Controlling anger isn’t something tigers have to think about. These are incredibly beautiful creatures. They represent concepts of pure wildness, untamed beauty, strength and power. Tigers have a reputation for being unpredictable and incredibly dangerous. Keeping a tiger as a pet is definitely inadvisable. It is their wildness that we admire most. A tiger doesn’t need to apologise for being a tiger.

Unlike tigers, we sometimes need to be able to control our anger. Anger is sometimes a perfectly natural response to a situation. Like all emotions it is a signal that something needs to change, and there is something new to learn.

However sometimes we experience inappropriate levels of anger. Then is time to consider ways to manage our emotions better.

As human beings we like to think of ourselves as more sophisticated – master of our emotions, civilised, and masters of ourselves. So what happens when we get angry? What happens when we lash out or lose our temper, maybe even go over the top and cause hurt and sadness in others we care about?

Controlling anger is a complex subject. The causes of inappropriate or chronic anger are many, and the solutions vary. At the same time there are a few small changes that we can make to make it easier to deal with angry outbursts in future.

1. What is the emotion?

When you first start feeling angry, if you can, try to notice what exactly you are feeling. Are you angry, or are you hurt? Could it even be sadness or fear?

Part of this is simply about awareness and paying attention to your feelings rather than suppressing them.

Anger is often a powerful mask for other emotions too. This isn’t about repressing the feelings, just understanding better what is going on. And yes, it could still be plain old anger!

2. Choose a better word

Having said that, the word ‘anger’ or ‘angry’ is quite a powerful one. Just saying or thinking that you are ‘angry’ is enough to increase the intensity and build yourself up for an outburst.

Having a better vocabulary for your emotions can give you more flexibility in your behaviour.

Here are a few alternative words on the spectrum of the emotion of anger:

Furious, seething, mad, fuming, enraged, cross, annoyed, irritated, bothered, peeved, exasperated, irked, piqued, displeased, ticked off, bothered, ratty.

Can you see how the choice of word could be important here? If you feel angry, are you fuming, or are you just a bit exasperated? Choosing the most accurate word, or even deliberately choosing a word slightly lower in intensity, can really help keep things in perspective.

3. Is there a pattern?

A favourite word in the anger management world is ‘trigger’. And yes, there can be specific things that set you off. Often specific situations may remind you of situations in the past where you felt angry, and ‘trigger’ a similar emotional response.

I am a little cautious about the language of ‘triggering’, because I think some people see a ‘trigger’ as an excuse to be angry. In that sense, being aware of a trigger may actually make you more likely to have an outburst. If there are set things that tend to make you see red, then maybe ask yourself what it is about that experience that makes you feel angry?

The trigger is an example of something more subtle that is going on. Ask yourself ‘why’ the trigger makes you angry and you uncover a belief about yourself or the world. Beliefs that constantly trigger excessive negative emotion are probably not serving us, and a belief can be changed.

Look for patterns in your behaviour. There may be practical things that you can pay attention to for controlling anger more effectively. It may be that you are worse when you are tired. Alcohol may tend to make you more negative and emotional. It could even be low blood sugar.

4. Don’t vent

There is a school of thought that expressing anger gets the emotion out and makes you feel better.

There may be an element of truth in this over a short period, but on the whole ranting about how angry something makes you is probably going to make you hold on to it more.

I am involved in facebook groups where anger is a theme, and many people vent on that group. Those who do so tend to remain in the group and continue to vent. It doesn’t seem to do them a lot of good and it certainly doesn’t benefit those reading it.

I strongly recommend that if you are on a Facebook group where people express their anger, you consider coming off it and find something more positive to help you.

5. Learn more

There is always more that we can learn about ourselves. When ever you find yourself lashing out, or getting unreasonably angry, learn from it. As I am fond of saying, there is no failure, only feedback. Every experience is a learning experience.

Sit down and write down what happened. Start from the point where you felt fine and tell the story of what happened. As I said, this is not about venting, it is about analysing the experience. This is where patterns may come to the fore. It is where you can more accurately describe the level and nature of the emotion you were feeling.

The other side of learning more is to find out more about controlling anger. Watch videos, read books and articles. Understanding what is going on is a big step towards overcoming the issue itself.

I doubt tigers are truly erratic. The reason tigers seem unpredictable in their behaviour is more likely to be a lack of our understanding of what makes them what they are.

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Man about to set out on his heros journey

Guest post by Ewan Mochrie, author of ‘It’s Time’.

