Take for instance, being bitten by a big, black dog at age 3. As a normal child your brain would make a record called âbecome afraid when you see a big, black dog.â
Forward to age 28. you have forgotten the dog incident at age 3. You are walking down the street and pass a dog that is big â and you guessed it â black. You automatically feel anxiety and apprehension and you want to avoid it, even though it is behind a gate and cannot harm you now. You find yourself thinking things like, âBig black dogs are dangerous,â and âItâs better to walk on the other side of the street.â
And so it is with many anger reactions. We find people and situations that literally âpush our buttons,â and we respond just like that juke box that automatically pulls down a record and starts playing it.
Of course, there are times when we SHOULD play the usual record. For instance, many social ills in our society are solved by people becoming righteously indignant (a form of anger) and taking action to correct an evil or a wrong.
Other times, anger gets peopleâs attention and they start taking us more seriously. But, 95% of the time, the negative far outweighs the positive when we lose control of our anger feelings. The costs are usually high and the benefits low.
Most of the time, anger simply doesnât get us what we desire or need in the first place and only makes things worse in terms of consequences to us, our âvictims,â and to the people (like children or employees) who may witness it.
Rather than reacting to anger triggers, here are five steps you can learn to choose how to deal with the situation â to respond rather than react.
1.Awareness: Become more aware of patterns of behavior you exhibit to life triggers. The first step in changing behavior is to become aware of it and recognize it as it is occurring. For instance, âWhenever she talks to her mother on the phone, I want to grab the receiver and slam it down.â
2.Consequences: Learn to think of consequences before you act impulsively. Ask yourself: âIf I do that it will only make matters worse; she will think I donât like her mother; it will stop us from being close tonight; Is it worth it to get angry?â
3.Listen: Listen to the conversation that you are having with yourself and have a different one! As human beings, we have the ability to monitor our own thinking patterns â to think about what we are thinking about: âWhy am I thinking she shouldnât talk to her mother? Why am I trying to control her? What right do I have to demand she give me attention instead of being on the phone? Am I the center of the universe?â
4.Interrupt your normal pattern of behavior and replace it with conscious behavior that moves you closer to your real goals: âWhat are my options in dealing with this besides getting angry?â
*Go over and kiss her on the neck
*Whisper, âI could use some attention.â
*Tell her how it makes you feel when she spends so much time on the phone instead of with you.
Pick your battles and learn to accept irritating behavior without getting upset.
5.Observe: Watch how differently people respond to you after you start doing things differently. For instance, your husband complains about his boss. If your usual response is to say something like âIâm tired of hearing you complain about her â would you like to hear about a day that was really horrible?â try support and understanding: âIâm so sorry you had such a tough day; would you like to tell me about it?â See if he doesnât respond to you differently than normal. It is much better to try to change other peopleâs response to you by changing you first â rather than just demanding that they change to satisfy your needs.