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9 Tips To Tame Your Temper: Anger Management Made Easy

Angry Women

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ~Mark Twain

I am in serious danger, and I think you might be too.

I am in danger of becoming a grumpy old person. I get angry easily. I operate on a short fuse, ready to snap or explode at the littlest thing.

I could blame it on a combination of genetics and environment. My father seems to have only two moods, and one of them is angry.

He is like a volcano and can explode at any moment. And I don’t mean he’s just cranky or that he yells.

No. When he loses it, he really loses it. Emotionally and physically.

He tenses every muscle in his body, clenches his fists, sticks his jaw out, and says things like, “Eeeoourgh!!!”

He is a fireball of white-hot fury. Irrational, unreasonable, and perverse.

As a child, I never knew whether I would be hugged or hit. I desperately wanted his approval and love, but often I incurred his wrath.

As a teenager, I learned to fight back, yell as loudly, and be as demanding as he was. As an adult, I learned two key components that comprise anger.

There’s the emotion that can envelope you in a moment, instantly causing you to become irrational and almost uncontrollable. And there are the situations or environments that have the potential to lead to anger, if we let them.

I could let anger rule my life, but I refuse to do that, damn it! So I employ some simple anger management techniques instead.

I am still in serious danger, but with these tools, I think I’ve found a way out.

1. Follow a process.

Create a process for managing situations that often trigger anger. When someone does something that upsets you, take a deep breath and trust in the process.

One process I use to express my feelings calmly is to describe the behavior and explain my emotional response.

So, I’d say something like, “When you yell at me, I feel hurt and upset,” or, “When you behave this way, I feel really angry.” It helps identify the problem and my emotions. It also helps me feel in control and prevents me from resorting to useless, blaming behavior.

2. Tap it out.

Try a little tapping, or Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). EFT is a healing tool that helps reduce deep emotional responses so we can manage our lives more calmly.

The whole EFT process includes a tapping routine and a mantra, but I find a simplified version just as effective.

When you feel an intense emotion, just use your first two fingers and tap your collarbone until you feel calmer. If you start tapping quickly and then gradually slow your rhythm, you’ll find yourself calming down.

Sometimes, when I feel like tensing up and yelling, “Eeeoourgh!” myself, I go to the bathroom and tap until I feel calmer. Then I can handle the situation rationally.

3. Think about your belly button.

Centering is a super-simple technique that even a child can use. All you do is focus your mind on your belly button, or rather, just a smidge below your belly button.

As you focus, tense those muscles and draw your belly button in toward your spine. If you’ve done any Pilates or yoga, you’ll be familiar with these deep abdominal muscles.

Doing this exercise is truly calming and empowering. It puts you in a state of calm control, so you’re less likely to react and lash out. I sometimes close my eyes for a moment and focus on my belly button. When I open my eyes and continue centering, I can operate more calmly and coherently.

4. Lighten up.

Anger appears when we’re frustrated, but if you stand back from the situation a little, you might see it’s quite ludicrous. Not always, but often. Before you blow your stack, stand back and see if you can find something silly about what’s happening.

I remember being frustrated by an organization I worked for when they arranged a breakfast for us to discuss strategies to improve our work-life balance.

They wanted us to get up hours earlier than usual and spend extra time with our colleagues so we could talk about ways we could spend less time with them. How ridiculous!

5. Practice daily calm.

We can experience anger and frustration almost daily, and the more we experience it, the more it becomes our way of operating.

When you commit to practicing daily calm, you counteract the anger. You practice something much more beneficial to your health and well-being.

This doesn’t have to be hard. Just spend a moment or two doing nothing, whenever you can. Sit quietly and realize that you’re doing nothing, and see how calming it is.

6. Get curious. 

The next time you find your anger rising, divert your energy into curiosity. Get really curious about the other person’s perspective.

Keep asking questions until you fully understand the other person’s opinion. Once you do, you’ll be in a better position to discover a solution that suits everyone.

Recently, my daughter was extremely trying, and I saw red. I drew in my breath, preparing to yell at her. But somehow, in the split second of inhaling, I thought, I just need to follow the process.

Instead of yelling, I reflected her feelings to get to the bottom of why she was behaving so poorly. I got curious about the cause of her behavior, and together we created a solution to the problem.

Instead of an angry interaction that would rip our relationship apart, we had a truly productive, useful talk that brought us together.

7. Hug a tree.

If you feel yourself spinning out of control with anger, you can become grounded by literally grounding yourself. Hug a tree, lay on the ground, or sit with your back to a large, solid oak.

Connecting yourself to the ground in this way will make you feel both physically and emotionally supported, calm, and stable.

Grounding strategies help you detach from strong emotions. They help you gain control over your feelings so that you can get back in control.

If you need a more portable strategy than an oak tree, try putting a small stone in your pocket. When you start feeling overwhelmed by emotion, reach into your pocket and focus on the stone—notice its texture, size, and temperature. This action focuses you on reality and stabilizes your emotions.

