How and Why You Should Keep Your Temper in Check
It never feels good to lose your temper. Nothing can end a conversation or hurt a relationship as quickly and deeply as a few angry words uttered in the heat of the moment. You may feel like these outbursts are out of your control, or feel frustrated that you can’t keep them from happening so often. But no matter how frequently or to what extent you find yourself seeing red, you can take back the reigns from your more emotional side with patience, practice and a little empathy for yourself.
Richard Taite is founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, offering evidence-based, individualized addiction treatment based on the Stages of Change model. He is also co-author of the book Ending Addiction for Good.
Editor: Talha Khalid
First, you’ll need to fight the urge to run from yourself, your feelings, and the kinds of situations that can cause you to get angry in the first place. It’s tempting to see your anger as an excuse to run an extra mile or take on an especially strenuous new work out at the gym. But even if these activities make you feel better in the moment, they won’t be able to prevent your anger from flaring up again. Recent studies also indicate that exercising while angry can be especially hard on your heart, perhaps creating more problems for you in the long run.
Now that you’re face-to-face with your anger there are two ways you can combat it: in the moment and in reflection.
In the moment your biggest obstacle will be recognizing your anger as it approaches and stopping or redirecting yourself before speaking or acting in ways you may regret. Make a promise to yourself that if you feel your heart begin to race, you’ll excuse yourself from the situation to get some mental room to consider why you’re feeling angry and how you’d like to respond. This technique and others like it are not always effective, acting more like a lifesaver for our rational selves than a sustainable method of anger management.
You’ll really begin to notice a change in your temperament when you start trying to prevent outbursts before they happen instead of just relying on your brain’s emergency brakes. When you have a quiet moment to yourself, take the time to reflect on the non-verbal cues your body gives you when you’re about to lose your cool and make a plan ahead of time for how you’ll counteract your rising emotional tide.
Don’t forget to dig deeper, though, and consider why you’re feeling so angry in the first place. Make a list of the times you’ve blown your cool, including who was there and what you were arguing about. Can you pick up on any patterns? You may notice that you only seem to see red around certain people, or when you’re discussing certain subjects. While some amount of conflict is healthy and normal in any close relationship, something isn’t right if a loved one is constantly pushing your buttons.
Consider for a moment who you would be and what your life would be like if you rarely got angry or upset in response to someone else’s ugliness or an unexpected disappointment. At the end of the day we are human, not perfect, and it is ok to make mistakes so long as we learn from them and try to do better. Be patient with yourself as you begin to overcome your anger, understand where the feeling is coming from and heal the wounds left in its wake.