I get to approach this conversation from two perspectives. The first is that I have been a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and personal development coach for the last ten years. I have worked with hundreds of men on anger and how to handle those moments of frustration. In doing that work, I have discovered many great tools that effectively help my clients manage their anger.
The second perspective in which I approach the conversation is more personal and powerful, I think. My wife and I have been married for 18 years, and we have four kids between 10 and 6. I’d love to say that I’ve mastered this aspect of my life and that I never allow frustration to seep out, but that’s not true. One of my goals is to practice what I preach and be authentic in who I am and how I present healthy life instructions to my clients. With that, I certainly don’t pretend to be perfect, but I am committed to doing my best to live out the principles I encourage clients to embrace. The bottom line is, I have learned through personal trial and error.
Growing up, they had always taught me it was wrong to be angry and that it was inherently bad. My conservative religious background gave me the impression that “it is a sin to be angry.” Therefore, whenever I got angry, I not only felt the frustration of the situation that triggered my anger, but I also felt religious guilt or shame that I got angry. That typically would make me feel more frustrated or even angry at myself.
As a young adult, I understood inevitably, you will have powerful emotions, but when you have them, do not cause harm. It is essential to be aware of how powerful these moments are. They are powerful and must be treated with respect and responsibility. Our words can leave a painful and lasting impact. Our tone of voice must not be overlooked, as well as our physical posturing in these moments.
How to manage anger? Keeping your temper under control can be challenging.
If you’re a dad with young kids, research shows that there is NO lasting benefit to disciplining when we are angry. Here are some suggestions I use in my life and coach my clients towards:
Creatively increase your margins.
If you are like me or others I know, you live a full life with no extra time or margin in the schedule. The idea of self-care or leisurely time is elusive, however, very important. It would be ideal if it is possible to maintain habits such as weekly exercise routines, small community groups, or other fun activities.
As a result, we need to get creative in creating this much-needed space. One space that most of us have is our drive time in the car to and from work. I am sure this is getting some chuckles because most people equate commute time to road rage, not zen-filled mindful peacefulness. But if you are as busy as I am, you have no choice but to capture every moment that can be used for good. So be aware of what you’re doing in the car on your drive to and from work. What are you listening to? What are you thinking about?
I also coach my clients to practice an essential breathing exercise while driving that lowers their heart rate and blood pressure. The simple explanation is to intentionally take about ten long inhalations as if you were faking a yawn. This practice of deep breathing has an automatic physiological response in our bodies to reduce stress.
Create a daily prayer or mantra.
I had a client named Jason, a Marine Corps vet who received a purple heart in Afghanistan. Dealing with his anger was a part of the counseling goals. He took a commuter train daily to downtown Los Angeles and used that time to create some much-needed margin in his life. Every day as he rode into work, you take on this positive statement of becoming a prayer or mantra for him: “I am a good leader, I will manage my team well, I will effectively overcome obstacles and create solutions at work today.” Likewise, on the ride home, spend a few moments thinking, “I am a good man. I will connect with my wife affectionately and be present with my children joyfully tonight at home.”
Don’t go at it alone.
As men, we need to interact with other men in healthy ways. Connecting with other men to provide accountability is imperative to minimize our negative response in moments of frustration and anger. Accountability can play out; to our close friend, an online community, a counselor, a personal development coach, or a pastor. And for some of us, it may look like attending a specific group designed for anger management. And that’s fine because we need to know that we aren’t designed to do it alone, and it is wise to get support.
Do I cause harm with my anger?
What can I change to stop letting my anger hurt the ones I love?
The chances are, if you are reading this post, you are a person prone to passion and strong feelings. That is great, be a passionate person. But remember, those powerful feelings… in those impassioned emotions… do not cause harm. Be UNCOMMEN.
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