The Fiji Times
The art of anger management
BULA Fiji! Thank you for taking time out to read Bula Vakasaama, a column dedicated to enlightening readers about practical strategies for optimal mental health and mind wellness.
Today's topic is about understanding the emotion of anger and learning how to manage it.
Anger is probably the most frequently felt emotion on this planet – from young children to the elderly, from homemakers to company executives, from those who identify as religious and God-fearing to those who want to stay a mile away from all things related to God, from independent singles to those who are in committed relationships, from the one who has everything to the one who survives on bare minimum…no one is immune from the emotion of anger.
Take a moment right now and pause to reflect on what made you angry recently. More importantly, ponder on the why…why did it make you angry? What or who triggered the anger? Was it a family member? A friend? Colleague? Was it work-related? Or school or Uni? Was it someone from the church? Or someone in traffic? Or on the TV? Or something you read?
Once you reflect on the details of the incident, you will begin to understand how this emotion arises in you and in some cases, how it can begin to govern your thoughts, words, and actions towards your own self and others.
Two types of anger
Anger is an emotion which is triggered by memories of pain that are stored in the subconscious mind. The pain could be physical or emotional and it could be in the form of fear or insecurity. Anger is further perpetuated by thoughts and images that are replayed in the mind that trigger these painful memories.
There are two types of anger — Momentary Anger and Destructive
Momentary Anger occurs in the moment and subsides after a few minutes. For example, if you find that someone has spilt a drink on your freshly mopped floor, you may feel anger in the moment. Once the floor is mopped and cleaned again, your anger subsides, and you feel better.
Destructive Anger, however, is dangerous to you and those around you. It is destructive to your health and wellbeing. Destructive Anger displays itself in the following ways;
❍ It is repetitive – your words and actions hurt you and others repetitively as though in a habitual pattern;
❍ It is when you lash out at the same person or people again and again like a toxic ritual;
❍ It is when you bring up past grudges to use in your present state of anger about something small and often unrelated to the past;
❍ It is when you want to be right and prove that the other person is wrong;
❍ It is when you act out of spite, making someone else feel bad on purpose; and
❍ It is when your anger feeds on itself, getting worse with every passing moment.
Destructive anger destroys relationships. It disconnects you from your inner voice which is pure. It disconnects you from your inner peace. It fuels negative thoughts about self and others. It creates barriers in the home and within the community.
If you can relate to any of the signs of destructive anger, even if it is only one of them, it means you are suppressing a painful experience and you need to heal from it.
It means that you need to find a safe, trusting outlet and find professional help to address this painful experience.
My personal battle with Destructive
I lived with destructive anger for nearly 36 years until I realised I was suppressing immense pain and expressing destructive anger daily in my life. Have you ever watched a person lose their cool and abuse a waiter or a supermarket cashier over something really petty?
Well, that was me. I was constantly agitable, always irritated with small things, incessantly critical of myself and others. I was blind to the goodness that surrounded me. I was ignorant of others' feelings and extremely self-absorbed in a story that I played in my mind about how everyone else was being unfair and mean to me.
I was in so much pain inside that all I could do was inflict that pain on others through my thoughts, words, and actions.
Anger is a sign of suppressed unhealed pain. You can heal from it. I did. It does not mean that we can eradicate anger completely from our lives. But we can choose not to let anger control us.
Instead, we can choose to control it. We can choose to overcome triggers that cause unhealed, painful memories to resurface and provoke reactions from us. We can overcome these triggers and choose an appropriate response that empowers us instead of consuming us.
How to manage anger at the exact
moment that you feel it
The most difficult part of anger management is to become aware of it and control it at the precise time that it is arising. Our default pattern is to function on reactions, which exacerbates the anger.
Once you identify the physical sensations of anger in your body as it is occurring, you will realise that you are able to manage this destructive emotion using appropriate responses, not mindless reactions.
The idea is to stop identifying anger as something you are but rather as something you are aware of. "I am angry" versus "I am aware of the anger that is rising within me right now."
When anger arises, you will notice that your muscles tense up, heartbeat increases, body becomes hot, breathing becomes shallow. That is when you need to STOP.
Managing anger with the S-T-O-P method
S – Stop everything you are doing.
T – Take long, deep breaths, bringing your awareness only to the deep breathing.
O – Observe your body and relax it. If you are walking, stand. If you are standing, sit. If you are sitting, lie down. Relaxing your body will normalise the heart rate.
P – Proceed with Permission to Ponder the situation with Peace. Me, personally, I also Pray.
When you practise the S-T-O-P method regularly, you will stop reacting to triggers and start choosing to respond with a calm mind.
■ PRINCESS R LAKSHMAN is a counsellor, clinical nutritionist, writer, narrative therapist, and certified life-coach. She is passionate about mind wellness and an advocate for kindness and selfcare. She lives in Sydney and will soon open mind wellness hubs in Fiji to provide free mental health counselling and workshops exclusively to Fiji residents. The views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper. She can be reached at email@example.com