By Hoda Nassef
People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming. Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive - not aggressive - manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn't mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others. As Dr. Spielberger notes, 'when none of these three techniques work, that's when someone - or something - is going to get hurt.'
On the other hand, there are also those who don't show their anger in loud spectacular ways, but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don't always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk or get physically ill. People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience or annoyance.
Breathe deeply, from your diaphragm; breathing from your chest won't relax you. Picture your breath coming up from your 'gut.'
Slowly repeat a calm word or phrase such as 'relax', 'take it easy'. Repeat it to yourself while breathing deeply.
Use imagery; visualize a relaxing experience, from either your memory or your imagination.
Non-strenuous, slow yoga-like exercises can relax your muscles and make you feel much calmer.
Make a plan and check your progress along the way. (People who have trouble with planning might find a good guide to ‘organizational skills’, or ‘time management’ helpful.) Resolve to give it your best, but also not to punish yourself if an answer doesn't come right away.
If you can approach it with your best intentions and efforts and make a serious attempt to face it head-on, you will be less likely to lose patience and fall into all-or-nothing thinking, even if the problem does not get solved right away. It's natural to get defensive when you're criticized, but don't fight back. Instead, listen to what's underlying the words: the message is that this person might feel neglected and unloved. It may take a lot of patient questioning on your part, and it may require some breathing space, but don't let your anger - or a partner's - discussion spin out of control. Keeping your cool can keep the situation from becoming a disastrous one.
Timing: if you and your spouse tend to fight when you discuss things at night - perhaps you're tired, or distracted, or maybe it's just a habit - try changing the times when you talk about important matters so these talks don't turn into arguments.