10 Ways to Avoid the Anger Trap
Now and Over the Holidays
The holidays may come as a stressful time for many people. Whether it is being exposed to uncomfortable family dynamics, being reminded of loved ones that are not present, or financial stressors, the combination of these and many more factors can compromise your ability to keep it all together. With the added stress and complexities of a global pandemic, this year may likely be more challenging. Whether you are vulnerable to experiencing anger or not, I hope these 10 tips on avoiding the Anger Trap can be useful for you now and over the holidays.
- Identify Your Relationship with Anger
In the same way your current relationships are shaped by your past relationships, the same is true with anger. The best place to learn about your relationship with something is to find out how you view it. Is it an enemy or an ally? You will treat an enemy much different than an ally.
- Recognize Anger as a Natural Survival Response
Anger is a natural survival response. It communicates to you when something is wrong. Understanding this primary function of anger can help you see that anger serves a purpose. It can be an ally when we learn how to effectively work with it and utilize it for good.
- Identify the Real Cause of Your Anger
Anger is a strong emotion. Its primary purpose is to protect you from danger. Does your anger fit the facts? If not, what facts do fit the emotion? When you can identify the real cause of your anger, you have something that is workable.
- Identify Your Needs
When you can identify the real cause of your anger, you have access to identifying your needs. Behind most angry feelings exists an unmet need. Understanding this need gives you an opportunity to communicate this need and potentially get it met – by you, or another.
- Effectively Communicate
There are several factors involved to effectively communicate. First and foremost, you are not emotionally activated. Second, you are clear with yourself about this need and there is enough sense of self-worth in getting that need met. Third, you speak in “I” statements from your own experience, and refrain from blame. Fourth, you have a willingness and an ability to listen to the other side with an open mind. Fifth, you can identify where you are responsible. And sixth, you have a plan for negotiation, or to accept the reality and walk away.
- Eliminate Yourself from Igniters (Or Accept Your Reality)
Stepping away from situations that consistently incite anger is one effective strategy to saving yourself from creating or experiencing more situations that will wind you up in trouble with yourself or others. Allowing yourself space from triggering events can free up time for you to do your own work in managing your life and anger. Part of your survival as a human being involves social connection, so if everything makes you angry there are many tools that can help you begin climbing your way out of the Anger Trap so you can enjoy being with others.
a. Learn conflict resolution skills
b. Learn effective communications skills
c. See a therapist
d. Join a support group
- Learn and Practice Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and/or Join a DBT Group
When anger gets you into trouble and impairs your ability to function normally in life, such as maintaining relationships, keeping jobs, and depression, cognitive and mindfulness interventions can be extremely useful. Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a combination of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques. Seeing a trauma-informed therapist, learning CBT skills and joining a DBT Group are options to get you started.
a. Cope ahead to set yourself up for success
b. Challenge your rigidity to ingrained beliefs
b. Get real with yourself: what is staying angry getting you?
c. What do you really have to lose?
- Exercise, Eat Right, and Practice Mindfulness and/or Meditation Daily
You don’t have to see a therapist or join a support group to begin managing and working with your anger. Exercise and diet have been proven to be highly effective in boosting and maintaining mental and physical health. Many people that struggle to manage anger and depression find that exercise alone reaps astounding benefits and rewards. Similarly, practicing mindfulness or meditation for only 5 minutes a day can get you on the road to results you can feel.
- Practice Gratitude Daily
Another way to take hold of your emotions and avoid the Anger Trap, is to express gratitude on a daily basis. Like meditation, this requires no money, no technology, and relatively no time. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. With time, you’ll likely be amazed with the results. You can journal, or do your gratitudes in your head, or get creative. You can set a specific time daily, such as in the morning before you get out of bed, or at night before you go to sleep. According to relationship experts, it takes 5 positive interactions to repair 1 negative interaction (Gottman, J. & J.). Think about this as your relationship with yourself.
- Avoid Rumination (At All Costs)
Judgment is a lifetime sentence to unhappiness. Ruminating about who and how people have wronged us, including the world we live in and the systems that rule them, will never get us out of the Anger Trap. At all costs avoid ruminating about anything negative. Find a way to stop your negative thoughts from spinning out of control, and if you can, identify more beneficial thoughts to replace them. It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit, and an average of 66 days for the new behavior to become automatic (Healthline). A month to a year of building a new habit, compared to a lifetime of misery sounds like a winner..