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Thammuz's avatar

Personal question time: How do I stop being so angry all the time?

Asked by Thammuz (9282points) October 1st, 2011

First and foremost: I know this is not a viable substitute for professional help. I’m looking for a psychologist that I can afford, but in the meantime I need to find something to mitigate the problem.

That said: Yesterday, after an argument with my girlfriend I realized I really have a big problem with anger. I wouldn’t say it’s undirected, per se, but I realized that it mostly builds up during the day and spills out with my mother and girlfriend (I don’t think I need to mention that I’m very ashamed of this particular detail.) for any stupid reason. Now, I realize it’s probably partly because I’m an only child and I’ve become very self confident in the last 4 or 5 years, which has had a big part in making me act like a twat in the past, but that can’t be all.

The big problem is that i don’t realize when I have snapped until after I calmed down, which comes about too much time after I’ve already done the damage. I need to learn to prevent this, but I don’t really know how.

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24 Answers

harple's avatar

A big part is to (somehow) identify the triggers, then to learn to recognise them when they occur, then to learn to make a conscious decision to do something different at that point….

A trigger might be having had a bad night’s sleep the night before, it might be a particular client at work who pushes all your wrong buttons, it might be a particularly frantic commute, it might be a word, a tone of voice…........ Triggers can be absolutely anything, and they are about YOU.

Sorry to make it all sound so simple, goodness knows it’s not. Best of strength to you – for it will take strength, but boy what a better person you will become (and you’ll like yourself more too…)

augustlan's avatar

One thing that really helped my ex-husband was having some alone time to ‘decompress’ after work. Fifteen or twenty minutes to himself when he first got home, just to relax in the quiet, before he could interact reasonably with me or the kids.

You might also try using your commuting time to get it all out of your system. Maybe listening to loud music, singing along would help. Or maybe even ranting and raving to yourself in the car.

JLeslie's avatar

People with anger problems typically have a lot of shoulds. My girlfriend should have had dinner ready the second I walked in the door. My mom should not have told that story about my father. My boss should have included me in the project. Kind of related to expectations. When people don’t meet your expectations you probably have a harsh reaction. This also ties into control. Wanting everything to happen how you want it so you feel control over your environment. Many people also say anger is actually hurt transformed. Could that be it, your feelings are hurt, and so you lash out? If any of the things I named sound right to you, maybe it is only one aspect of your life that is triggering these feelings, say it is work, but you cannot do anything about it at work, you might take it out on your family in the form of a short fuse, rather than venting your stress by telling them what is difficult at work. Also, if your girlfriend is dissappointing you somehow, talk to her about why and what would make your life easier, or explain to her why what she says sets you off, maybe something from your childhood that always made you feel bad? Communication. She may have no idea what is really upsetting you, she can’t read your mind. You might think you are telling her in your anger, but probably you are not really telling her the jnderlying problem.

I agree with @augustlan you might need decompress time. A lot of men hate to walk through the door and their SO immediately starts with questions and demands. All the things you still have to do, all the worries of her day. Makes men not want to come home.

Along with coming home from work and being on a short fuse, make sure you take responsibility for being fed. My husband almost never is short tempered, but when he is very hungry look out. He is a pain in the ass, and after 18 years of marriage he still does not agree its hunger.

Also, part of it might be a learned behavior. I think you are Italian if I remember correctly. They are kind of famous for shouting, and being hot headed. My culture has a similar stereotype.

Thammuz's avatar

Thank you all, it might be odd, but you all sound very much right on the money. The whole decompression business will be hard to manage, because if i don’t lash out i don’t know how to decompress. I might have to find a different outlet. Maybe a punchbag…

@JLeslie People with anger problems typically have a lot of shoulds.
So true. So very true.

Many people also say anger is actually hurt transformed.
I can name at least one specific recurring case when that’s absolutely true.

You might think you are telling her in your anger, but probably you are not really telling her the underlying problem.
This is a trickier problem. She has a temper too, only while mine manifests in massive tirades her manifests in single bouts, like a harsh way of telling me something, or telling me off because she’s mad at someone else, which set off my temper in turn, though i usually see those coming and roll with the punches, if i’m in a good enough mood.

A lot of men hate to walk through the door and their SO immediately starts with questions and demands.
Are you reading my mind or what?

Make sure you take responsibility for being fed.
That, luckily, we highlighted fairly early on. She’s still working on being on time when we have lunch together but i usually carry something to placate the stomach if i need to, so it’s not a big deal.

