Mad As Heck: Learn to Control Your Anger Before It Controls You

Suzanne Lieurance

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Until a few months ago Jared Collins (not his real name) was just your average American high school student. He had plenty of friends, a part- time job at the local pizza hangout, and a car of his own for cruising around town.

But, one day Jared got “mad as heck. " Then everything changed.

First, Jared got mad at a teacher. It was an ugly situation. The teacher wasn't entirely in the right. She embarrassed Jared in front of his peers. Jared didn't enjoy feeling so helpless, so he reacted by threatening the teacher. But that got him kicked out of school. Not long after this, Jared's boss came into work in a bad mood and took it out on Jared. Again Jared felt threatened. He knew he was being treated unfairly, but what could he do about it? Instead of realizing his boss was the one with the problem, Jared reacted aggressively again. He told off his boss and lost his job.

Without school, and without a job, Jared wasn't feeling too good about himself. When his parents tried to make him realize he was at least partially responsible for the situations that had occurred, Jared got mad at them, too, and left home. Getting “mad as heck" was now becoming a behavioral pattern for Jared, a way of dealing with frustration.

The ironic part of all this was, Jared thought he was in control of his life and his anger during each of these situations. He felt he'd been in control of his life because he hadn't allowed people (teachers, bosses, or parents) to push him around. He'd dished out mistreatment just as much as they did. When he hadn't liked a situation, he'd gotten angry, become verbally abusive, and walked out instead of standing around “taking it. " He thought he'd been controlling his anger because - even though he'd been mad as heck - he hadn't become violent. He hadn't hit anyone, or broken anything, or caused any real harm to himself or those around him.

Jared couldn't seem to realize one simple fact. He was not controlling his anger. It was starting to control him. So far, it had cost him his education, his job, and his home.

In today's world, anger has become a common way of dealing with life's problems for many adolescents just like Jared. And, just like Jared, many of these adolescents lose the things that matter most to them. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you're a teen who seems to get mad as heck, how do you take control of your anger before it takes control of you? First, by understanding this emotion a little better.

Anger is natural. But when it gets out of control it can become destructive, just as it had for Jared.

Anger causes certain physiological and biological changes. When you get angry your heart rate and blood pressure go up. The level of your energy hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline, increase as well.

Both external events and your own personal feelings can cause anger. For example, a friend at school, or a teacher or a boss, can do something to make you angry. But just worrying about your own problems might also make you angry.

Our reaction to anger is also quite natural. We tend to react aggressively, which just makes sense when you think about it. If someone or something is threatening you, it's necessary to protect yourself for your own survival. This might mean fighting to defend yourself if you're attacked. However, once we start reacting this way to every little irritation in our lives our anger can start to get out of control. The thing to remember when you feel you're losing control of a situation is - you're becoming frustrated with a person or a situation. Try to step back and examine what's really going on. What do you honestly have to gain by blowing up and reacting aggressively? You'll meet many people who will treat you (and others) unfairly. You can't control them. But you can control the way you react to them.

Next time you feel yourself getting angry try these strategies, recommended by the American Psychological Association, and take control of your anger before it takes control of you:

1) Relax - To do this, breathe deeply, from your diaphragm. As you're doing this, repeat a relaxing word or phrase to yourself - something like “relax, " or “just stay calm. " Practice this relaxation technique daily, so you'll be able to use it automatically when you're in a tense situation.

2) Change the Way You Think - When you get angry you tend to “think" in angry terms. Replace these thoughts with more rational ones. Try telling yourself, “this is not a big deal and getting angry is not going to make it better. " If someone is doing something that irritates you, rather than verbally attacking him or her, try to state the problem and find a solution that works for both of you. As you concentrate on thinking more logically, you'll begin to realize that you can get through this situation without blowing up. Rather than demanding things (as angry people tend to do), learn to say what you want in a positive way.

3) Learn to Handle Problems - If you're getting angry because something is constantly worrying you, then make a plan and try to make a little progress towards solving this problem every day. Even if you don't always solve your problems in one or two easy steps, you'll feel more in control of your situation if you have a plan of action.

4) Communicate Better - When you get angry you tend to jump to conclusions. Slow down and think through what you're going to say instead of just blurting out the first thing that pops into your head. Also, try to really listen carefully to what the other person is saying.

5) Use humor - A little silliness can often defuse a tense situation. This doesn't mean you should just laugh off your problems, but if you don't take yourself too seriously you'll probably be less tense.

6) Change your environment - If you know certain situations make you tense, be sure to give yourself some personal time during the day to relax and unwind. That way, when you do face those tense situations you'll be more apt to handle them.

It's so easy to get “mad as heck" like Jared, and lose many of the things that are important to you, so practice these strategies daily, or get additional help if you think you need it. Just do whatever it takes to control your anger before it controls you.

Suzanne Lieurance is a freelance writer, children's author, and owner of the Three Angels Gourmet Co. Visit her website at or read her daily food tips at


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