Breaking the Cycle
There are a whole bunch of cycles out there needing to be broken. Today, were going to talk about one that I broke down in a recent post: The Anger Cycle.
Read that and then come back.
Ok, you're back? Good.
Here's the thing: Once you realize that your anger is a triggering event to someone else's anger cycle, you really want to make it STOP.
My dad used to say "Only insane people do the same thing over and over expecting different outcomes."
And yet, here we are, all insane.
Before I make some suggestions about stopping the cycle, I want to make some cautionary statements:
Creating new habits and new ways of thinking requires your brain to create new neural networks. This is hard work, and requires time, patience, and consistency.
When you are really mad, your prefrontal cortex is no longer online. This is why it is super hard to think your way out of intense emotion.
Your anger serves you by telling your body and mind that something is wrong. Anger is not inherently bad or something to be ashamed of. The goal of making friends with your anger is so that you can start listening to the messages it is sending you, instead of just reacting.
Please care for yourself like you are a cute little puppy. Don't shame yourself if you make a mistake, just redirect the behavior towards the purpose at hand.
With that in mind, here are some suggestions from a therapist that definitely doesn't specialize in anger management:
This sounds so condescending: but start by regularly checking in with how your body feels when you are angry. Can you feel your heart pump? Stomach clench? Face flush? Our body is going to signal to us that something is wrong. If you can start to make note of how your body feels when you're angry, your brain will do less work to connect the feeling and the label.
Attempt to verbally name the feeling: I am angry. Sometimes, you'll notice that doesn't feel quite right. Maybe, instead of angry, you are hurt, scared, or overwhelmed.
Play around with what methods help regulate those bodily feelings. I prefer to shut my eyes and take "belly breaths" by breathing in for four seconds, holding for four seconds, and breathing out for four seconds. Box Breathing is scientifically proven to regulate your sympathetic nervous system. And if all else fails, go scream in your car, throw ice in your bathtub, or dunk your face in some ice water. Trust me.
Ok: You've named the feeling, you've gotten your body to relative calm. NOW you decide what to do with it. The goal is to take ownership of this decision, instead of feeling like anger controls you.
But Ashley, when I'm mad I CAN'T slow down enough to do this!
I know. Refer back to cautionary statement #1: This takes practice. Don't expect yourself to go from blowing a gasket to having a calm conversation. Start practicing with little annoyances. Someone cut you off in traffic? Go through the steps. Someone didn't take out the trash? Go through the steps.
This is new. This is hard. But I believe in you.