Action Plan

Anger Action PlanAnger Action Plan

Action: Defuse the anger triggers
Keep it in or let it out?

Some experts believe it is better to express anger rather than bottle it up. They point out that suppressing anger can dangerously affect physical health and is frequently linked with heart disease. Other experts say that expressing anger makes things worse because it exacerbates the difficult situation and can have unpleasant consequences for your relationships, your career, and even your personal liberty.

Their conflicting advice does not seem to offer us much choice. Expressing anger is easier on the heart but you could end up lonely or in prison. Suppress anger and people will like you but you may damage your health.

Fortunately these are not our only choices. There is a third option – not to get angry in the first place. That is what this issue of Active Mind-Body Health is about.

Dissolve Anger

The best way of dealing with the anger habit is to prevent it occurring in the first place. This means getting to know the triggers that evoke angry feelings and systematically defusing each trigger situation’s ability to affect you.

Action Step 1: Remind yourself of a few facts

Fact 1
Recognise that you are not omnipotent! You cannot change the world. You cannot win every argument – every I’m-right-you’re-wrong battle. And you cannot change other people – they have a right to their own views and behaviours.
Fact 2
Recognise that, just like you, other people are fallible and human. And that they are just as likely as you to say or do inappropriate and thoughtless things on occasions. Accept this and don’t nourish a grievance when they do get it wrong.
Fact 3
Recognise that your anger hurts you much more than it hurts others – it affects your peace of mind, your relationships and your physical health.

Action Step 2: Find your anger-triggers

First find the triggers. Triggers are your signals that it is time to get angry and they are important because once one has been activated the feelings occur automatically and inevitably. So, from moment to moment, pay attention to what irritates you. So spend the next week or two building a list of these anger-triggers. Do it on a card or scrap of paper that you keep with you throughout the day.

Action Step 3: Rate the triggers on a Red Scale of 1-10

When you’ve got a sizeable list go through it and give a 10 score to triggers that evoke uncontrollable fury and 1 to those evoking very mild irritation. Get a sheet of paper, draw a line down the centre and on the left hand side re-write your ‘Red Scale’ triggers beginning with the highest scorers. On the opposite side write *all * the meanings (the mind-reading interpretations) that you tend to attach to each event. For example: lets’ say being overtaken while driving is a trigger. Opposite this you might write ‘they think they’re better than me’, or ‘they’re trying to look down on me because I have an old car’ or ‘because I’m younger/older than they’, etc.

Once the triggers are on paper some of these meanings will appear silly to you. Great! You are on your way to feeling in control of your moods. But most will still be active triggers – as with phobias, an anger-response is an emotional and not a rational activity.

Action Step 4: Create a Trigger of the Week Card

Begin by selecting a moderate trigger – say one that scores four or five on your Red Scale. Make this your ‘Trigger of the Week’. Write it on a sealed envelope or a 3 x 5 index card so you have a reminder with you at all times.

Beneath it write the significances or interpretations that you normally give such situations and which provoke your anger. Then list the *costs * of being a victim to this type of situation. For example, consider what it costs you when you get angry because the kids didn’t clean their rooms? Your peace of mind is undermined for hours after the argument. They sulk for hours – days if they are teenagers. Perhaps you and your spouse argue over the importance of it at all. And so the list goes on.

Next, on the other side of your card list some *Better Ways * than becoming angry of getting what you want. What is a better way than shouting at kids of getting them to come home on time? What is a better way of getting respect from colleagues, friends or strangers. (In some cases there may be no way of doing this so accept that.) When you want your life-partner to understand you are there better ways than banging doors or shouting at them? Remind yourself, too, that you can’t always get what you want – so accept that and get on with your life.

Action Step 5: Use the card when a trigger is activated

Every time your Trigger of the Week gets activated think to yourself, in the moment, ‘here we go again – my trigger has been activated and I’m reacting like a puppet whose strings are being pulled – and this is no longer acceptable to me’.

Take a few relaxing breaths and then reflect on the implications of being a helpless victim to that trigger. Don’t get angry with yourself, though, there’s no point in that – it’s just wired-in button. Simply decide you’ve had enough of it and that you are now learning to respond more appropriately. Use your Better Ways list and visualise how you could have responded.

