I recently sent someone a long email expressing my frustration about something, and his entire response was, “Maybe you should write an article about anger management.” And it wasn’t even an angry email. It occurred to me only afterward that it may have come across as angry because I forgot to break it up into paragraphs.
But really? That response hadn’t even addressed any of my frustrations. Oh, I should write an article about anger management? I’ll show you an article about anger management … And then it occurred to me that I needed a topic for an article anyway, so I might as well show him an article about anger management. And maybe all the tips I would read in researching this article would help calm me down.
Well, they might have, if they weren’t so useless. The issue is that the articles don’t even know why you’re mad or profess to know why, but they definitely know how you can fix it.
For starters, all the articles point out that anger isn’t nice, and other people don’t like when you’re angry. But you know this. It’s not like this is your first time getting angry, where you’re like, “I heard about this anger thing; should I maybe try it out? What are the pros and cons?”
So other people can do whatever they want, but if I get angry about it, I’m the bad guy?
None of these techniques are worth much, and now I’m just mad at all these experts for wasting my time. If you have someone in your life who is angry, you can show him these tips. That’ll calm him right down.
Talk It Out. But without being confrontational about it or blaming the other person. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic or drives really slowly in front of you, don’t just honk your horn angrily. Unfortunately, though, there’s no “Talk it out” button on your horn. So walk over to their car at the next red light and express your feelings. Say things like, “It really hurts me when you drive slowly like that. It would be really helpful if, in the future …” and then, if you do it right, this one particular guy will never act like that when you’re right behind him ever again, unless you’re in a different car! Now you just have to do the same thing with all the other drivers! Follow them home if you have to. If they react negatively to this, maybe they’re the ones with anger management issues. Did they ever think of that? Politely suggest this to them.
Take Some Time To Calm Down. I don’t know about this one. Most of the time that I’m angry, it’s because the other person is doing whatever he’s doing with no regard to my time. So now I should take extra time before I even start to confront him about it? Won’t that make me angrier?
Get Some Exercise. Physical activity can reduce stress. Like sometimes you just want to punch someone in the face. Stop and think: Why will that make you feel better? Probably the physical activity, right? So instead of punching this guy in the face, why don’t you go off and punch other guys in the face — guys you’re not mad at? I can’t think of a single good reason. If you want to be socially acceptable about it, go work out or something. Find a punching bag, or, if you don’t have one, go to town on a shopping bag. Make sure it has potatoes in it, as opposed to eggs. Or beat up one of your kids’ stuffed animals, preferably after the kids are asleep. Another idea is to take a long walk while talking to yourself, or go for a run. Just take off running in the middle of your argument. You don’t even have to tell the other person where you’re going. He doesn’t deserve to know. If you’re afraid to run or walk by yourself, ask the other person if they want to come along. Otherwise you have to go find someone else quickly, and it will probably lead to lashon ha’ra.
Stick With “I” Statements. I do this all the time. When I write articles, sometimes I write that I do annoying things, when I mean that you do annoying things. I’m hoping that you’ll read the article and get the message, rather than saying something like, “Hey, I do that, too! Celebrities: They’re just like us.” For example, if you’re teaching a class and a student keeps interrupting at the worst times to tell you alternately that you’re not teaching and that you’re teaching too much, don’t say, “You need to leave the classroom,” say, “I need to leave the classroom.” That way, everyone wins. Or instead of saying to your spouse, “You always leave things on the floor,” say, “I always get upset when people leave things on the floor.” Then, when he or she says, “Maybe you should work on not getting upset as much,” you can rightly chew them out for using a “you” statement.
Use Humor To Release Tension. I didn’t make this up, even though it sounds like I’m just promoting my own material here. This is in real psychology articles. So thank you to all those writers. As a shout-out back to them, I feel like I should write, “Use psychology articles to release tension.” Just read random psychology articles. You’ll realize that people have it a lot worse than you, psychologically, and instead of being angry, you’ll just be sad for them. Also, that way, you can call over the person you’re mad at and show them the articles: “Here, this is you.” If they get mad, that’s their problem, right? That’ll take the burden of being mad off your shoulders.
Practice Relaxation Skills. According to what I read, you can slowly repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Relax” or “Take it easy.” Because that works when other people say it to you, right? Nothing gets you madder when you’re mad than people who say, “Whoa, take it easy.” Especially since most of the time they don’t even know what the issue is that you’re mad about. But saying it to yourself will work, right? “I’m not going to take it easy! You take it… Oh.”
Put Yourself In The Other Person’s Shoes. For example, if your kids keep leaving their shoes out in the middle of the floor, put yourself in their shoes. They will quickly learn that if they don’t put their shoes away, Totty will stretch them out. You might catch something, though.
Talk It Over With Someone. Like a friend or something, without naming names. So preferably, a friend who doesn’t know this other person you’re angry at, because otherwise, by the time you’re done, he’s definitely going to guess who you’re talking about. He’s going to spend the entire conversation trying to guess who you’re talking about. “It is Chaim?” “No, it’s someone else you don’t know whose familial situation and profession is exactly like Chaim’s.”
The problem is that this doesn’t help, because your friend is not going to calm you down and tell you that your feelings are out of proportion. Your friend, who is mainly thinking about remaining your friend, will do what he always does — stand behind you and your feelings and encourage you to stand up for yourself. How’s that going to help? Now you’re going to be mad at him if this goes south. You want to maybe talk to your spouse, because your spouse is perfectly willing to sometimes say that you’re overreacting, especially when he or she is not personally involved. If the person you’re mad at is your spouse, then you’re out of luck. Good luck talking to someone else about it, while also trying to be careful to talk about your problems in a way that the person can’t guess that it’s your spouse. If you have an imaginary friend that you talk to, that would help a lot, because there’s no problem of lashon ha’ra. That’s why I do it.
Eat Something. When we’re hungry, we’re often more prone to anger. Make sure to slam every bowl and cabinet while you’re taking food, and keep that angry face while you’re chewing. Don’t eat something that requires you to take huge bites, because it’s hard to keep an angry face when you do that. Maybe go for something with a straw.
Count To Ten. I already knew this one from my parents. Growing up, whenever my parents were angry at me, they’d say, “Alright, I’m counting: 1 … 2 … ” Sometimes if they were really mad, they only counted to three. All I learned from that is that when you get to three, you’re not less angry, you’re angrier. Who raised these psychologists?
Another suggestion that some of these articles say is that, instead of yelling, you should just
Write Things Down. Well, that clearly doesn’t work. At least the way I’m doing it.
I need to go calm down.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.