What makes you angry? Disrespect, loud noises, unfriendly, self-centered people, put-downs, rude behavior, people who break the rules? Anger is normal and it is an energy which can help you accomplish goals. But, if you can’t detect your anger in the early stages – you may find yourself over-reacting when something or someone triggers you. When that happens — you’ve wasted your energy and your anger!
Awhile ago I cut somebody off in traffic and this person was upset. This person pulled up beside me at the next traffic light and I apologized but this person wasn’t having it. They started swearing and threatening me and usually in the past I would get out and this person would be eating through a straw for the next month. I couldn’t help myself but to start getting angry and yelling comments back at this person. Eventually we just drove on. Any advice to help me keep my anger under control next time? Anon
Maybe you are dealing with guilt and wishing you had handled the situation with a ‘cool head’. What if you had done something differently and had been more aware of your own anger and triggers? We teach that — Anger is a normal emotion which can be redirected into healthy thinking and skills in order to achieve healthy goals.
Self-awareness: How about writing out the road rage event and identifying what you were thinking. Most likely, you had “hot self-talk”. Hot self-talk will cause you to react more angrily than you normally would. Maybe you began saying to yourself- “I can’t let him/her disrespect and humiliate me that way!” “I’m going to tell him off!”, etc. It’s time to start thinking differently.
How about considering what is going on with that other person. Maybe he/she has a mental problem or has had a very stressful day. Maybe you could have counted to ten and just kept silent knowing that yelling was not going to help and actually could escalate the situation. How about telling yourself that “this person isn’t going to get my goat.” or putting yourself in their shoes. There’s a reason they got so mad – that doesn’t mean it was justified or acceptable but, you did cut them off.
The problem is that you could have provoked that person more with your rage. Your outburst may have incited you (or him) to cause physical harm.
When someone gets that enraged- it’s best to back off for your own protection. You don’t want the other person to control how you feel/act. He can’t think straight. You can’t think straight and you won’t solve the issue then. Road rage – any kind of rage – leads to violence. You don’t need to become one of it’s victims or end up in jail.
Write it out:
What physical feeling did I sense? (flushed face, knot in stomach, tense muscles, tightness in neck/chest, etc.)
What I thought (hot self-talk) –
How I acted (unhealthy behavior)-
What else could I think instead (calming thoughts)?
How else could I have responded (assertive/empathic action)?
How could I have used my anger in a healthy way?
Then, try out the new calming thoughts and healthy action the next time you get angry or someone provokes you.. Write out the consequences. What happened afterward? How did it affect you and others?
A healthier response will empower you to take control of yourself (thoughts and actions) so you don’t waste your anger!
Lynette J. Hoy, NCC, LCPC, CAMS-V
CounselCare Connection, P.C. – Anger Management Institute
1200 Harger Rd. Sutie 602, Oak Brook, IL 60523