How to Deal with your Anger
Anger can tear your family apart and make your home really miserable. You can deal with it and there are ways to respond to those moments that are constructive and helpful. Here are four things that you can do to change that experience.
1st Step: Understand the Root
The first step is to understand why you get so angry. Why is it, when you wife or child does X, Y or Z, that you get so triggered and respond so aggressively? Do they deserve that level of response? I doubt it. So what’s really going on?
Anger is a defensive response when we do not like how we’re feeling. As men, if we feel belittled, under valued or threatened, we feel hurt and we respond by trying to protect ourselves with anger. We put up our shields and our spears and try to fight our way out of that bad experience.
It is important to sit down and reflect, “Why do I get so triggered there? Why am I so reactive?” Just think about it. Maybe there was something that happened in your childhood that led to that level of reactivity.
For me, the moments when I would lose my control were when my daughter was younger and I was trying to enforce a boundary with her. My wife would intervene, tell me I was being too harsh and let go of the boundary.
I felt so disempowered and disrespected in that moment. I felt like she was saying I was bad father. Those feelings triggered my own doubts about being an adequate parent. I hate feeling that doubt. I hate the feeling of hearing I’m doing it wrong and I hate the idea that I might be doing something that is bad for our daughter. All of those put together end up being a lot of bad feelings that can overwhelm me.
Anger is a typical response to feeling overwhelmed. We try to fight our way out of it. My angry responses in those moments of feeling overwhelmed were bad at times, but coming to understand why I was so reactive helped me to begin to control my anger.
2nd Step: Emergency Plan
The second step is figuring out what to do in those moments when you find yourself losing it. When we are triggered, the physiology in our body shifts and we move from the conscious part of our brain to a more reactive part. Once the focus of control shifts to reactive part, we’re not really thinking. We’re not being rational and ultimately we can’t handle the moment appropriately. We need to do things to get ourselves back into the conscious part of our brain.
The easiest way is to give yourself a timeout. We need a chance to stop and let the hormones and neurotransmitters in our body go back to a normal level. Just tell your kid, “I need a timeout” and step out of the room. Or you can try lying on the floor for 5 minutes breathing, thinking and noticing what’s happening. Depending on their age and their situation, maybe call for your partner to step in. It’s important to disengage yourself as soon as you can. Notice how you’re feeling in your body. Notice the intense discomfort in that moment and see if you can stop yourself from creating more harm.
3rd Step: Take a Break
The third thing you can do, if your anger is with your partner, is to ask for a break from your partner. Please note that you have to actually ask. Don’t just walk away and close the door because that triggers abandonment issues and will create more anger on your partner’s side. Just say, “I really need a moment to cool down. I’ll come back in 10 to 30 minutes.” Run around the block three times or watch something funny on the computer. Find some way for your heart rate to slow down and for our brain to come back online. By shifting your physiology through watching something funny, exerting yourself physically or lying on the floor, you can come back to that more neutral place.
4th Step: Get Real Help
Anger can devastate your whole family. It takes a lot of guts for us men to go and ask for help, particularly to go to therapy and ask a stranger for help. It takes real courage and bravery, but please do it. Give that to yourself and your family. It’s a wonderful experience where you can learn to master your feelings and come into a better place with yourself. Therapy teaches you how to be empowered and engaged in the world in a way that we aren’t taught in school or by our parents. Gather your courage and face those fears by getting the help you need to be the most loving dad that you can be for your family.
Use these four steps to master your anger and stop it from devastating your family.
• Understand why you get so angry
• Create an emergency plan
• Take a break from your partner
• Get real help
Thank you for joining me for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood. I’d love to hear how you handle your anger and what you do in those moments. Please join the conversation below, but let’s keep it really friendly and warm because it’s hard stuff. Thank you for joining me for another episode.