I observe with slack jawed awe as a customer has a meltdown of manic intensity over an account payment query that would bring the New York stock exchange to its knees—the amount in question? Ten dollars! Like a large indignant toad she looms over the cashier who exhibits superhuman maturity and restraint. Without raising her voice, she smiles and gives a logical step by step explanation of why there is no error.
This information is obviously not penetrating the customer’s self righteous fog so the cashier offers to credit her account. At this, the customer hisses I’m not a charity case! I don’t want a credit! I’m a bookkeeper; this account is wrong; you’ve made a mistake! The cashier points out that it’s an automated accounts system and asks whether she should cancel the credit. Yes yells the customer.
When I walk by twenty minutes later, the combat weary but still calm cashier is asking so can we get this clear? Would you like me to credit your account or not? The customer by this time is the subject of ill concealed humor from others. Her ego temporarily punctured, she whips the printout from the cashier’s grasp and departs.
What Was That All About?
Why expend all that energy making a major production out of a minor issue? Why did she so desperately need to be right while making the cashier wrong? The amount in question was absurdly small so it wasn’t about the money.
Obviously her sense of value was disproportionately dependant on being right. When your sense of value is fragile the propaganda machine inside your head often attributes malevolent intent to people when none exists. I know you’re laughing at me….I know you’re out to get me so I’m going to get you first.
But Anger In Itself Isn’t Bad
Like the stress response, it’s a messenger. Anger has a purpose and is frequently misunderstood. Used productively in the right context, it can be a powerful force for good.
- Anger helps us draw boundaries
- Anger tells us what is and is not acceptable
- Anger alerts us when we’re giving too much and receiving too little
- When someone’s words or actions make us angry, it tells us what WE need to change to feel safe and comfortable again
- Anger invites us to look inward—rather than the knee jerk reaction of lashing out.
Don’t Believe Me?
Rewind the movie of your life to a time when you felt trapped, victimized, backed into a corner—and suddenly something snapped “enough! I will not tolerate this! I am worth more, and this has to change now” you screamed. I’m willing to bet that desperate, angry outburst led to a quantum leap forward in some area of your life—a dead end work situation, a painful relationship, an overdue lifestyle makeover or an increase in self value. Anger can catapult us out of a comfort zone that has ceased to be comfortable.
25 Ways To Handle Anger Productively
- To derail the momentum of someone’s rage—replace the anger trance with a sudden change of subject, or authoritative command. The verbal equivalent of slapping someone out of hysteria.
- Although being disemboweled by a leopard might be more appealing—agree with her, show empathy, invite her to sit down, relax and build rapport you must have had a really rough day…..I know how frustrating it is….this deflates anger instantly.
- Count to ten or visualize a tranquil scene….yes it does work! It allows the adrenalin surge to subside.
- Instead of reacting like a sleep deprived snake, challenge your perception of the issue; reframe the picture in your mind. Perhaps his intent isn’t malicious. You wouldn’t get mad at a toddler for his limited communication skills, would you?
- Breathe—slowly and deeply! It is biologically impossible to remain tense or angry while doing this. Try it!
- Anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the brain; walk away—mentally and/or physically. It could save someone’s life.
- Before radically redecorating your aggressor’s face, press the pause button and ask yourself what underlying fear or insecurity pulled your anger trigger.
- Get to know your anger triggers intimately.
- Use your mental zoom out facility. See the whole picture, not just part of it. Put things into perspective.
10. If it feels as though you’re trying to reason with a stick of dynamite, hold up a ‘red card’ or ‘stop sign’ to call a halt, while you all cool down and evaluate the situation.
11. Channel your rage into physical exercise—go for a walk, run, ride a bike, dance or pummel a punch bag. Regular exercise reduces the anger impulse.
12. If you can visualize eviscerating him or her, you can visualize floating safely above the war zone in a bulletproof bubble.
13. Toilet train your impulses, instead of exploding lock yourself in the bathroom and vent.
14. When your self esteem is strong, you’re confident about where you stand, so you don’t need to keep ‘growling’ to prove it.
15. Suppressed anger makes you sick. It’s as productive as ingesting arsenic. Pour it out on paper, do some emotional vomiting. You might even end up with a bestselling book.
16. Find constructive alternatives to yelling, swearing, attacking, throwing things or ingesting substances. Have a personal life goal that you are passionate about. Think about it, talk about it, study and research it and work towards it—especially when you feel threatened, overwhelmed and powerless.
17. Laugh! If it’s likely to fuel the fire—lock yourself away and laugh. Use your overflow valve.
18. Talk anger triggers through with a counselor, therapist or good friend.
19. Build firm personal boundaries so that it’s harder for people to pull your triggers.
20. Cut or limit contact with people who are anger triggers in your life. Pump up your verbal self defense skills.
21. Recharge your batteries regularly in a quiet ‘safe space’ that no people or noise can invade.
22. Remember our brains cannot discriminate between what is real or imagined. What you consistently watch, listen to; participate in, focus on and who you hang out with colors the way you react to the world.
23. If you do explode, once you have calmed down—apologize; it costs nothing and has a profound impact.
24. Use your resources—get professional help.
25. Use anger CONstructively instead of DEstructively.