Anger ratings help you to become conscious of your anger, but they won't help you stop being angry. In order to defuse your anger before it gets out of control, you'll want to develop an anger plan listing out things you can do to calm yourself down.
For example, part of your plan might be to take a 'time-out' when you start getting upset; to temporarily remove yourself from the situation that is provoking you so as to provide yourself with a space in which to calm down. Another way to defuse anger might be to move the conversation away from what is bothering you and towards a more neutral topic.
There are lots of things you can do to defuse an angry situation once you start thinking about it. The best of them help you to effectively keep yourself calm without damaging your pride. As each person has unique strengths and weaknesses, each person's list of strategies for defusing anger will be slightly different.
An anger diary or journal can be a useful tool to help you track your experiences with anger. Make daily entries into your diary that document the situations you encounter that provoked you. In order to make the diary most useful, there are particular types of information you'll want to record for each provoking event:
- What happened that gave you pain or made you feel stressed?
- What was provocative about the situation?
- What thoughts were going through your mind?
- On a scale of 0-100 how angry did you feel? (Rage Rating)
- What was the effect of your behavior on you, on others?
- Were you already nervous, tense, and pressured about something else? If so, what?
- How did your body respond? Did you notice your heart racing, your palms sweating?
- Did your head hurt?
- Did you want to flee from the pressure or perhaps throw something?
- Did you feel like screaming or did you notice that you were slamming doors or becoming sarcastic?
- What did you actually do?
- How did you feel immediately after the episode?
- Did you feel differently later in the day or the next day?
- What were the consequences of the incident?
At the base of all trigger thoughts is the notion that people are not behaving properly and that you have every right to be angry with them. Most people find a few thoughts that frequently trigger their anger. Look for instances of situations that trigger your anger and see if you can't identify the particular set of triggering thoughts that really do it for you.
The purpose of your diary is to help you identify patterns of behavior and specific recurring elements that really "push your buttons". The more accurately you can observe your feelings and behaviors and the more detailed your anger diary, the more likely you will be able to identify anger triggers and how you react to them. Understanding the ways in which you experience anger can help you plan strategies to cope with your emotions in more productive ways.
Deactivating Your Triggers
For example, imagine you have just been cut off while driving on the freeway. Take notice of the physiological anger signs that tell you you're upset. Take a deep breath, and try to look at the situation rationally instead of going with your first impulse to attack. Instead of automatically assuming the driver that cut you off did it deliberately (which might be your first thought), consider the possibility that the other guy did not see you. If you can consider that the provoking action was not aimed at you personally or was a mistake, it will be easier for you to tolerate.
When you feel justified in your anger, you are giving yourself permission to feel angry, whether or not it makes sense for you to feel that way. The faster you stop justifying your anger, the sooner it will begin to recede. While all anger you feel is legitimate in that it is the reality of how you feel at a particular time, this does not mean that your choosing to act on your anger feelings is always justified. Remember that being angry is quite bad for your health, and destructive towards your important relationships with others.