Facing emotions Happiness How to deal Resilience

Transforming anger into peace

Do you ever get angry and lose your temper? I’ve done this, and it can be embarrassing. Looking silly is never fun, and I always regret it later.  Being controlled by one’s emotions is just bad.

Anger can be a great productivity tool when it drives you to make needed life changes.  If it shows up often and feels like an uncontrollable force in your life, however, it will bring with it a constant torrent of emotions that make thinking and acting rationally much harder.

We are also subjected to an overwhelming load of information and opinions through social media and news outlets, and some of it we will find offensive.  So be mindful to these stimuli, and pay attention to how certain topics make you feel.

Here’s a 10-step process for transforming feelings of anger. Below each step, I have included an example oh how the question might be answered:

  1. Ask yourself what emotion is behind the anger?

Anger tends to mask other emotions, and most likely the anger you are feeling is a cover for another triggered feeling. What emotion was triggered for you in the situation? Shame, feeling neglected, feeling embarrassed or disrespected, ignored or belittled? Find the dark emotion behind the anger, and you are closer to uncovering the source for your outburst.  It can be quite freeing to determine our triggers for anger, and will allow your reaction to make more sense.  (Example – a friend teases me after I describe a new idea for a product. I get angry at him, and later realize that embarrassment, disrespect and disappointment in hearing contrary views were the reasons for the anger.)

2. Ask yourself if the intention behind the action that made you angry was to cause the above emotion?

Usually, this is not the case.  We all have the tendency to get stuck in our heads at times and think only of ourselves, and how certain actions affect us. There’s a good chance that the person that triggered the anger was acting without considering how their actions might affect others.  (Example – was he meaning to embarrass me? In this case, no, he was just expressing a contrary opinion.)

3. Is the emotion that you felt a logical response to the action? Why or why not?

(For example – no, the emotion is stuck in old feelings from this being done by someone else in front of others, and everyone laughing at me in response.  Or yes, he should have mentioned his views in a more considerate way.  If I’m not sure how logical the emotion was, it might be a good idea to ask a friend what their thoughts were on the conversation and whether my response would have been their response.)

4. Could there have been a misinterpretation between what was done or said and how you felt?  Either on your side, the other person’s side, or both?

(For example – yes, I might not have explained my idea with just a few words in a way that makes sense to others.  Or yes – he might not have realized that his comments might be offensive.)

5. What’s another way you can interpret what was said or done?

(Example – I was having a bad day and was more sensitive to comments than I normally would be.  Or, this was not the right time for either of us to have this discussion.  Or, his thoughts have merit and I should consider the ways in which this idea might not work when designing the finished product.)

6. Is there yet another spin you can put on what was done? This time, one that shows empathy.

(Example – he was having a bad day, and was reacting to that rather than to my idea.  I can have empathy for that, and realize that this is someone else’s behavior. It exists outside of me, and I can also choose how I react to it. I can simply take measures to ensure that my boundaries are clear in cases where I have felt disrespected.)

7. What are some preventative measures that you can take in future to avoid this happening again? List out all of the options that come to you.

(Example – One option is to look back over previous experiences with him.  Do they have a tendency to be a naysayer to any ideas that I, or others, have?  Or, could I have overreacted to a simple opinion?  If either of these is true, I will be more cautious with expressing new ideas to this person in future when either of us appear to be tired or having a bad day, and try to keep conversations limited to safe topics. If I realize that I was being oversensitive,  I will try to be more accepting of unexpected responses when expressing new ideas.  When I expect only 1 specific outcome for a conversation, I could be setting myself up for disappointment.)

8. Is there anything you need to say in order to feel heard about the emotions felt in #1?

(Example – I need to express how disrespected and embarrassed  I felt by this friend.  Or, I need to go back to this conversation with him, and apologize for overreacting, but say  I was hurt by what he said.)

9. Are there any other emotions that come up regarding the incident?

(Example – It made me feel as though my ideas and thoughts don’t matter.)

10. Can you see a learning experience from this?

(There is almost always a learning experience from every strong reaction.  I have learned to set a boundary for how this friend should speak to me, and what is not acceptable.  Or, I’ve learned that this friend and I should avoid meeting when either of us is tired.  Or, I should ask him in future to hold off on commenting until I’ve explained my thoughts fully.  I know a lot more about my personal triggers, and which emotions my anger often masks.  I also need to make clear to my friend where this anger was coming from, so that I feel heard.)

Now your turn. Do you have a recent incident that you can apply these steps to?


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