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Five Easy Steps

 Woman and young girl embracing outdoors smilingWhy have I spent so much time on the topic of anger?

Because it is so prevalent and we see its destructive powers everywhere. Like summer wildfires, the results of anger unleashed and unchecked by reason leave behind a path of destruction. Our lives, too, can become tinder boxes ready to explode with just a spark of irritation.

As therapists we see the results of growing up in homes where anger is out of control. The wounds and scars run deep.

Unless recognized, addressed and changed, the patterns of behavior repeat themselves from one generation to another.

Shame, guilt, fear and sometimes downright terror often keep us from getting the help we need. Yet getting that help is the most freeing thing you can do.

Listen to what your anger is telling you. Maybe it’s time to review your priorities and goals. What is most important in your life – your career or your family? Do you spend time with your kids? If you grew up with constant turmoil, conflict and anger, you may be repeating those patterns with your children.

We are not doomed to repeat patterns that are destructive. Knowledge gives us power to change directions, heal and put in motion a different set of rules. Find a good therapist who can help you unravel the roots of your anger.

Five Simple Steps

Here are 5 simple steps to express anger effectively and channel it appropriately. It is a learned skill.

1.When you feel angry, STOP. Don’t immediately react. Take some slow, even breaths. Count to ten if necessary to calm down. Then ask yourself if the anger you feel is appropriate for this situation. If not, what hidden issues are being triggered making this worse?

2. When you are feeling calmer, ask yourself, what do I want to accomplish? What do I want to have happen? Will an angry outburst give me the result I want? We don’t have to be afraid of our anger; we just need to weigh carefully the outcome.

3. Shift from feeling to doing. Move from anger to a clear plan of action. Don’t just feel hurt and angry. Do something constructive about it. Start a conversation. Evaluate and problem solve.

4. Do not accuse. Shifting blame or using accusatory statements only increases the problem. Take responsibility for what you do and say. Instead of saying, you make me so angry, say; I get really angry when this is happening. Then state clearly and simply what you would like to have happen. Focus on what you want versus putting a guilt trip on someone else. Be willing to negotiate or compromise a solution.

5. Listen Each of us come to confrontations and conflicts with our own set of rules, perceptions and agendas. Unless we are able to listen and discuss we will continue to be in our battle zone.

Learning any new skill takes time and practice.

Put in place a prevention plan to reduce the possibility of anger outbursts. Here are some things that will help.

  • Recognize your trigger points. Replace angry thinking with problem solving. Continue to keep an anger log until it no longer is a problem. Remind yourself you no longer what to be reactive.


  • Have someone model appropriate coping strategies for handling stress and anger. Rehearse them and get feedback. Practice these new skills as often as possible.


  • Use relaxation techniques to reduce your stress levels during the day. Mentally visualize yourself reacting in a way that will meet your goals.


  • Become aware of those times and places when your anger gets triggered. Avoid them if possible. Learn effective communication and conflict management skills. Ask for what you want and listen to the other person’s point of view.


  • Clarify your values to reduce irrational thinking. Expand your frame of reference. Replace negative thinking with constructive problem-solving, empathy, positive self-talk and affirmations.


  • Re-direct your anger. Put it into constructive action. Turn it into humor.

Believe in yourself.

Ask God for the strength and courage to be honest with yourself.

When we can acknowledge our vulnerabilities, fears, and perceived weaknesses, we will discover how free that makes us. But if we continue to hide our vulnerabilities, they will rule our life and we remain a prisoner of them.


Marlene Anderson

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