Gabe had a history of angry outbursts, and was staring at the smoking ruins of his marriage. He was a foreman for a large construction company, and his blind irrational fury with his employees, resulted with a large group of them quitting. When I met him, Gabe and his wife were separated as a result of his out of control anger issues, and he was well known for his yellow jacket temper. He had become addicted to rage, and it flared swiftly like a twister cloud. He blamed everyone around him for his state of mind. It’s safe to say I was meeting Gabe at his lowest of lows, and he was seeking Anger Management exercises. His doctor told him he had high blood pressure and if he didn’t manage his anger, he would be on his way to coronary artery disease.
“Hello Gabe,” I said with a warm smile, motioning him to a chair near the window.
“Very often in everyday life one sees that by losing ones’s temper with someone who has already lost his, one does not gain anything but only sets out upon the path of stupidity. He who has enough self control to stand firm at the moment when the other person is in a temper wins in the end” Hazrat Inayat Khan author of Mastery Through Accomplishment
He glowered at me, his fists were clenched. I didn’t need to guess what his feelings were as they were written all over his face. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair looking at me sideways. “I don’t know why I need therapy, it’s those guys that need their head fixed!” he growled. Immediately, he launched into a tirade of complaints about his employees. By this point he’d already been to traditional Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for several years. He knew his way around the therapy block, but something wasn’t working for him, this was evident. His quick temper always rebounded without improvement. Anger always been his primary addiction, and it swung around him in drunken circles.
“What are you going to tell me that I don’t already know?” he snarled, the slow glow of anger working up from his collar to his face.
An Effective Alternative to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
“It’s what I will show you,” I said, as I organized the power points and biofeedback screen on my computer.
The Science of the Heart by Doc Childre is an evidence-based approach used by the HeartMath Institute in which researchers study human thoughts, emotions, and behaviours through studying the heart rhythm. I showed him diagrams of the science of the heart and brain and nervous system and explained what anger did to his heart rhythm and biochemistry. I then showed him his heart rhythm on the computer biofeedback screen, and showed him how he could change his chaotic rhythm to a smooth even wave, and improve his health. Towards the end of the counselling session with Gabe, after utilizing heart focused breathing, his facial expressions and posture changed drastically. One month later, after a combined effort of Biofeedback combined with my shortened version of Mindfulness Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Gabe’s wife approached me in my office.
“What did you say to my husband?” she exclaimed as she peered in the door.
I paused, and took in a breath my eyes wide open, scanning my mind.
“He has changed and is cheerful and actually smiling! I’ve really never seen him happy!” she said.
Gabe was now able to understand how his anger was affecting him emotionally and physically, causing his life to spiral out of control. Learning Anger Management Skills helped Gabe quickly gain control of his anger giving him tools to put things in proper perspective when faced with daily triggers. Having experienced benefits from these techniques, he continued with counselling and reunited with his wife. “I feel a freedom, I was not expecting”, he said matter of factly with a smile.
“Anger…it’s a paralyzing emotion..you can’t get anything done.People sort of think it’s an interesting, passionate, and igniting feeling — I don’t think it’s any of that — it’s helpless … it’s absence of control — and I need all of my skills, all of the control, all of my powers … and anger doesn’t provide any of that — I have no use for it whatsoever.” Interview with CBS radio host Don Swaim
Anger is a Signal You Need a Course Correction
Anger is a natural part of being human and is a signal that you need a course correction. It is a temporary emotion usually with the original intention to seek a solution not just to lose control and express angst. You can learn to deal with anger and problem solve without hurting others. When you practice anger management skills you are taking responsibility for your health and communication in your relationships. It is important to let go of anger instead of hanging onto it once the problem is over and done. Anger can be addicting and habit forming and this becomes unhealthy for heart health and relationships. You don’t want to hide or ignore your anger however you want to recognize it as part of your human nature and that it can be handled skillfully. There are many ways that people express anger which can become habit forming.
Anger Issues Affect Heart Health
If you go off the handle and go from 0 to 60 really quickly and stay angry for a period you should understand it is detrimental to heart health. When you avoid your anger it can also take its toll on physical and emotional well-being. Instead of avoiding anger you can learn healthy skills and use it as a useful tool for assertively standing up for yourself. Angry emotion affects the heart putting it into a chaotic rhythm. It also drains energy, so it is important to learn useful anger skills that are effective. Conflict can improve relationships when it is handled well, it is only a signal that things need attention and they need to be dealt with in an honest and open way. When anger is avoided, it can be turned inward with self criticism or self harm. Don’t be afraid of your anger as it is a human emotion that gives you an opportunity to set boundaries for safety. It is important to stand up for yourself if you feel pushed around or disrespected. Courageously stand up for yourself, take charge and say no to what you don’t want. Practice being very clear when you mean yes and when you mean no., This takes courage to be honest and open about what you want and what you don’t want. You don’t have to light up quickly with rage to get what you need. You can be quietly and assertively effective. Be wise. If you go off like guns blazing, and angry your defensive actions make you less credible and you could end up not being listened to.
Call to Action:
1)Tell the other person specifically what you want by naming the specific behaviour.
Tell them how you felt.
Tell them specifically what you would like to see as the outcome in the relationship.
Do this in a calm tone of voice. If you cannot, take a break, go for a walk, and come back when you are relaxed.
2)Learn to be clear when you mean yes and when you mean no. If you’re not sure, give yourself time to think about it, and come back to the conversation later.
3)The next time you feel furious, instead of lighting up quickly realize the emotion you are experiencing, take a deep breath, and take a pause to give yourself that space to look at it rationally. If you need to apologize with your part in the disagreement, don’t wait, and speak from the heart.
4)Look for the warning signs when tension is rising. Stop ignoring the signs that anger is building and recognize when you are impatient and frustrated. When you ventilate in a sudden explosion, it rarely solves the problem and has you feeling worse as well as the other person feeling upset. Anger can be addicting due to the rush of adrenaline and every time you light up quickly you are training your brain to do it again.
5)When you feel these warning signs it’s time to take a time out and go for a walk, relax and let go of the physical and emotional tension. Breath in deeply, and do a long exhale as though letting go of the steam. Come back to the situation when you are calm, willing to talk quietly, slowly, and listen to what others have to say. With practice this gets easier and easier overtime.
6)Give yourself a chance to reclaim your emotions and accept that you are human. Make a commitment to notice anger and trust that you can deal with anger in a rational, healthy and assertive way.