8. Close the argument room.

There’s a Monty Python skit where Michael Palin pays for an argument in the argument room. We often do the equivalent of asking for an argument by starting discussions that go nowhere or pushing our opinions onto people who don’t want them.

We should always ask ourselves if going into the argument room is worth it.

When my father rants, I often let him go. I don’t want to engage with him because I’d be entering the argument room, and for what? I’d end up cranky and frustrated, without achieving anything.

9. Look beneath the anger.

Anger is often a secondary emotion that masks the true feelings beneath it. The next time you feel angry, look inside and see if your anger is masking another deeper emotion.

If you can discover the underlying emotion, you can address the real reason behind your emotional response.

Think about the last time someone cut you off when you were driving. The moment it happens a chill of fear runs through you, and then it’s quickly replaced by frustration and resentment.

Or, consider the last time you were running late and someone seemed to be delaying you. Underneath your anger may be self-loathing regarding how you didn’t prepare better, guilt for making someone wait, or fear of the consequences of your late arrival.

Anger is the secondary emotion.

The Truth About Anger

It’s a powerful, all-encompassing emotion.

Well harnessed, it can drive us to achieve great things. We can use it to fight injustice, increase confidence, and create focus. Think Erin Brockovich, Alanis Morissette, and Steve Jobs.

But it can also ruin our relationships, damage our reputations, and make us hard to love. Think Naomi Campbell, Mel Gibson, and Charlie Sheen.

That grumpy old person we talked about? Their anger is unchecked, and it’s become a front.

A way of interacting with people. A mask to hide behind.

And no one can live a great life if they’re hiding.

It’s far better to have the courage to face the world, and your problems, head on. To discover what’s really under that anger, and address the true problem.

The next time you feel your anger flare up, you can hide behind it, or you can dig deep into self-reflection and deal with what you find.

Which will you choose?

Angry woman image via Shutterstock

Profile photo of Cate Scolnik

About Cate Scolnik

Cate Scolnik is on a mission to help parents stop yelling and create families that listen to each other. She does this while imperfectly parenting two boisterous girls of her own, and occasionally hanging out on Facebook. Download her free Cheat Sheet to Get Your Kids from "No" to "Yes" in Three Simple Steps and reduce your yelling today.

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  • Adam

    Great article about anger. As you said when used properly, it can be a great strength. Anger has been something that I and I’m sure others have in their back pocket ready to pull it out just as fast as our smartphones. I know that anger has been something I lived with in my early youth and have just now learn to tame it via breathing techniques.
    Btw: my tablet froze just before posting this message and needing to restart it. Irony lol.

  • Excellent piece with great and dare I say simplistic techniques. Well explained.

  • Katydid

    Anger works for many, though. If you are discussing something you don’t want to talk about and you get really pissed off, often the other person stops talking, is intimidated, so the angry person “won” and is reinforced or rewarded for their outburst.

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Love this, Cate. And anger really can provide energy, no? And if we can just shift it a bit, we can use that anger as energy. Your 9 tips are great ways to get there! Thank you.

  • IBikeNYC

    Re your tablet’s freezing: That’s EXACTLY the sort of thing that happens to ME!

  • Hey Adam, I’m glad you liked the article. Anger management is challenging, isn’t it? Speaking of irony, a few weeks ago I wrote an article about dyslexia – my glasses broke before I finished! 🙂

  • Thanks Susan, you’re right. We just need to channel the anger – use it for good, not evil. 🙂

  • Thanks Harriet. Glad you liked it.

  • You’re right. It’s still a question of whether or not we want to use it that, and of us controlling it, rather than letting the anger overwhelm us. Because that’s when we can do things that we later regret, like damage relationships with those we love.

  • jmac

    Hi Cate,
    As a Mum of two I totally agree with so much of your article! I think it’s so tough for parents now – there is so little support and we spend a lot of time angry and stuck as a result! Thanks for a great read.

  • Shaine

    EFT is a placebo effect at best. BTW I think you should show this article to your father!

  • Shaine, yes I probably should show this to my Dad. The only thing is that he’s been the way he is for over 70 years. He doesn’t actually want to change. And no change ever happens unless there is the desire to change first.

  • I’m a Mum of two, too! And it’s true, anger and frustration are a big part of parenting. We love our kids, but it can be difficult to live together, and we can drive each other wild. Having said that, there are strategies and tools we can use to reduce frustration (on both sides), increase understanding, and create strong relationships. 🙂

  • Jordan Olstead

    I struggle with anger regularly. I’m worried it’s going to start taking a toll on my relationship. I am excited to have these techniques to go to in my back pocket.

  • Ann Davis

    Nice article Cate! I’ll try the belly button advice.

  • Great Ann, I hope it works for you. It actually works for my kids! Even when my youngest was quite small, if she started melting down I’d just say “Think about your belly button” and she’d focus really hard. I’m not sure if was calming, distracting or both – but it worked!

  • I hope they work for you, Jordan. You’ve taken the first step – acknowledging that you have a concern about this. The next step is to try different things until you find what works best for you.

