Since becoming a mother over 4 years ago, I have slowly gone from ‘Average Drama Queen whose World Revolves Around Her’ to ‘Raving Lunatic Mum Who Shouts Too Much and Hyperventilates’.
I can see that my previous life of highly strung self-absorption was not going to be the best precursor to ‘Earth Mother’ but neither was I prepared to enter into the concept that I might actually end up on one of those ‘Parenting Nightmare’ reality TV shows popping up all over the place. Yet here I am, writing about Anger Management, and speaking from painful (and as yet not fully resolved) experience.
So, here's my take on Anger management and different ways of looking at the monster within….
1. Anger is just a symptom of a bigger problem, it is not the problem itself - and neither is the thing you're getting upset about. So give yourself some slack and next time you blow your top try to step back and remember that there's another issue going on under all this that is making you steam.
2. When you get angry its a sign that something is not right, either you feel taken advantage of, or you feel suppressed, or you feel out of control, or or or. But as a sign, this is a USEFUL thing, not something to shy away from. Its OK to acknowledge anger as a sign that something is up, you just don't have to then go forwards with it and smash up the crockery.
3. Once you see anger as the sign or a symptom and not the enemy, then you can start digging for the real root cause. This has a lot of power. Instead of letting anger take you on its ride you can stop short and say ‘hey, I'm feeling angry, what's up with that?’ I know, sounds lame - but it works!
Here’s a classic example, sleep depravation. My kids don’t sleep – in fact I can count the number of full night’s undisturbed sleep I have had in the past 4 years on one hand, I’m sure many of you can relate. When I have had a particularly bad run of sleep depravation I wake up grumpy and I just know my day is going to suck. And so it does.
Now, if I have my wits about me, I can alarm bell myself and think “Ah, you’re just crabby because you are overtired. It’s not your fault and it’s not your children’s fault, it just is. And it will be better tomorrow”. It’s amazing how well it works. YES I still get cranky and have a short fuse, but I actually tell my kids this (they are only 4 and 2 but they get it), I even go so far as to say “Sorry if I’m a bit cranky and snappy today, I’m just tired”. Now, I’m sure some expert or other will tell me I’m doing a terrible thing, but to me and my kids I am outlining the real root cause of my anger – sleep depravation – and keeping watch that I don’t damage my relationship with my kids by making it their fault.
Understanding that the feeling of anger is simply an alarm bell for something else has helped me enormously, and it also helps me to disperse it. Watch your children for great examples of this! Last week we were away for a family holiday with another family with kids – by day 3 all the kids were screaming and fighting and hitting, utter chaos! I separated my eldest and we went for quiet time, whilst colouring I asked her to explain to me more about her aggressive feelings and why they were coming up. She said simply “I’m getting too excited”, when I asked her what she needed me to do to help her to calm down, she said “I’d like you to play with me by myself” I understood her to mean she needed some quiet one on one attention, she needed for things to slow down, and she needed a quieter environment. When all her needs were met, she calmed right back down and the fighting stopped.
When is the last time you really looked at your own unmet needs? Whether it’s more sleep, more quiet time, slowing down, asking for help – your anger is a symptom that somewhere your needs are not being met. Instead of taking it out on the children, your spouse, the pillow, why not say ’thank you for the warning!’ and get your needs met instead!
Elaine Hamilton Grundy, Life Coach and Reiki Master Teacher, has been teaching and speaking internationally since 1995 helping thousands of people through her workshops and personal consultations.
Elaine is teaching and coaching in Singapore. Please visit http://www.ElaineGrundy.com for more information on her classes and talks.