Anger is a tough emotion. It feels so urgent and all-consuming. And we feel like we have to act on it. Right. Now. And so, we do. We say something cruel or sarcastic. We yell. We slam doors. We become stone-cold silent and refuse to communicate. We replay the situation or interaction over and over. And we get madder and madder.
But even though our anger feels overpowering and overwhelming, we can avoid having a rage-filled, knee-jerk reaction. We can do better in our relationships, and we can take better care of ourselves.
And it starts with a small, simple action, that is, pause.
How long should you pause? The amount of time is different for everyone but some experts recommend around 20 minutes.
What should you do during your pause? Observing your thoughts, feelings and impulses without acting on them or drawing conclusions about what they mean. It also might help to do some deep breathing to soothe your nervous system.
Right after your pause or some time later, you can also journal about your anger. Anger is often a secondary emotion that covers up deeper, more vulnerable emotions, such as hurt or betrayal. You might feel slighted, unimportant, overlooked or rejected.
Think about the emotions underlying your frustration or outright rage. Reflect on whether these emotions are somehow tied to pivotal past experiences (which can explain why your anger is so big and visceral).
Remember not to judge or criticize yourself for your anger. Many of us get uncomfortable with this emotion and tend to pretend it doesn’t exist until it grows and grows, and we explode. Instead, think of your anger as a valid message you’re trying to understand. And of course, if you’ve lashed out, absolutely take responsibility, apologize, and learn to manage your anger effectively.
But we can only do that once we accept that it’s OK to feel this way. Which is also the beginning of accepting ourselves.
For further support & advice contact EAP Assist.