  • Don Karp

    Good to bring up this topic. When I worked in small companies, bosses would get angry and I’d get angry back in defense. First, I learned to love myself. Yeah, I’m a great guy! Then, I’d understand the anger as projection, not really about me. I’d say calmly, “I get that you are angry. Could we talk about it?”

  • That’s a great approach Don, you obviously have high EQ (emotional intelligence)!

  • Don Karp

    Thanks, Cate about the EQ, but it really was from a lot of hard work with my men’s group, “The Special Boys”.

  • Don’t sell yourself short. You may have worked hard with The Special Boys, but you obviously learned the lessons and then went ahead and implemented your learnings. That takes skill, courage, and self-control. So kudos to you! 🙂

  • Rachel

    Great post. I love the belly button idea, one to try the next time anger rears up. The anger you talk about in your father is the same my mother possessed. She could turn a room into silence, by her menacing anger. Generally the target was me. So I learnt shame and embarrassment at a very young age. The anger was unpredictable like you say, you never knew whether it would be a hug or a yell. I as a child learnt not to trust this emotionally unstable woman at a young age. Whenever I could be away from her I would be. As I got older when she was in the mood I would remove myself – I just did not want to be around the tornado. But what I learnt from this was enormous. I watched time after time how you she would push people away. Scare people. When she was feeling insecure she would yell. I too have this anger, but I have worked with it for many years – I have done everything to keep it in check because I don’t want what I learnt and what comes so easy to be how I represent myself. Great post, and now I have a new tool in my kit for anger. Concentrate on the belly button.

  • Hi Rachel, thanks for your reply. I know what you mean about avoiding the angry person. I used to hear my Dad’s car coming up the driveway, and go and hide in my room! The thing is that we have direct knowledge of the damage this anger can do, and know that controlling it, is a better way of dealing with it. I hope your belly button takes good care of you! 🙂

  • Mark Tong

    Hey Cate really thoughtful article. I learned a long time ago not to let anger rule my world – maybe a similar upbringing to you lead me to decide that anger was not for me. I find angry people slightly ridiculous (If somewhat potentially threatening) and this helps to keep me calm.

  • So true Cate. Anger management isn’t something I’ve needed to practice, but boy do I know some who do. You can feel the anger bubbling under the surface – not a happy place to live I imagine – and it blows up in cruel words or deeds.

    Finding ways to feel the anger and let it go or use the energy to create something wonderful is the way to healthy mind bodies and spirits and these techniques are fabulous Cate. Thanks so much…I’m sharing this with my angry friends!

    Elle

  • Adam

    you started nice.. but none of the tips are useful.. its total waste of time, reading this.. Why the hell i landed here and read this .. wasste of my time…. dont give foolish advise to readers… because of people like u… readers will stop visiting tinybuddha.

  • Lori McWatters

    Hi Cate,

    I needed this article badly. I have been struggling with anger my whole life, and it really is secondary to the real problem. Usually for me it is fear, embarrassment, or pride. I feel it bu be up and I do or say hurtful things. It’s like I’m aware but have no idea how to channel it. It has ruined a lot of my life and my current relationship. I am scared to lose my boyfriend over this emotion. I hope these tips will help me and us, thank you.

  • Hey Lori,
    I hope these tips help you, too. You’ve taken the hardest steps which are acknowledging the issue, and searching for solutions. I’m sure you’ll get on top of it soon. Good luck!

  • Hey Elle,
    Thanks for your support. I’m so glad there are some people out there who don’t have an issue with anger, but are still prepared to help those who do! Best wishes, Cate

  • Hey Mark,
    I love that you find angry people slight ridiculous! I’m going to adopt that as a really good way to lighten up. If I find anger stirring, I’ll just think “I’m being ridiculous!”. Thank you. 🙂

  • Nicki Lee

    Thanks for sharing these techniques, Cate. I will definitely try the tapping and belly button strategies.

  • Great to hear, Nicki. I hope it works well for you!

  • Ah yes, my dad’s like that! When I was still working in corporate environments my technique was always to go to the bathroom, sit on the toilet and take 10 long and deep breaths (yogastyle)…that always helped me gain perspective so I could indeed follow the process much more!

  • Hi Linda,
    The bathroom technique is one of my favourites! It’s amazing how 2 minutes away from the insanity can make a huge difference. 🙂

  • LaTrice Dowe

    I HATE being angry, because I’m determined to be the peace maker, and not too fond of drama. Although I became accustomed to disrespectful behavior, including verbal assaults, I know that I don’t have to tolerate it.

    I can feel my face turning red, with steam pouring out of my ears, and my body shakes with fury when I’m angry. I don’t like getting physical with someone, so in order for me to calm down, walking away from that person, and the issue is my best option. I like to have some time alone and think logically with a clear head. When I’m ready to talk, it’ll be on my terms. I like to read, listen to music, and talking about the incident with someone else helps me deal with the anger head on.

  • They all sound like great strategies. If you’ve got something that works for you, stick with it, I say. Thanks for commenting.

  • I agree