You’ll find this page to be organized into some of the most simple anger management techniques, more intermediate types and an introduction to advanced and truly transformative methods.
As you read this page, you’ll notice my admiration for science and teachings from ancient wisdom traditions of the East. Shaolin Kung Fu and David Carradine movies in particular have some simple yet profound snippets of peaceful warrior wisdom. Shaolin approach to dealing with hostility is truly unique. Throughout history all these monks wanted is to perfect their minds but their monasteries were constantly being attacked by robbers. To protect themselves they were forced to develop martial arts skills that would kick some serious butt. What’s really cool is that their goal was to always fight off their opponents with skillful means and keep their inner balance by avoiding anger. Perhaps you’ll agree, we could all benefit from acquiring these skills as well.
Simple Techniques – Anger Mentor’s BREATHE Method
While these simple methods are a bit more like putting a bandage on a shotgun wound, they are really effective in clearing your mind and preventing “collateral” damage.
Whenever anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach it. – Rene Descartes
It also helps to look up and move around. The trick here is to distract yourself from the “source” of your anger. Occupy your mind with something else - start counting something in front of you like a stack of books, pens on your desk, birds on the wire, whatever, just count something to 20 or to 50. This deep breathing technique and distraction of your mind allows the proverbial champagne cork to gently slide out of the bottle neck, instead of popping out violently.
2. Reverse. After having avoided a huge outburst, now is the time to stop everything for a moment and go into an emotional time-out. Practice detaching yourself from a fiery situation as soon as it arises. Don’t say anything, don’t do anything, don’t even think anything. All you want to do here is simply step back from a situation that just made you loose your cool. If you feel an outburst coming and can’t control it, excuse yourself for a moment and walk away from a situation. Drink a glass of cold water. Let off some steam by walking, exercising, washing dishes, whatever but do not punch anything to “vent” it. Just chill until you have your mind back.
3. Explore your state of mind. To start with, name the feeling and admit that you are angry. (This creates a mental circuit between the amygdala – where your emotions are processed, and the more rational - pre-frontal cortex part of the brain.) After you have identified the feeling, don’t judge yourself, don’t reject your anger, simply observe it. Where is the sensation of anger in your body? See if you can examine the inner conditions that led you to this state of mind. What triggers came to play? Where did you feel like you lost control? Are you trying to control something that can not be controlled? What are you afraid of? Is it really worth the fight or can a favorable outcome can be achieved in a less violent way? Many times, you’ll notice that being kind and assertive is incredibly more effective to get what you want.
Those who anger you, conquer you - Elizabeth Kenny
5. Turn your mind towards something completely different – Many times all you need to do is refocus to another object – pattern interrupt. Remember the “I feel pretty” song from Anger Management movie? Change your physiology. If you feel like you absolutely have to say something then write a letter to that person, seal it, put an address on it, heck even put a stamp on it and set it aside with a full intention of sending it. If its an e-mail then whatever happens, DO NOT send it now, save it into a drafts folder. Next day, have a good breakfast and burn the darn thing.
“Big dogs don’t bark, they don’t need to because they know they are big.”
7. Enjoy the rest of your day. If you handled the situation well, pat yourself on the back or shoot me an e-mail and I’ll pat you on the back, you deserve it. If you lost it and created a big mess, then its OK too. Learn from the event and apologize to a person you hurt when possible (the sooner the better.) Then relax, anger management is a practice, not a one time “fix all” pill. I promise, you will get better at this with time.
While the previously mentioned techniques deal with anger on the surface, these intermediate methods will stop the bleeding, apply antiseptic, bandage your open wound and help you heal.
1. Face your demons – take fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time and write down a few cases when anger brought most damage to your relationships, health or professional life. Look deep, trace it back years before if you have to. What would your life would have been if these anger driven events didn’t happen? Be courageous, be honest with yourself. Realize the gravity of those situations. Cry if you need to but face them and admit these things. It is immensely important to have an honest moment with yourself. After you do, your heart will open and the ground will be set for planting new seeds of change. Realize that while transforming your anger is a lot about you it is mostly about others. Make a promise to yourself to take small steps to improve. Keep in mind it took a long time to develop destructive habits so it can take just as long to acquire new ones.
Master Kan: Do wars, famine, disease and death exist? Do lust, greed and hate exist? They are man’s creation, brought into being by the dark side of his nature. – Episode No.46
2. Identify situations that make you stress – rushing, someone nagging, hectic routine, etc. Learn to identify frustration early on as a prelude to anger. Make an action plan to deal with every frustration that you just identified. When you feel it, put on your armor of awareness and use the correct techniques to protect your mind.
3. Similar to a previous point, make an inventory of your weaknesses. When you go hiking with weak knees you bring hiking sticks, when you ride a bike you wear a helmet, when you carry a bomb with a short fuse you bring water! If you identify and understand your flaws you will look for ways to fix them. Someone who knows his weaknesses has a chance to overcome them; someone who’s not even aware of his weaknesses is bound to be a slave to them.
4. Do whatever it takes to soften your heart. Most people I work with admit that their anger issues stem from being chronically depressed and pissed off at the entire wide world. If I inquire with them about the last time they did something good for others, many times I get a raised eyebrow and a surprised look.
