How to Identify What Is Making You Angry

Learn how to identify what is making you mad from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


I’m Ryan Fuller. I'm a clinical psychologist with a practice in New York City. I'm going to talk a little bit about how to identify what's making you angry. So one of the critical skills to develop in anger management is self monitoring. And oftentimes I've clients who think of this as quite kind of an annoying task because we have enough to do our days other than sort of like keeping track of what kind of emotional experiences we’re having or what triggers we are coming into contact with. But what I found and what the research bears out is that it's really important skill, at least for a time to begin to carefully monitor sort of the ups and downs of your day. When are you most stressed, when are you most irritable, when do you have the best coping resources. And so the first thing in terms of identifying what's actually making you angry is to have a really good self monitoring practice at least for a couple of weeks.

What you may begin to see are some predictable factors like for instance, the anger often comes late in the evenings after you've had a stressful day, your self regulation capacities or your willpower has kind of been tapped or tired. You’re stressed and you are coming into contact with someone who is then placing more demands on you. And that's somewhat predictable. The other thing that's important to do is once you kind of have an idea of the kinds of thoughts, feelings, sensations and other emotions that might put you more likely at risk of becoming angry, you then want to identify the anger episode and do what's called a chain analysis. So this comes from something called DBT or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy which was really designed to treat a specific psychiatric disorder that has anger as a very common component.

And in chain analysis, simply take the moment in which you became angry and look at the behaviour that occurred at that point. And then you want to actually chain backwards and look at every sort of particular incident or event that occurred before it. And you are going to based that oftentimes on his careful self-monitoring. So, for instance, where did it take place? What time was it? Who was I in the presence of? Okay. I was with my spouse. It was 8:30. I just had a long commute prior to that. I actually missed dinner because of meeting ran rate, so I was hungry. We are looking at the chain-link before that. And we’re backing up even further and I realized even the night before that I was a little bit sleep deprived because I had an argument the night before that and I received a letter from the IRS for financial strain.

Basically we want to have careful self monitoring and then we want to do a chain analysis to back up and just see the links of all the factors that put us at risk for the anger episode later. That's quite important. The other piece is, we know for anger, a lot of it has to do with how we evaluate the situation and so after the anger episode occurs, it's a very good idea to go back and do a post-mortem and try to see if you can understand what kind of evaluations or irrational beliefs you might have had about the person or the particular behavior or the incidents. You want to pay attention to what was I thinking at the time. I can't believe you did this to me. I was sort of shocked and surprised. You shouldn't have done that. This is a judgement. She's a terrible person and must not love me if she's acting in that way. And really pay attention to the kinds of thoughts that might be causing the anger. So those are the steps. I’d self monitor. Do a chain analysis and then pay very close attention to the kinds of irrational beliefs or thinking at the time that might be causing the anger.

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