Anger is a powerful, perplexing and unpredictable emotion. When was the last time you climbed the anger ladder? The lower steps; minor irritation, annoyance, frustration. If fatigue and helplessness happen to be there, almost like unwelcome friends? You might skip some steps up the ladder to pure anger. Pure anger is easy to see, easy to hear in tone, volume and impulsive words. Saying the mean thing, true for you but hurtful. In the moment, you don't care or even, you want to hurt them.....This cluster of reactions means a loss of impulse control. The brain isn't thinking clearly. You've activated anxiety or even the dreaded fight or flight response. Another big step up is rage; some people actually do see red, lose all control of their words and actions. Not good for anyone.
Anger has a place; to protect, to defend, to express our feelings about injustice, hurt. Being part of the human family means you observe and learn rules about anger. Think about how your family expressed anger or didn't! Is shouting acceptable? Is it a certain tone of voice? Sarcasm okay? Slamming doors? Do you walk away instead of getting angry? Are you supposed to never bring up the conflict again? Work it through until it's over? Buy gifts as a way to say you're sorry?
What does healthy anger look like? Anger management isn't just a television show! It's really a way to cope with your anger. Coping well means making decisions about your feelings not letting anger direct you. You, deciding when you're too angry to talk about it. You need to withdraw or move on for now. Sometimes, saying what you are angry about is enough cool the anger. "I'm angry you were late again. Now, lets go see the movie." People get angry in differing degrees and different ways.
Some people get angry quickly. Managing anger is about not accepting your angry feelings as truth.. Your partner/ friend wasn't late because they knew it would irritate you. Or because they don't respect you. Or because they don't care if they break a promise to you...those thoughts make you climb up the ladder fast. Until, research shows, the critical thinking part of your brain isn't working well enough to even hear the truth.
Managing anger takes recognizing you're climbing the ladder. It takes managing the emotions and recognizing the physical symptoms of ladder climbing. Are my shoulders tense? Am I clenching my jaw? Am I frowning? Stepping up...Is my face turning red? Is my heart pounding? Am I making my fingers into fists? In other words, on the higher rungs of the ladder; have you activated your fight or flight response? If so, it's official! You are too angry to have a reasonable discussion. Best to back off until you feel calmer.
I like the phrase, giving someone a chance to explain. Because it helps to see the action. You are GIVING them your attention. A simple what happened? can be a way to stay on the lower steps of your own anger ladder. As you are waiting for them, thinking about why this is happening again, try to think of possible reasons that aren't blaming. The traffic was worse than expected. They got a flat tire. Or even, this is who they are. They are never on time. It's not even about you. Maybe if you're honest with yourself right now, you can admit part of the reason you're angry is you had a bad day. You didn't need this. You're starving.You skipped lunch. Anger gives us all a way to work with our feelings, to think through what's important, to have compassion for ourselves and the other person.
So you've managed to express your anger clearly and well. You had a conflict. What does resolution look like? This important step helps in avoiding or at least getting through anger quicker in the future. The other person apologizes for being late. You go to dinner. Later, you think a little about how angry you were. This person is late sometimes. Maybe closure means circling back around and saying, I hate it when you're late especially for dinner. Why didn't you respond to my text? And the other person saying, because I knew you'd be angry! Maybe both of you can agree to a change. Managing anxiety about being late again by sending a text on one side and managing anger and practicing acceptance on the other. Maybe, what's needed is agreement; it's okay to order an appetizer, make it a joke and say they are paying if late....I've seen many creative solutions.
I know this isn't enough information about how to cope with anger. But the point is, keep trying. Listen to your anger. Practice coping rather than feeling guilty or sorry later or even avoiding until you explode. You'll feel better!