In honor of World Mental Health Day, we thought we would re-post one of our favorite entries, “Quick Tips to Control Your Temper”:
Are you in control of your anger? Or does it control you? We all feel angry at times, and it can actually serve a useful purpose in some situations, but when this powerful emotion gets the better of us, it’s no easy task to rein it back in.
That doesn’t mean that there’s no hope for managing one’s anger, however. “I always figured that my Dad had a bad temper and I inherited it from him… that there wasn’t really anything I could do about it,” comments Cynthia, a 46-year-old businesswoman. “I knew I could try to control whether or not I acted on it – you know, laid on the horn in traffic or something – but if I was going to get mad, it was just going to happen and that was that! Now that I realize I can actually avoid even getting angry, I am so much happier! I don’t fight my emotions all of the time.”
No matter what sparks our anger: careless drivers, billing errors, rude co-workers, selfish siblings – none of us have the power to eliminate all of these annoyances from our lives. We can’t prevent the world from creating the irritants which make us angry, so that really leaves only one option: changing the way we think about those unpleasant events. “The way you think about events has a powerful influence over your feelings and actions,” state clinical psychologists and anger experts Chip Tafrate and Howard Kassinove. “Your thinking contributes to your anger and to some of the self-defeating behaviors that go along with it.”
Cynthia knows her perceptions were causing her anger problem, “My brother was driving us to a restaurant when some guy cut him off and then gave him the finger. Tom just waved at the guy like it was no big deal and didn’t even let it bother him. I was downright amazed!” she laughs, “I knew then that having my dad’s temper wasn’t the problem, my attitude was.” Tafrate and Kassinove agree: “Becoming more aware of how you typically think when you become angry and changing these long-standing thoughts are key in reducing anger. The good news is with some effort and practice you can change the way you think about unpleasant events and thereby reduce your anger and increase your joy and happiness.”
Drs. Tafrate and Kassinove, authors of Anger Management for Everyone: Seven Proven Ways to Control Anger and Live a Happier Life (November 2009, Impact Publishers, Atascadero, CA), have developed a program which suggests key steps to controlling one’s anger, among them:
Analyze past anger episodes you’ve experienced in order to recognize the events which trigger your anger.
Identify your thoughts to find if you are distorting or exaggerating the situation unnecessarily.
Learn relaxation techniques and how to apply them when needed.
Discover assertive, productive ways to express your anger.
Tafrate and Kassinove offer specific exercises, evaluation charts, and examples in their book to help participants implement the program, so “… you learn to reduce your anger, you’ll be able to make better decisions in your life, manage your relationships better, and behave in ways that are likely to bring about the results you want the most. Misfortune, unfairness, and disappointment are part of everyone’s life; we’ll show you how to think about such events – and respond to them – constructively.”
Raymond Chip Tafrate, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, professor, and chairperson of the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department at Central Connecticut State University. Dr. Tafrate serves as a consultant to state criminal justice agencies and trains practitioners in client engagement skills and the application of cognitive-behavioral interventions. His research on the nature and treatment of anger has been published in scientific journals and books, and presented at international conferences.
Howard Kassinove, Ph.D., ABPP, a board certified clinical psychologist, is past chairperson of the Psychology Department at Hofstra University and past director of their Ph.D. Program in Clinical & School Psychology. He is director of the Institute for the Study and Treatment of Anger and Aggression, and a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychological Society, the Albert Ellis Institute, and the Behavior Therapy and Research Society.
Anger Management for Everyone is published as a trade paperback and available at online and local bookstores nationwide or directly from Impact Publishers, P.O. Box 6016, Atascadero, CA 93423-6016, www.impactpublishers.com, or phone 1-800-246-7228.