Top 5 Tips for Handling Anger

Learn the top five tips for handling anger from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.

Transcript

I'm Dr. Ryan Fuller and I'm a Clinical Psychologist. I'm going to provide you with some top tips for handling anger. So the first thing we know that's important for any kind of behavior change is in fact to be motivated. Particularly around the issue of anger, many people say they want to manage their anger but it's really coming from an external source. It might be an employer, it might be their spouse or their family members. It's a really good idea if you're gonna make lasting behavior changes that you, in fact, are motivated internally.

One way to go about this, in fact, is to look at what are the consequences of your anger-related behaviors. When I speak to people with that particular tone or I use profanity or I yell or I destroy property by throwing a phone or something like that, what are the real consequences. It's important to look at the short-term and long-term consequences. So anytime I'm starting with an anger management group, I have them really pay attention to what the consequences of their actions are and make lists of the short and long term factors that are important. What that typically does is it helps them to become motivated themselves internally and that's important.

The second tip is to really begin a very serious program of self-monitoring. To begin to really understand what are the internal factors and the external factors that make anger issues more likely. So for instance, I have clients pay attention to how long it's been since they've eaten, time of day, location, what people are present, or particular situations whether it's financial stress or a project at work or a problem with the kids that make aggressive behaviors or other anger management issues more likely. So through this self-monitoring, they become very aware of what's going on for them that puts them in what I call a risk window. So what I want to do is through self-monitoring, we have people then begin to notice, "Here are the early warning signs. I'm gonna be angry. Now I've got to sort of stop and do something to rejuvenate myself and replenish."

The third tip is in fact finding things that kind of replenish our resources, because for the most part anger management issues are really about behavior. They're about behaviors that are driven by urges. So what we know is when anger comes into play and becomes quite intense, we often times have urges to be aggressive, maybe have revenge fantasies and things like that, or we may engage in impulsive behaviors. What we know though is that we can increase our self-regulation, sort of capacity to hold back acting on those urges by doing certain things. Those kinds of things are positive experiences -- doing things that are fun, engaging in a relaxation exercise. So we want to make sure that people really learn to involve themselves in recreation, they get social support, they learn to relax using a breathing exercise, or do something, so that when they're monitoring, and they catch their temperature rising, and they're getting in greater and greater risk of engaging in a maladaptive way, they can bring their temperature down by doing something that's more positive, something that's relaxing.

Another important tip is that we know, for anger, that beliefs and expectations really drive it. There certainly are triggers that are going to upset everyone and possibly lead to anger, but we also know that very, very rigid, unrealistic, irrational beliefs, and unrealistic expectations lead to higher levels of anger and make it more likely for most of us that we're going to behave aggressively. So it's important through the self-monitoring that we also are paying attention to our hostile, angry thoughts and those that are rigid and dogmatic.

By beginning to understand what they are and how they're related to our anger, we can then one be on the lookout for them and see them coming so that we can be more hyper-vigilant about making sure during those times we're not going to act in an aggressive manner. By recording them, we can learn later to challenge them and to come up with realistic rational alternatives.

Now it's not as simple as just identifying a rational alternative as if that's somehow going to replace it. What we want to do is in fact practice. What I do with anger management clients is we have them figure out what's the rational alternative, what's the coping statement they can use in the moment, and begin just like you would with physical exercise to practice rehearsing it again and again until those thoughts become more automatic. Now again it might take some time. We don't want someone to repeat something that's just positive that they don't believe in. We want it to be realistic, and believable, and in fact, to be the dominant responses more so than the irrational belief. So we want to change those beliefs and have realistic expectations in order to keep the anger intensity down.

The last tip is active problem-solving. What we know is that for certainly some people with anger management issues, they go directly at a problem in a very aggressive way. While we don't want that to occur, we also don't want people to lose self-respect for themselves by becoming what some term as a doormat and being very passive. We want people to actively and assertively approach problems and try to solve them and to communicate with the other party about those issues. We don't want them to sit back passively or become aggressive, but we can't have people sit back and let things just fester and build. So those are some practical tips you can begin to implement. If you have a serious anger management problem, we certainly suggest that you contact a professional and get help. There's lots of evidence that anger management issues when dealt with with an effective strategy can be reduced in a short amount of time.

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