5 Ways to Diffuse Your Anger By Dr. Tracey Marks
To better understand how to stop before you lose control, let’s look at the cycle of anger.
First You Have A Triggering Event
This would be something like feeling disrespected or used or having someone cut you off in traffic. In the case of scam victims, it is just thinking of or being reminded of your scam. This is followed by negative thoughts. These are automatic thoughts that pop into your mind right after the triggering event. Then you have an emotional response to your thought, even if your thought isn’t rational.
The next step in the cycle is the physical symptoms. Like a racing heart, or sweaty palms, or even tense muscles and jaw clenching. Then you have the behavioral response of yelling, cursing and arguing, or maybe even crying.
So with this cycle, you have things going on in your head that lead to behaviors. There are different places in this cycle you can change to address anger. This video is focused on the behavioral response.
Practice taking 3 deep breaths before you respond. This gives you the chance to resist lashing out automatically. Many times the anger response is impulsive and if you had been able to wait even 5 seconds, you may have had the control to hold back on saying something hurtful that you can’t take back.
Develop canned responses to controversial topics. If you’re always around people who like getting into political discussions and their views are opposite of yours, you want to already know what to say to shut the conversation down or make it clear that you have no comment. Prepare a couple of statements you can use for any topic or situation that you know triggers you. If someone repeatedly tries to engage you in the conversation or activity that you’re avoiding, use the broken record technique where you give the same response. You don’t need to craft another response, so they get it this time. Saying the same thing in the same tone sends a stronger message that you mean what you said.
Develop statements that de-escalate the situation before you get too angry. These would be statements like I need to take a break I need a time out – we can talk later Or the classic, maybe we need to agree to disagree on this
These are canned statements similar to the no comment statements, but the purpose of these statements is to stop a conflict that you have already participated in but you recognize it’s getting too heated for you and you’re about to blow. This is where it is helpful to know what your physical symptoms are when you start to get angry or rageful. This is step 4 in the cycle of anger. Do you start sweating? Does your chest get warm? Knowing this about yourself can help you recognize when you are going down the path to rage and know when to use this technique.
Stop and observe your anger. Examine it as if you’re another person in the room looking at you. What do you look like? Do you appear intensely angry because you’re throwing things? Or do you seem snippy and hot-headed? Are you talking loudly or brooding in your head? By disengaging from your anger and actually observing it in a mindful way, you take the energy out of it. This gives you time to avoid lashing out.
Use diversions. Let’s say you remove yourself from the situation, by using the third technique of shutting things down with an I need a time out statement. Do something to distract yourself like listening to music, taking a brief walk, or even coloring. Coloring complex drawings is a popular stress-reduction technique.