You might think this is silly but its a fact of life - good deeds make you feel great and the better you feel the less likelihood you’ll have any anger issues. Most people do not make this connection. So try to lay off the emotionally dramatic shows, the bitter songs and set some boundaries around those nagging people in your life. Get a cat, plant some tomatoes, buy your mom some flowers, reconnect with a fun friend, perform one act of kindness a day, whatever the heck it takes, just do good! This will make your mind more spacious and establish a strong capacity to deal with life’s challenges.
5. Practice giving people the benefit of the doubt. In order words, make room for other people’s weaknesses. Think about it, many around you respect and love you just the way you are. Even with all of your faults, you are dear friend, a loved partner and obviously you have more good qualities than you are willing to admit. Just try to imagine how much energy and patience it takes for someone to deal with your anger issues, try to feel how they feel when you hurt them. They have to put up with a lot so why not return the favor?
Everyone’s brain wires differently based on their genes, conditioning and various mental associations they have built up in this life. Respect other people’s opinions and their faults. Just like you, they do what they can in life. They live how they know. In a big scheme of things, we are all brothers and sisters and we seek happiness to the best of our ability.
6. Learn to quiet your mind. There is a great saying – “God starts talking, when you stop.” Buddhists share a view that mind itself is rich with answers but all of them are drowning in our endless mental chatter. Meditation increases awareness of your emotions, including anger, and serves as a lighthouse that shines the light on your flaws, allowing the muddy waters to settle and exposing the inherent wisdom in every situation. If you have no time to meditate at least try to schedule in some down time in your day or simply introduce a 10 minutes of mindfulness into whatever you’re doing. Do this and you will be kind and pleasant to be around with.
7. Contemplate impermanence. OK, “This is weird,” you may say, “why in the world I need to think that I will die some day?” Simple answer - death puts your life in perspective. Constantly making an effort to contemplate how fragile and precious this life is is a powerful reminder of what’s important in your life. Maybe that next argument about “who changes the baby diaper” won’t take place because its just not worth wasting time over it.
Another way to foster your relationship with impermanence is to take solace in fact that everything painful eventually ends too. No matter how bad your life may be, always remember – this too shall pass.
8. Practice gratitude. Make a list of 5 things you are grateful for every morning. Write it and feel it if you can. Do it while driving. Its not just some new agey technique, it diverts energy from constant self obsession to an outward object and trains your mind to surrender control and help you realize that some of the best things in life come as a gift in unexpected situations or people around you. It also re-inforces the fact that no matter how ticked off about something you may find yourself – there are still plenty of reasons why your life is still blooming awesome!
9. Watch what you eat. Your diet does have an effect on your body and mental states. Certain foods can truly make you more irritable and angry. According to the science of Ayurveda, tomatoes, certain peppers and other spicy foods are considered to have energy heating element to them. While aiding your digestion they can also produce an internal over-heating effect that can bring about irritability and a lower threshold for controlling your anger. Caffeine and alcohol are also notorious for irritating your central nervous system.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose – Unknown.”
11. Start a diary to track your progress. Yes its a lot of work but only if you are into writing novels. You can just write a sentence or two every day or even a couple of times a week. Simply jot down what caused you to be angry and what you did about it. Say a word or two about what you learned and that’s it! Diary is also a grate place to keep your daily gratitude lists.
The advanced methods are not about screaming louder, moving faster, or pushing magical buttons. They are about looking deeper, addressing the root causes of anger itself. These will not only help you rehabilitate from your wounds but will give you the armor to prevent your anger arising altogether. Simply put, instead of getting angry at usual things, you’ll find yourself more patient and at ease in any situation. This is where you develop life wisdom and relax into it. This is what its all about.
Let me tell you a little “secret”. No one can truly make you angry unless you let them. The reason anger arises as a knee jerk reaction is because your brain wired this way without you even being aware of this. What you need to do is to learn how to expand your awareness about your inner processes and brake those mental associations between external irritants and your automatic reactions to them.
The advanced methods have to do with taking an integrative approach towards solving your anger issues. This has to do with revamping your mindset and your habits. This is where you learn more about your mind, body and the connection between them. These techniques can put you in control of any situation. You will have the stamina and perseverance that you need to live an empowered life. You can truly “kick ass, take no names” and be loved for it. Rather than being drained by your previous negativity, people around you will feel energized and inspired.
Here you must acquire skills on how to effectively deal with conflict, how to be humble but powerful, be assertive but not aggressive, be kind but not weak, be wise but not proud. All of this will take you some time but trust me when I say this – emotional intelligence is absolutely, hands down, best investment you can make in yourself.
If you are ready to get started then download the Free Guide - 7 Secrets to Anger Management from Ancient Wisdom. Located in the upper right corner of this blog, this short e-book will reveal some special ways of working with destructive emotions in every day life. You’ll find out why gaining control over emotions is so difficult (if not impossible) and discover the first steps on the path to self-mastery that is time proven and effective.
Master Po: To live, Grasshopper. To Live! — Episode No. 35
Got an insight or a good anger management technique of your own? Please share in the comments below.