Also, part of it might be a learned behavior. I think you are Italian if I remember correctly. They are kind of famous for shouting, and being hot headed.
Definitively partly a learned behaviour. We all shout at eachother at home, but we never get hurt over it, we’re used to get mad at eachother one minute and hug the next. My girlfriend isn’t used to it though, she grew up in a much more controlled family where even when people are mad they don’t shout, so my shouting has a very hard impact on her. (BTW, you’re Irish, right?)

Thank you all, really, for your insight. I love the fact that at least ⅔ people who replied on male anger are women (i’m not sure about @harple), really makes me feel a little less hopeless.

JLeslie's avatar

@Thammuz I’m Jewish.

When I say decompress, I specifically mean her giving you time before she starts with problems of the day and demands. You need to tell her you want at least an hour to come home, be with her, eat dinner, and then if there is something more serious to discuss, do it after this nice time together. Make it a plan you both agree on, so it is not a demand by you, not you trying to control things, let her give her opinion also, and help come up with the plan.

My husband’s family does not yell easily, and mine does. He has extremely little tolerance for raised voices and feels there must be somthing very very wrong. When there was shouting in his childhood home it meant his dad moved out of the house. His sister was married to an Italian, and they hated him for his temper. They eventually divorced for many reasons. Her second husband, I will never forget it, I remember her mother going on about she had never seen him raise his voice, and she focused on it so much, I realized how much they judge it. Ironically her mother talked about this a few months after I read a book on cultural differences in America, and it talks about family dynamics according to national background. One thing it said about Mexicans (my husband’s family is Mexican) is they are very formal with their spouses. Expect all the please and thank yous, politeness, and calm.

When you talk to your SO, maybe you can reassure her raising your voice does not mean you want to leave her, or whatever is very upsetting to her about it. You are probably triggering some insecurities or hurt in her. You can both share how you feel, and how to fix it. Being united in the problem solving is very important. Neither of you should expect the other to follow solutions perfectly, we all have trouble changing behavior, it will be a work in progress to be better.

My temper is much less with my husband, than with my family. In my family there is so many triggers and everyone is hot headed, so it is more difficult to fix.

Lastly, some people use fighting for interaction. If you feel ignored or lonely, you might start a fight so your SO pays some attention to you.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Thammuz Maybe find a technique that lets you lash out without lashing out at someone? Like writing down what you want to say to them in a journal, or throwing darts, or screaming into a pillow, or tearing up paper? I’ve heard that if you feel angry, if you push against the wall (feet firmly planted, and push, kind of like you were trying to move a huge piece of furniture a foot over…) it gets the emotion out of your body, and you feel like you’ve physically set the boundary you want to.

Thammuz's avatar

@Aethelflaed I was thinking of starting a blog, i could start it, and then rant in between actually useful posts.

Also, yelling in the pillow seems to be a very good idea.

JLeslie's avatar

Hopefully you will get to a point you don’t feel you need to vent constantly. But, I agree being able to write down your feelings can help a lot. Beware though, sometimes continuing to complain for an extended period can keep an incident alive in your brain. There is a balance. I doubt that will be a problem for you if you fit the Italian stereotype. Blow off steam, then everyone is back in love again.

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Thammuz's avatar

@JLeslie I really hope it will turn out for the best. Thank you for all your advice.

@wiseacre I’ll give them a read as soon as i have the time, thanks!

thorninmud's avatar

There’s no substitute for self-awareness. By this I mean being attentive to what your emotions are up to from moment to moment; for instance, learning to recognize the very earliest manifestations of anger, the bodily sensations that signal it.

Anger is as much a physical phenomenon as a mental one. Without the physical sensations that accompany the thought, we wouldn’t have an experience of “anger”. Those physical sensations are nothing more than the body’s response to certain hormones released by the brain. Those hormones have a very limited duration in the bloodstream—a couple of minutes typically.

But what usually happens is that a feedback loop gets going in which a thought or event triggers the hormone release, then the physical feelings of being angry make us mentally review the cause of our anger, which causes yet another hormone release, etc. The loop of thought and physical response creates the same kind of escalating feedback as a microphone and speaker too close to each other.

As with the speaker and microphone, the solution is often to isolate the thought from the response, breaking the loop. What works for me is this: try to pay attention to what it actually feels like to be angry, in other words study what an angry body feels like. Leave the cause of the anger—the thought—out of it and notice just the sensations. Learn to identify the beginning signs of those sensations, so that you will notice them when they pop up in your dealings with others. The earlier you notice them, the better.

