In this final section, you will learn how to manage your anger by avoiding triggers (where appropriate) and coping ahead. By now, you should have more insight into the types of situations, contexts, and people that trigger your anger most. The content in your Anger Diary will help you to identify this information and any patterns in the way that your anger
shows up. If you haven’t already done so, look over your Anger Diary and come up with a list of your most common anger-provoking situations.
To help you list your anger-provoking situations, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are there certain situations that frequently leave you feeling angry?
- Are there situations you dread/fear because you think that your anger might become overwhelming and uncontrollable?
- Are there new situations that leave you feeling unsure of how you’ll cope and at risk of becoming excessively angry?
- Are there situations that you feel strongly or highly emotional about, which make you more vulnerable to Emotion Mind?
One way to reduce your anger is to limit your contact with these anger-provoking situations. Of course, this will not be possible with every situation, so be realistic in choosing which situations you can and can’t avoid. For some situations, it may be possible and perhaps quite simple to reduce your contact with them. For example:
- If you find a particular bank manager or health professional difficult to deal with, you could choose to change providers
- If certain colleagues rub you up the wrong way, you could choose to minimise your contact with them and keep it strictly work-related
- If disagreements with your partner never end well, you could decide to save these conversations for couples’ therapy
- If heavy traffic infuriates you, you could leave home earlier or take a different route.
Life is full of frustrations, and it is not possible or necessary to avoid every trigger for anger. If avoiding an anger-provoking trigger is not possible or it limits your life in some way, you can instead ‘cope ahead’ by having a plan for how you will manage the situation effectively. For example, if you get angry when your friend does certain things, you’re unlikely to be able to avoid this. After all, you don’t have control over what your friend says or does. Coping ahead involves identifying these difficult situations and making a plan for how to cope with the expected challenges.
Here are some steps for how to cope ahead:
- Describe your problem situation in as much detail as possible. Consider how your anger could show up here and what the consequences of acting on your anger could be.
- Look for alternative ways of coping and decide how you’ll use them. Instead of acting on your anger urges, think about more helpful options for coping. You could draw on the skills you have learned from this course so far. For example, instead of becoming loud and abusive, you could use Opposite Action or mindfulness skills to redirect your focus. You might also decide to plan ahead by focussing on taking care of your body in the weeks prior (getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising etc.). When devising your plan, try to think of all possibilities (within reason) and create a plan of action for each scenario.
- Imagine the situation and yourself in the situation coping effectively. Visualisation can be useful in preparing people to perform well in future events. In fact, many sports stars use this technique to prepare for competition. If you struggle with
- visualisation, simply revise your plan repeatedly and how you will implement it. Use this technique many times in the lead up to the situation.
- Implement your plan and learn from it. Sometimes your plan will work as imagined and other times it won’t. There is no such thing as failure here, the key is to learn from your mistakes and adjust your approach so that mistakes are not repeated in the future.
Let’s take Fatma’s experience as an example. Fatma becomes angry whenever her parents bring up certain topics, such as what she will study and when she will get married and have children. Fatma’s usual response when this happens is to say a few harsh words and then shut down and give her parents the cold shoulder. Fatma examines her options for coping ahead.
Fatma decides that she will keep meetings with her parents brief for a while. She also plans not to schedule stressful things before or after meeting them. When they raise the topics that trigger Fatma’s anger, Fatma plans to use opposite action by softening her posture, practicing deep breathing, and responding in a kind manner. She then plans to gently change the topic. If this doesn’t work, Fatma has prepared what she will say to her parents ahead of time (e.g., “I really can’t have this discussion now but would like to continue spending time with you if we can talk about other things. If this is not ok with you, I will have to leave”).
Fatma uses visualisation to imagine herself successfully carrying out each of the steps in her plan. This makes it easier when it comes to implementing each step. Fatma had to follow through with her plan and leave her parents’ house a few times before they got the message. Although it was hard to leave, this plan allowed Fatma to keep her anger in check and feel more in control as a result.