Taming the Beast - Dr Eddie advises on anger control

Top tips from Psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy on controlling feelings of anger.
Ever feel like screaming in someone’s face when things go horribly wrong or punching the closest thing to you? Well if you have experienced this (which is most of us), then you have experienced anger.

Ever feel like screaming in someone’s face when things go horribly wrong or punching the closest thing to you? Well if you have experienced this (which is most of us), then you have experienced anger.

Triggered by a host of environmental and psychological factors, anger is a powerful and unpredictable emotion evident in our daily lives. Albeit useful in a minute number of circumstances, in terms of getting you moving, stimulating honesty, providing you with the energy to protect yourself or your values, it can also lead to aggression and a build up of tension, not to mention problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life.

Most people learn how to overcome anger, by perhaps counting to ten or going for a walk, but some people are unable to independently soothe angry emotions effectively.

This is where anger in effect can become a problem. It is impossible to constantly avoid people or things that irritate or anger you – but it is imperative you learn to control HOW to react to them. In essence, you need to control your anger before it controls you.

top tips on Gaining control

Control starts with a clear head - stay away from substances that increase your anger, since anger is considerably harder to control when you are stressed, tired, or have had a few drinks or taken stimulant substances.

Become aware of ‘trigger points’ for your anger signals – pay attention to how your feeling, what’s going on in your surrounding environment prior to the anger.

Relaxation – simple tools such as deep breathing and relaxing imagery, can help calm down angry feelings. There are books that can teach you relaxation techniques, and once learned, you can use them in any situation. If you are in a relationship where both partners are hot-tempered, it might be a good idea for you both to learn these techniques.

Alter the way you think – angry people are more inclined to curse, swear or speak in highly colourful terms that reflect their inner thoughts. When you’re angry, your thinking not only becomes extremely exaggerated and overtly dramatic, but also serves to make you feel that your anger is justified and that there’s no way to solve the problem.

Try replacing these thoughts with more radical ones. For example, instead of telling yourself, “ok. It’s awful, it’s terrible, everything’s ruined,” tell yourself, “it’s frustrating, and it’s undesirable that I’m upset, but it’s not the end of the world and getting angry is not going to fix it”.

Slow down and think. Rising anger can often lead people to jump to – and act on – conclusions, and some of these conclusions can be very inaccurate. The first thing to do if you’re in a heated discussion is slow down and think through your responses. Don’t say the first thing that comes into your head, but slow down and think carefully about what you want to say. Try at the same time to listen carefully to the other person and identify what is underlying the anger.

Reflect – it can be helpful when you’ve calmed down or thought about the anger-provoking situation a bit more to discuss it with someone else who can provide more perspective.

These tips will help to reduce feelings of anger, but remember, you can’t eliminate it – and it wouldn’t be a good idea if you could. In spite of all your efforts, things will happen that will cause you anger. Everyday life consists of other people’s behaviours and actions. You can’t change that but you can control your own anger.

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