Anger is often experienced as a reaction to underlying feelings. A woman makes an angry comment to her husband, but in reality she is feeling unheard and disregarded because he forgot to buy diapers again. This type of scenario may sound familiar to couples, but all relationships are affected by anger. It is important to take some time to understand your underlying emotions. By doing so, you can talk to the other person about what you are distinctively feeling and experiencing. Using “I” statements can be helpful for expressing emotions more explicitly.
“I feel _____ when you _____ because _____ “
Just fill in the blanks and you’ll be expressing yourself in no time! Of course, sometimes it’s difficult not to get angry during a heated argument.
One strategy that I share with clients is to take a break and walk away when feeling angry. This may sound like childhood advice, but it is still sensible well into adulthood. Here are a couple of the rules for when both parties walk away:
- Allow the other person to take a break in any way they see fit, within agreed boundaries. For example; one person may simply go to a quiet room, but the other decides to go outside for a walk or a drive. Avoid following the other person around while still trying to make your point. By that time, he or she has likely tuned you out. Let the other person walk away when necessary. Both people need time to cool down.
- During this break it is vital that both parties not only cool down, but that they actively reflect on the recent argument. This means identifying with the other person, thinking of possible solutions that would satisfy both parties, and asking the question, “What is my role in the problem?”
Anger may be a reaction to underlying feelings, but your reaction is also a CHOICE. You cannot control others – you can only control yourself!
Laurie J. Roberts B.Ed., M.C., Reg. Prov. Psychologist