by Kate Fitch, CMWN volunteer

A lot of people hear the phrase “you have an anger problem.” However, anger isn’t necessarily the problem. Anger can be healthy or unhealthy, and that is driven by the thoughts behind the anger. It is okay to feel anger, but when anger becomes an emotion that drives you to hurt others or yourself, behave in a frightening manner, or feel physically unwell, you may need to work on the thoughts behind it.

Unhealthy anger frequently stems from rigid thinking. Rigid thinking demands that the world works a certain way, and when it doesn’t, feelings like outrage can occur. Try working on changing your rigid thinking to more flexible thinking. You can do this one at a time, just like in the post I made last week, or work on them together. Here’s how it works.

  1. Identify rigid thoughts.
  2. For example: I must be treated with respect at all times.
  3. Identify how you tend to respond when these rigid thoughts are triggered.
  4. For example: I tend to yell at people and throw things when I feel disrespected.
  5. Identify a more flexible option
  6. For example: I would prefer that people treat me with respect.
  7. Identify a more productive response when that flexible thought is triggered.
  8. For example: I could examine if I did something that might warrant disrespect. If I did, I could be the bigger person and apologize. If I didn’t, I could use positive assertiveness toward that person.
  9. Practice, practice, practice!

Assertiveness is often a more productive way of dealing with feelings of anger, but what does it entail?

  1. Describe the situation.
  2. For example: You called me an idiot when I misspoke in our meeting.
  3. Say what you feel.
  4. For example: I feel angry and embarrassed.
  5. Say what you want.
  6. For example: I would prefer that you didn’t use words like “idiot” when I make a mistake. I would prefer to simply be told “you made a mistake.”
  7. Accept that their response is their response, and you can’t control it.

It takes time and practice to learn these skills, so don’t give up! Anger is okay, but if you feel your anger is causing problems in your life, try these out and see if they help.

Anger, Rigid Thinking, and Assertiveness