It is very understandable that you want to blame others for what has happened to you, particularly if the situation could have been prevented or improved by other people’s actions. You will probably find, too, that your feelings of blame consist of a confusing mixture of guilt, fear, loss of faith in a just society and your own sense of personal vulnerability.
When you have been traumatized, the source of your anger may also be linked with feeling a lack of control over situations, which you may not have experienced before. The physical symptoms – a pounding heart, sweating palms, rapid breathing, rising blood pressure- that are present during a situation of tremendous stress or fear are experienced when anger is “on the boil”.
Nevertheless, in some instances anger can be useful! For example, when it leads to a struggle against injustice, when it helps a parent to defend a child or when it leads to community action on a problem.
The key is to channel your anger effectively. On the other hand, when anger is bottled up until it explodes, the results can be dangerous and violent. Acting out your rage will not erase what has happened, and it could result in serious consequences for you.
The people who seem to fare best are those who learn how to understand their own temper, and express their anger appropriately. By achieving a healthy distance, they are able to move on with their lives, instead of remaining victims of their experience.
Rather than feeling “stuck” in an anger cycle, where every little thing that happens triggers the same overly angry response and you seem to be either suppressing it or lashing out at others, taking responsibility for managing your own anger is a positive step towards gaining control over your life again.
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Active Listening as an Anger Managment Technique
Specific Anger Management Technique – The “Thermometer” TechniqueThis approach draws on your newly developed skills of paying attention to your body signals, in particular , signs of temper rising.
It has been taught (in various forms) and used successfully for many years by groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, whose participants have often turned to drug or alcohol abuse as an ineffective way of managing explosive tempers.
Here is how it works:
1. Picture, in your mind’s eye, a very large thermometer. Try and allow yourself to see very clearly the gradation marks on each side of the glass tube that register the degrees of temperature rising. The mercury inside the glass tube is red. We will use this to represent your temper.
2. When you are calm and cool, there is very little mercury in the tube, just enough to help you pay attention and interact effectively with others.
However, when you start to become agitated, the temperature starts to rise and the mercury level in the tube will go up!
3. Because you are much more in tune with your bodily signals now, you will notice how your breathing begins to quicken when you become just a bit agitated. Your muscles tense, and you become aware that your eyes are squinting a bit, your nostrils are flaring. In short, as your “temperature rises”, you are starting to resemble a charging bull! The mercury in your imaginary thermometer is rising very quickly indeed.
4. Now, all thermometers have some red marks at the top to indicate “danger” and “overheating”. As you pay attention to the signals of your rising anger, you can start to picture the thermometer, and you can become aware of how close you are getting to the danger zone.
It is time to bring the mercury down before you get into the “red zone”, where you will not to able to think clearly enough to take appropriate action.
5. If you allow your anger to boil over, you will be operating on raw emotion, with very little (if any) rational thought. Those are the situations where you are likely to get into trouble and do or say things that you will probably regret later, when they are hard to undo. Use all your skills to stay out of the red zone of raw emotions.
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How to Handle Difficult People
Try using the “Quick Controlled Breathing” technique:
• Pay attention to your breathing when you feel yourself becoming angry. Can you slow it down by taking five deep breaths?
• Start by exhaling as fully as you can. Now with each breath, inhale, hold for a second , then exhale slowly, blowing through your mouth and counting backwards from 5 to 1.
• Remember to exhale fully, as if it was a heavy sigh, then aging inhale, hold, exhale slowly, counting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Next breath, inhale, exhale slowly, counting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
• Continue three more times and on the last breath say softly to yourself: “Calm and in Control”. Practise this technique frequently!
• When you have reached “room temperature” level again, then you can begin to deal with the person or problem on a rational basis.
Practise this technique as often as possible. As soon as you find yourself getting worked up, think “THERMOMETER!”.
This technique can be very effective, once you have learned it and as long as you use it regularly!
The old saying "The Tip of the Iceberg" is so true because most of the iceberg is under the surface. We as human beings sometimes only see the "tip" in ourselves and others. This video provides you with the opportunity to explore for yourself: "What lies beneath of MY Iceberg?" and how it can relate to any negative emotions, reactions and responses that you would not like in your life.
Resource: Overcoming Traumatic Stress. A self-help guide using Cognitive Behavioural Techniques. Claudia Herbert and Ann Wetmore. Robinson London