Your investment in peace of mind

Work your way through all the anger-triggers on your list. Leave the highest scoring ones till last when you will have built up skill and confidence in neutralising triggers. These steps will require a few minutes a week but when you consider how long have you been at the mercy of your anger moods you may well decide that this is a good investment of your time and attention.

Watch out for Secondary Gain…

Secondary gain is a psychological term for the pay-off you get from having a problem. So what do you get from becoming angry? Does it give you a feeling of power, as for example when you notice that it intimidates others? Does it give you a feeling of being hard-done-by? Is anger the only way you currently have of protecting yourself from others who might otherwise control or overwhelm you?

This secondary gain will undermine your anger-resolving process unless you get it really clear in your mind that you no longer want such a pay-off. Or that you now have better ways of attaining it.

Last point – not all anger is unhealthy

Bear in mind that not all anger is unhealthy. Sometimes anger is quite appropriate – it can be our final defence against allowing other people to manipulate or dominate us. And it can motivate us to take action against injustice.

Anger is healthy when it is not on-going but is usefully channeled into appropriate action

4 Responses to Action Plan

  1. AvatarAndrea Mackrill says:

    I was abused by my grandfather as a child and have a new partner of two years and have moved away (through personal circumstances with my ex husband who abused me to) and have had to leave my children behind.
    I am finding it hard to cope with the abuse I faced as I child because I have only just started to realise what an impact it had on me as a child. I have told my partner about it and he wants me to get professional help because I use anger as a way of releasing my frustrations which I take out on him. I also use alcohol as a way to block out what happened which fuels my anger.
    Could someone help me!

    • HAVOCAHAVOCA says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment Andrea. I’m sorry youve found yourself in a position where you have to reach out for help but I’m glad you’ve found us.

      Help and support can come in many forms and it really depends on your needs and your aspirations.

      Have a look at our First Step section to get some ideas about how you’d like to progress. If you’d like professional help then we can help you find the right type if you let us have your postcode using our contact form.

  2. AvatarNatasha says:

    Thank you HAVOCA for this the anger management information. I spent a year in counselling when I decided to deal with my abuse but I avoided conversations which triggered my anger because I was ashamed of the anger, I felt it made me a bad person. It was like a volcano trying to erupt and I was keeping the lid on it and I didn’t know what to do with it where to dispose of it with out hurting anybody. Your example of the mother and daughter scenario I connected with unfortunately my mother was so upset I spent my time making her feel better and unable to let my anger out.

  3. AvatarHealing4me says:

    This post on anger describes me and how I’ve been feeling and acting, although I don’t take my anger outbursts out on humans because I’m the only human in the house. I find if my dog doesn’t perform exactly as I want him to, when I want him to, I go off on a screaming rant. I get soooo frustrated and then start yelling. It is so unfair to him. I also do the same with ‘bad’ drivers, etc., etc., only I get angry in my car where I’m alone.

    I grew up with six brothers and one sister and my mother was very angry. She yelled and screamed at us all the time, then she’d say wait until your father gets home. After awhile we knew he wasn’t going to do anything, so we no longer listened. I can look back and see that she was very frustrated with us and screamed because we wouldn’t listen. The problem was she never took the time to teach us in a positive way. That wasn’t the way back in the 1950s. And, there was absolutely no consistency.

    I know that a dog can’t think like humans. He has no idea what I’m screaming about, he only looks at me wondering what is wrong. I feel so horrible after I’ve screamed my head off. He needs to be taught what is good and what is not. He’s a very smart dog, I’m the one who is not so smart, obviously. Even though we’re in training, I have been so depressed, sad and frustrated the past two weeks that I haven’t been training as I ought to be. Not his problem.

    This morning when I took the dog out for his early morning pee, I kept telling myself, “He’s a dog, dogs do this. They sniff everything until they find the perfect spot.” I managed to keep control of myself and not throw a fit.

    As I have been reading the information on this site, I find myself thinking back and I can see my mother in me. I’m doing the very same thing that she did to us. I’m very inconsistent with the training, I’m getting extremely frustrated and I’m screaming and yelling and cursing like a maniac. I want it to stop before I have a stroke or heart attack.

    It feels really good to get out some of this stuff that I’ve been suppressing for so many years. I have a few very select friends, however, most of them did not have the background that I have and they don’t understand.

    Thank you so much for all the information on this site and for a place to ‘talk’.

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