By Charles H. Elliott, Laura L. Smith, W. Doyle Gentry

An early step in managing anger at the moment you experience it is to assess the intensity of the feeling. This is the rate-and-label step. To assess your own anger, follow these steps:

  1. Think of a number between 1 and 10 that best describes the intensity of your emotion, with 1 being mild and 10 being severe.

    A rating of 2, for example, suggests a barely noticeable change in your emotional state, whereas a rating of 8 signifies very strong negative feelings. Focus especially on the physical side of anger — how tense, aroused, or agitated you feel.

  2. Convert the number rating into a label that aptly defines just how angry you are at this moment.

    Consider using three distinct levels. A rating between 1 and 3 suggests that you’re annoyed or irritated. A rating between 4 and 6 is typical of folks who are just plain mad. And, finally, if you rated yourself somewhere between 7 and 10, like it or not, you’re either bordering on, or actually in, a state of rage.

    Anger ratings are like golf — the lower the number, the better off you are!

Quantifying anger with numbers gives you useful information:

  • Numbers tell you how close you are to losing control. You’re more likely to lose control when you find yourself extremely mad or at the point of rage than you are if you’re just irritated.

  • Numbers tell you how much of a window of opportunity you have to retain control of your anger. If you start out with a rating of 4, you obviously have more time to turn things around than if you begin with a 6, where you’re only one tick away from rage.

  • Numbers provide a baseline from which you can measure progress. If you start out with feelings of rage and, after employing anger-management strategies, you find yourself only just plain mad or irritated, that’s progress.

You’re likely to find that simply monitoring and rating your anger gives you a sense of control over it. That step alone will probably help your ratings decrease a bit. Then ask yourself how important will, whatever made you mad in the first place, feel six months to a year from now. Most people find that they predict a much less intense rating of their anger in the future.