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Welcome to my island of sanity and serenity. I'm Sandra Pawula - writer, mindfulness teacher and advocate of ease. I help deep thinking, heart-centered people find greater ease — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curious? Read On!

How to Catch Anger Before You Lose Your Cool

Running Dogs In my first post on transforming anger, I spoke about the detriments of anger and how - for your own well-being - it’s virtually never beneficial to act it out.  I also shared two foundational steps to help you dilute the powerful hold anger may have over you:

Step 1:  Don’t Get Mad At Yourself

When you get into a lather, don’t compound it by getting mad at yourself too.  Though you may feel a healthy regret for certain words you’ve spoken or actions you’ve taken, alway accept yourself with love and compassion.  At the same time, commit to transforming your response to anger.

Step 2:  Fully Embrace the Dangers of Anger

Fully convince yourself that acting out anger brings no good whatsoever.  That doesn't mean you should suppress anger, be afraid of it, or that a spark of anger cannot bring important insights.  It simply means to reflect on the negative effects of anger again and again until you lose your appetite for engaging in it.

Then, you'll have the impetus to pause and work skillfully with anger when it does arise.  You'll be able to respond to inner distress and external anger with love, kindness, patience, and tolerance instead of spewing angry words.  This can be accomplished through the practice of reflection.

Read the full details in my first post:  Is Anger Depleting Your Happiness?

Today, we’ll go further and explore:

  • How you can intercept anger before it has you in its clutches
  • The importance of making amends

Step 3:  Catch Anger Before It Catches You

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. - Viktor E. Frankl

Did you know there’s a gap between thoughts?  It might not seem that way if your mind produces 10,000 to 50,000 thoughts each day - the usual range for the average person.

Most people don't realize there’s a gap between thoughts, and you can actually learn to extend it through the practice of mindfulness meditation.  The answer isn’t in the gap alone, but depends upon the ability to sustain your present moment awareness as well.

Mindfulness is a gateway to greater peace of mind. When you cultivate mindfulness, you'll find it much easier to catch anger before it catches you.

So to begin, just start noticing when there’s a gap between your thoughts and, if you can, rest there a moment.  Do this first thing in the morning, as often as you can during the day, and last thing at night.

10 Ways To Catch Anger Before You Lose Your Cool

Anger and its associated feelings and behaviors are learned habits that have been reinforced through repetition.  Like any habit, they can be changed, and you can learn positive ways to work with anger.

Experiment with the following methods for transforming anger and see which ones work for you.

1.  Take Responsibility for Your Anger Anger is an internal experience that belongs to you.  No one makes you angry.  Shift your focus from the external trigger to your internal response.  That’s what you can change.

That doesn’t mean other people’s actions are always justifiable.  It means, however, that you can choose your response to them.

2.  Know Your Early Warning Signs of Anger Sometimes, anger hits you out of nowhere.  But often indignation or rage gradually builds up because you haven’t paid attention to your early warning signs.  So start tuning into those personal warning signs.  Here are a few common ones:

  • Repetitive thoughts like, “That’s not fair.”  Or, "If she says another word, I'm going to explode."
  • Physical sensations like a pounding heart, muscle tension, or heat in your neck and head.
  • Physical reactions like pacing, fidgeting, or clenching your fists.

The key is to know your own early warning signs. Make a list.  Practice paying attention to the signs and then take preventative action long before you blood begins to boil.

The capacity to simply notice as soon as you feel unsettled could transform your life. [Tweet]

3.  Pause When you feel angry, pause.  Anger can increase your heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. It also releases stress hormones into the blood.

Pause, take a few breaths, and bring your mind home.  This will counteract the physical arousal that has been set in motion, help you find more calm, and increase your ability to think clearly.

If you’re in the middle of a discussion with someone, ask for a break.  Say you need time to think things over.  You also have the right to leave a situation entirely if you are being treated abusively.

Often, the secret to working effectively with anger is to pull back rather than push forward. [Tweet]

4.  Sleep On It The unconscious mind processes our experiences and emotions as we sleep.

After a good night’s sleep, your anger may have diminished.  When you wake up, you might have a fresh perspective on the upsetting situation and no longer be so disturbed.

However, sometimes we wake up as livid as when we fell asleep.  If that’s the case, work with some of the other techniques provided here.