When you first see the feelings manifest, instead of going back to rehearsing the cause just watch the sensations themselves, studying them minutely. Watch how they peak and then fade within a couple of minutes. Notice how when the sensations are uncoupled from the thought-cause, they lose their negativity; the sensations by themselves are just a bunch of sensations, neither good nor bad.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t still have to deal with whatever conflict triggered the anger in the first place. But you’ll have a much better perspective on the situation when the hormones aren’t clouding your judgment. You may find that the sensation flair back up when you revisit the situation; if so, treat them the same way. When you repeat this exercise often enough, it becomes second nature and the feedback cycle loses its potency.

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harple's avatar

@Thammuz Am female also! (Though you’re not the first on here to be unsure.)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Find an anger management workshop and go.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@Thammuz I feel ya honey, really I do… If you are anything like me in the way that you suffer where most “Normal” *Forgive the word… People, have the ability to stop and take a logical breath that seperates them from the cause and the effect.

For me, it is so fast a shift, so quick a transaction I have ten times more difficult a time than most other people to actually see it developing to stop it. It is a horrible tick, I am of course over time more aware of it and I am proactively attempting to change it by using exercises and delibrate basically self torture to try and correct it the best way I can.

THere are things that you can do, and places you can go, but I swear by this man and his lifes work to not only understand the psyche and the psychological aspects of these situations but the brain chesmistry and the brain itself as well.

I will sing his praises until the day I die… He is unfortunately quite expensive. Contact him, and see what you can find out within reason.

It is strange isn’t it how mental health is one of the most imperative functions of human life and behavior and interaction, and it is one of the most expensive and inecessible forms of health care in general.

We really need to do something about it because I can assure you you are not alone in this. You are very brave for not only admitting it but for asking for help. Too many years I didn’t ask for that help… and it has destroyed enough that it was just time.

Be at peace and love yourself… You are the only you that has ever been and will ever again be created. and whatever you believe in as that source of creation… knew what it was doing.

Good luck! You, your spirit and your life in general is WORTHY OF as well as DESERVING of the assistance that you require in order to become a whole and complete and happy individual.

Bellatrix's avatar

There is some great advice here and I just want to say @Thammuz actually acknowledging there is a problem is a huge step so make sure you do give yourself a pat on the back for that. Now you just have to find the best way to manage your anger.

I have quite the temper so I can relate and I find removing myself from the situation is the best thing I can do. When I feel my temper rising, just getting out of there.

Thammuz's avatar

Well, update time. Since everyone gave me advice and i got to implement some of it yesterday, i think it’s only fair if i tell you a little about what happened in this regard.

I asked my GF to meet (unfortunately, we don’t live together, as many of you seemed to assume) for coffee, and i told her that i asked for help here, explained to her that it was just a temporary measure and asked her to ask her psychologist if he knew someone who works in my area that could help me out with this.

I also told her to look me in the eyes and tell me to calm down when she sees me getting angry, hopefully this will stop me in my tracks long enough to regain control. This part went well.

We started going around the city centre (bookstores, fashion stores, the usual) and all went well. So well in fact that she told me it reminded her of our earliest dates.

Then we went to another bookstore where she sat down reading a book to see if she was interested, and the zipper on her skirt broke. I tried fixing it and when i couldn’t she snapped at me. I got very briefly angry, and defused the situation as soon as i could, it didn’t last a minute.

We had to stop and talk at that point because i realized that if she gets mad in the first place, telling me to calm down while being angry herself wasn’t going to do much. We still have to figure out a way to fix this, but we’ll get there eventually.

Also, I realized it is physicallt painful for me to repress anger. I felt my ribcage in a vise for about 15 minutes after the incident, and i definitively will have to look into that.

We then spent the evening together, had dinner and watched a movie. Very enjoyable all around.

Any comments?

augustlan's avatar

You are definitely on the right track, @Thammuz. I’m really glad you’re communicating openly about this situation, and recognizing some triggers. Keep up the good work!

willm's avatar

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle helped me greatly. Thich Nhat Hanh is also a great soul and has a book specifically addressing anger.

JLeslie's avatar

Great update. Both of you being more aware will help you solve it.

flutherother's avatar

Damned faulty zippers. I find it absolutely infuriating when they don’t work. Anger can come from fear and stress. I have known that tight feeling in the chest and I think it is definitely stress related. I found that exercise helped me unwind.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

@willm Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on anger… Is honestly one of the most brilliant insights into the topic that I have ever read. It literally had me in tears. Great idea! POINTS!

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