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Managing Destructive Anger

Michael Rayel

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Anger, if managed properly and used to your advantage, has positive outcomes. But destructive, unmanageable anger has caused deep misery and sleepless nights to countless families. Visit any jail cell, courthouse, or hospital and you'll see victims of rage.

In my clinic, I've seen the scourge of anger almost daily. And it's ugly. Facial scars and body deformities have served as constant reminders of violence. Even in their sleep, anger emerges in the form of nightmares.

Because of unrestrained emotions, families have suffered, mental and physical health has declined, and peace of mind has vanished.

What are some ways to manage destructive anger?
Plan your action
Like going to a war zone or looking for a job, you need a solid plan. Establish basic steps and practical strategies in handling angry-provoking situations even before they erupt. So when a testy circumstance happens in real life, you're ready.

What's your plan A? Plan B? Plan C?
For instance, if you expect that your wife will nag simply because you're headed home at 12 midnight (when in fact you finish work at 4 PM!), your plan A can include calling your wife before you arrive home and explaining your reason for being late; bringing home a surprise bouquet of roses or chocolate mouse cake. Your plan B includes listening attentively and patiently to your wife's nagging. Even if it hurts, she deserves to be listened to and should be allowed to express her speculations . . . and fury.

Know your triggers
Anticipate potential causes of your anger episodes, both internal and external. Do you easily snap when you're hungry? Are you irritable early in the morning? How about when you don't have enough sleep or you're in pain?

Regarding external triggers, what's in the environment that makes you feel mad? Is it your partner's snore or loud sneeze in the early morning, unintentionally waking you up? Is it your boss’ demanding, nosy, and arrogant behavior?

Do you get upset when a TV show reminds you of past hurts and betrayal?

Pause before you say or act

Pause before responding to your triggers. Learn to count one to ten. If you're still angry, count up to 100 or 200. Also, take a deep breath. Release your anger and try to cool off before responding to avoid hurtful words and devastating actions that you will regret later.  

If counting or deep breathing doesn't help, stay away from the source of anger. Rush to the bedroom. And while alone, unload your anger by yelling, deep breathing, or punching the pillow. If you prefer to use the bathroom as a refuge, take a quick shower or simply stay there until you feel better.

Also, you may divert your attention by taking a 30-minute walk or using your stationary bike. The possibilities are endless.

Assert yourself
Being passive doesn't solve the problem. And being aggressive further complicates your life. The only reasonable option is being assertive.

When anger is becoming unmanageable, promptly address any boiling issues. Talk to the person who caused your anger or to the appropriate individual responsible for necessary action. And focus on issues and not on personalities. Before saying anything, establish an alliance. Be pleasant. Let the person feel important. Through active listening, show that you're willing to understand, that you care.

Let the other person know your issues and how those issues make you feel. And then state what changes you want done.

In conclusion, mismanaging destructive anger spells doom while managing it brings success. You have a choice.

About the Author:

Copyright © 2007. Dr. Michael G. Rayel - author (A 31-Day Series and First Aid to Mental Illness) psychiatrist, and inventor of emotional and social skills games - The Oikos Game Series and The CEO. Since 2005, he has published Oikos’ Insights! as an online resource for personal development. For more information, visit


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