Anger Management For Dummies
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Anger management is a case of mind over matter. What you have in your mind matters — it spells the difference between being full of anger versus anger-free. Here are ten thoughts that will help you manage anger — yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

No one can make you angry without your participation

When people say, "He (or she) made me mad," it's their way of trying to make other people responsible for their emotions. No circumstance, person, or event has that power over you. You aren't a car that can be started by another person's key — and you should be glad about that.

What is true is that external events can (and do) provide you with opportunities to become angry. The unfortunate part is that people embrace this opportunity all too readily. You can, if you want, choose not to lose your temper. Either way, the choice is yours.

What goes around comes around

You've probably heard numerous sayings like "What goes around comes around" and "You reap what you sow" — most of them coming out of the mouth of someone who has felt harmed or hurt by someone else. These sayings serve a purpose: They remind you that life is, by and large, a two-way street.

There is a certain reciprocity to human emotion; in other words, anger begets anger, fear engenders fear, and one act of kindness is often followed by another. People respond in kind to whatever you throw out there. Throw out anger and you get back anger. Throw out love and you get back love. Emotions work just like a boomerang.

It's only money

Far too often, people get upset — angry — because something goes wrong, and it has a monetary consequence. If the cost is minimal, they get irritated. If the cost is more than they can (or want to) bear, they fly into a rage.

Does this sounds like you? If so, what you need to consider is that it's only money. It's not the end of the world or civilization as you know it. It doesn't mean that your life is ruined forever. It's only money.

Other people are not the enemy

From an evolutionary standpoint, anger serves a purpose. It's a means to an end — survival. Emotions were built into your nervous system to help you adapt to life so that you can live long and well. Anger has a single purpose — to protect you from your enemies, those who threaten your very existence. But who are these enemies, and how many do you have?

Reserve the status of enemy for those people who truly threaten your physical safety. Think of the rest of them as people — not enemies.

Life isn't fair and never will be

Sometimes humans are funny creatures. When life goes the way you want it to, you call that fair. When it doesn't, you call that unfair. You decide what's fair and what's unfair. In other words, you're the ultimate judge. How you think about what happens to you is what determines how angry you get. Every time you think "unfair," do you resort to anger?

Stop thinking about whether what comes your way today is fair or unfair and just deal with it as best you can — without being judgmental, which is where the anger comes in. Try it. Also, remember to be grateful even when life doesn't go the way you want it to. Gratefulness about small things improves moods.

Energy is a limited resource

It takes energy for you to be angry, it takes energy for you to stay angry, and it takes energy for you to do all the things you do to express or relieve anger. Too much anger can leave you utterly exhausted.

Are you sure you want to devote so much energy to one emotion — or, for that matter, to emotions in general? You don't have an unending supply of energy — you can use it up like any other resource. Where you spend your energy pretty much defines your day. If you put most of it into tasks, at the end of the day, you feel productive. If you put most of it into anger, at the end of the day, you feel angry, defeated, exhausted, and unproductive.

Don't kid yourself: we're all bozos

Woody Allen was right — we're all bozos. The minute you forget that, you're in trouble. Thinking of yourself as superior, or better than other people, is an open invitation to anger. Anger tends to flow downhill toward those you regard as inferior — as sillier, stupider, and less important than you are. You tell yourself, "They (the lesser people) deserve what they get when they make me mad."

Settle for just being an ordinary, nothing-special, person. Then you can relax.

This isn't the hill you want to die on

Just as in war, as you struggle your way through life, you must invariably decide which objectives — hills, goals, or issues — are worth dying for and which ones matter less. The more things matter — the more of an emotional investment you have in something — the angrier you get when things don't go your way. As Dr. Redford Williams at Duke University so poignantly put it, "Anger kills!" So it pays to be selective in the battles you choose to fight.

Nothing you can achieve in anger can't be achieved without it

Anger can be used constructively in some instances, but anything you want to achieve in life can be yours without anger.

Somewhere along the line, people forged an association between getting mad and getting things done. And now the anger comes automatically when you're faced with obstacles, challenges, and problems. It's what experimental psychologists call superstitious reinforcement — in other words, people think that anger is vital to their day-to-day survival when it's really not.

At some time in the history of humankind, anger no doubt served a purpose — mainly through its connection with physical survival. But in today's world, anger has nearly outlived its usefulness. Too often, anger is nothing more than a bad habit passed down from one generation to the next.

You're not entitled to anything

You're not entitled to anything. A sense of entitlement is the root cause of much of the anger in today's fast-moving, complex world.

According to the dictionary, an entitlement is anything you have legal claim to — like the title to a piece of property. Historically, it was something that English kings granted noblemen for their loyal service. Yet today, if you're like many people, you apply the concept to just about every facet of your everyday life.

Forget the entitlements and instead negotiate successfully for at least some of what you want (not demand) out of life — a raise, a promotion, respect, love, and recognition. It makes life flow a whole lot easier.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Laura L. Smith, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and former President of the New Mexico Psychological Association. She presents workshops and classes on cognitive therapy and mental health issues for national and international audiences.

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