In 1949 Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces. By doing so Campbell brought into sharper focus the underlying structure of myths and storytelling. This structure is known as the Hero’s Journey. It is an innate human archetype; we instinctively recognise and utilise this pattern, despite having little or no conscious awareness of it. When you read a good novel or watch a good play or film you unconsciously identify the pattern and match the events you are observing to this structure. One of the reasons that you might think a film or novel isn’t good is that the author hasn’t followed the ‘right’ structure. More than this though the Hero’s Journey is playing out in your own life too.

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woman with a question mark instead of face

Self-esteem is defined on Wikipedia as ‘an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth’. Valuing yourself, knowing your core identity and believing in who you are is a key issue that underpins many problems in life. I have written on this subject before.

There are many ways in which we can work on our self-esteem. There are habits we can cultivate. We can change our self-talk – the way we tend to talk about ourselves to others and in our own minds. There are journaling exercises, and many Neurolinguistic Programming inventions. We can see a hypnotherapist or a Timeline Therapist and we can get some coaching.

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ball of string representing how long will it take

One of the questions I get asked in the early stages of working with clients, is ‘How long will it take to get better?’ When you are suffering from anxiety and depression, coping with a phobia or dealing with stressful situations, you want to get better as quickly as possible.

The traditional view of psychiatry is that you go and see your ‘shrink’ every Tuesday afternoon over a period of 2, maybe 3 years. You lie on her coach and tell her everything. How your mother didn’t love you. You father dropped you on the head when you were 6. All the traumatic experiences you endured, and of course every sexual encounter you have ever had. Through this the therapist has you come to some realisation that immediately makes you see the world differently. However once you often have that realisation you still need to work with it and come to terms with it.

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person looking forward to a holiday

This sounds like a Coronavirus question, doesn’t it! “After the pandemic, what are you looking foward to doing that you have been unable to do so far?” To some extent that is a valid question, and I would be delighted to hear your answers. However this virus could be around a long time. We don’t quite know what would be possible and what won’t.

I also think that thinking in this way can be unhelpful. Not being able to put a timeframe on thes things means we experience frustration and longing. We may start taking risks just so we can fulfill those needs sooner.

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a box of white eggs with one 'different' red one

“Why am I different?” – It’s a question I get asked a lot by my clients about themselves. “‘I try to be like everyone else. I try to fit in. I wear the kind of clothes that other people my age wear. I join in with the conversations that go on and try to look like I am totally on their wavelength. I pretend to be interested in all the things they like to do, and I take part in the socials. I turn up for the charity events and I even turn a blind eye to the things that make me uncomfortable.

“I don’t agree with some of the things people say, and some of it is just so wrong, on so many levels. I daren’t say anything though, so I just smile politely. That makes me feel really bad inside. It just emphasises even more that I am different, and I don’t think people would like me if they knew what I am really like.”

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coping with coronavirus and social distancing

I don’t know with certainty if you can have too much of a good thing, but it’s definitely true that you can have too much of a bad thing. This is, without doubt, the most testing of times. Coping with coronavirus is unlike coping with anything we have ever experienced before and it is a massive ‘reframe’.

A reframe is when something comes along – an experience, a therapy, a different way of looking at things, that causes you to suddenly completely change your way of living and being.

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keys to habits

One of the prime directives of our unconscious mind is to maintain our habits. An article in the New Scientist in 2018 suggests that ‘As much as 40 per cent of our daily behaviour is habitual’. No wonder changing habits is so difficult.

I highly recommend the excellent book ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Durigg. One of his fascinating stories tells of Eugene Pauly, a man who suffered severe brain damage, but was still able to function incredibly well, largely due to the fact that the part of his brain that dealt with habits and routine, was relatively unharmed.

When we talk about habits we are generally thinking of ‘bad’ habits such as smoking, drinking or biting our nails. Or we may be thinking about the ‘good’ habits that include things like regular exercise or eating healthily.

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your unconscious mind brain with words based on the unconscious and what it does

When you hear professionals, such as hypnotherapists and Neurolingistic Programming (NLP) experts talk about your unconscious mind, you can be forgiven for glazing over a little. What exactly is the unconscious mind? What’s the difference between that and the subconscious? What does it do and why does it do it?

Therapists and the like may naturally put great emphasis on the importance of understanding why we do things and understanding our unconscious. For many though, the bigger question could be ‘what is the point of an unconscious mind in the first place? If it creates so many problems for us, through creating phobias, anxiety, OCD and so forth, wouldn’t we be better off without it?’

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In my mind, there are three times of year when the time always feels particularly ripe for new beginnings.

If I ask any person, when they most start thinking about changing their lives or developing new habits, they’re bound to say ‘New Year’: Well yes, of course – resolutions. It’s become a bit of a cliche but just knowing it’s the first day of the year suggests the possibility of change.

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