5.  Invoke Positive Emotions

Love is a powerful antidote to anger.  If someone irks you, instead of focusing exclusively on the irritation, try to think of his positive qualities and recall your favorable feelings for him.  Ideally, this will counterbalance your displeasure and may dispel your anger entirely.

If you don't have positive feelings for the person, please read:  How to Feel and Be Compassionate Towards Someone You Dislike.

6.  Cultivate Understanding

Try to view the situation from the other person’s eyes.  Listen and ask questions instead of immediately responding with anger.  Be friendly, conciliatory, and receptive.

What’s motivating their action?  Are they driven by a deep hurt within or an embedded dysfunctional pattern?  With greater understanding, you'll increase your chances of building honest communication and perhaps even a stronger bond.

“If we could read the secret histories of our enemies we should find sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”  Longfellow

7.  Honor Your Own Heart

The ability to have emotions is a precious quality that can connect you to your heart and enhance your ability to feel compassion for yourself and others.

When you feel anger, look within and be inquisitive.  Ask:

  • “Why do I feel in such a rage?”
  • “Does this remind me of an earlier time?”
  • “Is there a lesson to be learned here?”

Often, tender spots developed during our childhood years, which have yet to be healed.  Strong emotions can be a sign and a doorway into profound healing when you take the time to look within.

8.  Soothe Yourself

Chances are, your feelings are hurt or you feel misunderstood.  If that's the case, soothe yourself with calm, affirming words.

  • “Everything will be okay.”
  • “I’m fine just as I am.”
  • “I love myself.”
  • “I trust my intuition about this situation.”

9.  View the Challenge Differently

People who anger us simultaneously give us the opportunity to cultivate love, compassion, tolerance, and patience.  When we understand that angry people are not in control of their emotions, it's easier to give rise to understanding and compassion.

That is spiritual and personal growth, which might be near impossible without an irritant here or there.

So instead of seeing an angry person as a headache, consider that they are giving you a precious gift:  the chance to grow.  That doesn't mean you should set yourself up for abuse.  Just see if you can shift your attitude and possibly turn the situation around when anger enters the scene.

10.  Get the Help You So Deserve

The ability to communicate effectively is not necessarily an inborn trait.  As children, we typically emulate those around us.  If you learned to respond with anger as a child, it's not your fault.  And, this can be a difficult habit to break.

If anger is too constant a companion, find a therapist, check out an anger management courses, or consider learning Non-Violent Communication, which is based on understanding your own feelings and needs.

Select two or three techniques from the above list and then practice them regularly - until you can respond to anger in a neutral or positive way.  Always try to remember that responding with anger will most likely fuel more anger, regrettable words, and unsavory actions. With practice and determination you can learn to respond peacefully instead.

Step 4:  Make Amends

Anger makes a dent in the trust we've built with others.  And that can be difficult to repair.  So it's truly best to make amends right away before distrust solidifies.

It wasn't always the case, but now, whenever I lose it, I apologize as soon as I can.  I'll bring some chocolate covered macaroons or a cool drink as a peace offering.  And, I use the four steps of Ho'oponopono to try to make things right:

  • I'm sorry.
  • Please forgive me.
  • Thank you.
  • I love you.

If the other party isn't receptive to a peace treaty, at least make amends in your heart.  Ask silently for forgiveness and send love to disperse any anger you've expressed.  Be sure to forgive yourself too.

Transforming Anger In a Nutshell

You might think anger is not an issue for you if you're not boiling mad day in and day out.

But anger comes in many shades and colors.  Although anger is typically considered hot, it can be ice cold too as in giving someone the "cold shoulder."  Frustration, irritation, annoyance, impatience, and exaggeration could be chronic low-level forms of anger eating away your joy.  And, depression is sometimes described as anger turned within.

Let's do all we can to eliminate anger in all its forms, and instead bring peace and happiness wherever we go. Here are the 4 steps to transforming anger in a nutshell.

  • Step 1:  Don’t Get Mad At Yourself
  • Step 2:  Fully Embrace the Dangers of Anger
  • Step 3:  Learn to Catch Anger Before It Catches You
  • Step 4:  Make Amends As Soon As You Can

Read about the first two in Is Anger Depleting Your Happiness and the last two right here.

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

Mini-Mindfulness Challenge: Smile

Is Anger Depleting Your Happiness?