Driving during the holidays requires a bit of patience, lots of control, and a sprinkle of endurance. As I was driving down the left side of the highway slightly faster than normal because I was late, suddenly someone cut me off. I slammed on the breaks and skidded a bit almost hitting the concrete barrier. Although I was safe, instantly, feelings of rage emerged.
Or your spouse promises they will be home by a certain time to attend a holiday party. The plans were made months in advance but your spouse doesn’t show up, answer the phone or even call. By the time they arrive home, all plans are canceled and both are angry.
Anger doesn’t care what time of year it is. Just because others are joyful and excited about the holidays doesn’t mean everyone is feeling festive. Rather, many are frustrated over the change in their relationship status, sad over the loss of a loved one, or just plain depressed. Each of these can spark surprising anger in contrast to the celebratory mood. Instead of losing it, try these steps.
Step 1: Define the Anger. Most likely, you have experienced a time when everything seems to be going just fine. Then something unexpected happens and you feel this rush of intense emotion. Your heart races, your voice gets louder, or your fists clench. Next, you say or do something that you normally would not do if the intense emotion had not occurred. That is anger.
Anger is just an emotion. But it comes with a force that can negatively control your behavior. This emotion is quite useful in life and death situations. It can propel you into action motivating you beyond what is normal. But it can also be destructive in personal relationships. As it leaves a path of disaster much like the path of a tornado. Understand the varying degrees of your anger provides clues into potential dangerous moments.
Step 2: Don’t Blame Anger. Just because you are feeling angry and it is justified, it does not mean you have a license to harm others. How many times have you heard someone say, “You make me so angry”? The reality is that they are responsible for getting angry just as you are responsible for your own anger.
The unchecked emotion of anger can control your actions in a negative manner. No one can “make” you angry unless you choose to be angry. Sometimes that choice is not a conscious one but an unconscious choice based on experiences and decisions made in the past. Nonetheless, it is your choice to allow anger to control you.
Step 3: Accept the Anger. One of the worst ways to deal with anger is to become angry at feeling anger. Instead, learn to accept that the feeling is normal, most likely even justified, and a healthy expression when used appropriately.
Try saying to yourself, “It is normal to feel this anger. Anyone in my position would feel the same way. There is nothing wrong with this feeling.” Just repeating this can sometimes calm the intensity of the emotion down to a more reasonable level.
Step 4: Manage your Anger. There are two main effective ways of managing anger at the moment. One is to not speak and think about your anger overnight. The other is to confront your anger. Neither of which indicates that another person must be involved in resolving your anger.
Not speaking and thinking about your reaction overnight allows the intensity of the emotion to subside. Perhaps the issue was not worth destroying a relationship. Confronting your anger does not mean lashing out on someone else. Rather it is a process where you evaluate what you are really angry about. (Hint: most people are more angry about something that happened in the past rather than the momentary issue.)
Step 5: Reconcile Anger. Once you have defined your anger, accepted responsibility for it and managed properly managed it, then you can begin the process of reconciliation. Since anger destroys relationships, it is likely that there is a trail of failed relationships in the quake of your anger. Even if the relationship may seem to be fine, unreconciled anger limits intimacy.
Again, your present anger may have less to do with present circumstances and more to do with your past. Take the time to reconcile old relationships and you will find that your anger is less intense the next time. This is especially true during the Holidays.
Anger can a helpful tool in your personal growth. It can identify areas of your past that still need resolution. However, it can also be destructive if not properly addressed. If you know of someone who needs help with their anger, speak up kindly and lovingly to them in a safe environment. Just make sure you have already addressed your anger issues first before confronting them.