Does this sound familiar?
I wake up late. My parents are yelling at me about ALWAYS being late. I’m a little upset but whatever. The friend I usually talk with about these things is not at school when I get there. That’s irritating. My completed homework actually did get left at home because I was being rushed out of the house by my parents. That means the ‘A’ I was going to get is at best a ‘B’. I’m really starting to get upset now. And the next thing I know someone bumps into me. I’m startled, irritated, anxious and angry all at once and I let them have all of the anger that’s been building all morning. And maybe some anger left over from yesterday… and the past month… and maybe even from my whole life now that I think about it!!! And that is why I feel so out of control. There is too much stored-up negative energy from past events that now it comes out as full on anger or rage.
I feel out of control because I am. I am in fight mode and my thinking brain has shut down. It’s a bio-chemical thing. Look it up!
Now what do I need to do?
My body is flooded with chemicals that need to be put back where they belong. So, I get away from the situation if I can. Take deep slow breaths, go for a walk, give myself a few minutes to calm down and start thinking again instead of over reacting.
After I am thinking again, I can figure out what was behind my outburst. Venting anger is not usually just about what triggered my outburst…like being bumped into. It’s about all the little things that were building up. This may take some time and some help to figure out, but figure it out I must if I want to keep from exploding again.
I discovered that I added it all up – (being late + parents yelling + missing friend + left homework + being bumped into = explosion). If I look at these things individually, none of them is a big deal by itself. But together they add up to ANGER! So, what’s behind my anger? Resentment? Frustration? Disappointment? I try to start noticing these individual things as separate events and not adding them all up to one big final overwhelming event. It will take practice but I can do it. I want to be in charge of my brain instead of feeling out of control AND getting into trouble with friends, family and others. If this happens to you too, and you want to make a change, the key is to find out what triggers you and then explore what is behind it.
For instance, when someone bumps into me I might feel anxious that others may bump me too if I don’t do something. Or, embarrassed that I woke up late and forgot my homework. Instead of those feelings, I could slow my brain down and be curious. What can I do so this situation does not come up again? Set an alarm to wake myself up on time? Plan for my parents to wake me up (and remember I asked them to). Start problem solving instead of getting mad. Write out what was happening when you got angry. Look for patterns in what makes you upset. See each situation individually for what it is and avoid the next outburst.
- What can I say to others so they will understand to let me calm down?
- Can I help a friend calm down without telling them to calm down?
- How long does it take me to regain control of myself?
- What is a key word or phrase a friend can say to me that will help?
- What are key things that trigger my anger?
- How can I avoid being triggered?
- Do I get physical exercise to burn off my stored frustration?
- Am I grown up enough to not be so upset and quick to anger?
- Did I try speaking with a counselor? They can help!!!
- Will whatever is making me angry matter in an hour? A week? Five years from now?
- Do I have a ‘touchstone’? This is something (small smooth rock, a favorite pen, etc.) that I can keep in my pocket to remind me to stay calm. This really won’t matter five years from now!