There is no one size fits all solution, but there are many strategies you can try until you find the one that works for you.
How do we repair this?
- Overgeneralizing. This is happening anytime you say “always” or “never”. “You always interrupt me. You never consider my needs. Nobody respects me. I never get the credit I deserve for what I do around here.”
- Obsessing on “should’s” and “musts.” Having a rigid view of the way things should or must be and getting angry when reality doesn’t line up. I like to say you need to stop “should-ing” all over yourself.
- Mind reading and jumping to conclusions. Assuming you know what someone else is thinking or feeling—that he or she intentionally upset you, ignored your wishes, or disrespected you.
- “Collecting straws”. Looking for things to get upset about, usually while overlooking or blowing past anything positive. Letting these small irritations build and build until you reach the “final straw” and explode, often over something relatively minor.
- Blaming. When anything bad happens or something goes wrong, it’s always someone else’s fault. You blame others for the things that happen to you rather than taking responsibility for your own life.
There are more …. but do you recognize any of these in yourself? The important point here is that it isn’t the thing that made you angry, but your interpretation of it, is what you can work on.
Stopping the spiral
Once you have spent some time identifying the things that trigger your anger, you can have a little bit of insight into where your thinking might be leading you down an unhelpful path. Next, you can work on changing your reaction. The overriding principle is to get out of your head, into your body and into the present moment.
- Focus on what is happening in your body: that racing heart, jumbled thoughts, stomach in knots, muscles tensed. Doing a “body scan” from the tips of your toes – slowly – to the top of your head will highlight to your where your tension is manifesting in your body.
- Start taking some slow deep breaths. It’s important to actually focus your mind on your breath (not let your mind wander while you just breath slower). Think about how the air going in your nostrils is slightly cooler than the air coming out. Take 10.
- Exercise. Run up and down the stairs; take a walk around the block. Give yourself a chance to burn off the tension and allow a cooler head to prevail. You can also focus on some stretching exercises, or massaging your head and scalp.
- Repeat this list as much as you need to. If you really practice, it will get easier with time.
Time for a reality check
Another technique we counsellors like to use that can be very effective is referred to as conducting a “thought record”. This essentially helps you slow your thought process down, on paper. You write down what the triggering event is (my spouse has not done X again, even though they KNOW how much it bothers me). Then you assess how emotionally wound up you are over this, on a scale from 1-100 (I’m at 80%). Then you think of all the reasons you are right (They just don’t care, I’m not a priority, etc). THEN you write down all the reasons you could be wrong – I like to call this “poking holes in your theory” (They had other things to focus on, there was something more pressing, I know they love me, they aren’t perfect). And then your rate your emotional feeling on the same scale again (Now, I’m at 50%). The idea here is that you are giving yourself your own reality check. How important is this thing you’re angry about? Is it worth ruing your day over? Do other people react to you this way? How would that make you feel? Is there another way to approach this?
Moving onto healthier relationships
It’s not always so simple, but sometimes even the smallest awareness of these issues is what it takes to crack the window of personal growth open. And for some people, this is enough – you are the expert of your own life. You know what you need to do to move forward and have more authentic / real connections to people. Believing you are worthy is part of the hurdle. But when you look at all the work that is listed above – that’s a lot of work! Taking the time to reflect on all the work you are doing helps that worthy feeling become more present in your life. Hopefully this post has given you a few things to consider that might end up being helpful for you.