Are you the type of person who can never quite gauge at what point you “lost control” of your anger? Do you see yourself overreacting to certain situations that could have been handled a better way? In order to become a true architect of one’s reality, taking responsibility for our previous flawed actions is completely necessary. You cannot change anything about yourself without accepting your shortcomings first.
Anger is a secondary emotion with its own baggage. When it comes to social interactions gone awry, anger can be the default emotion for a lot of us, myself included. It is easier to express your anger in a dramatic, fiery way, than perhaps to be vulnerable and express that you felt hurt, abandoned, or sad. I mean, of course, who wants to be so transparent to other people and risk being shamed right? Well sometimes you have to be, especially when your anger has a history of being argumentative, degrading, physical, and emotionally abusive. Cursing someone out is not necessary for every disagreement. When you are fueled strictly by emotion you cannot control anything.
Sit down and draw a line on a piece of paper. On that line draw 10 smaller intersecting lines, labeling them from 1-10. This line represents your anger spectrum with 1 being the first level of your anger and 10 being your highest form. Write down the physical, emotional, and verbal symptoms of each level of anger.
For me, at level 1 of my anger I am simply irritated. I furrow my brows, am quick to retort but still try to listen to the person. Around 2-3, I get anxious because my expectations are not being met, my hearts beats a bit faster and I may tap my foot or a pick at my nails. 4-5 I am cocking an attitude, I am still listening, but sarcastic. I will roll my eyes and sneer at this level. 6-7 I am raising my voice, definitely not listening except to pinpoint certain things to nitpick about, putting my tongue in cheek to not say anything too ugly. At this level I am pacing around and am visibly upset. 7-8 This is my last chance to try and catch myself but usually at this point I have a lot of adrenaline pumping and I want to get angrier. I am very difficult to talk to. 8-9 Yelling, screaming, and essentially going the fuck off. My heart is pumping super fast, anxiety is through the roof, I am easily triggered, and not able to control myself. Level 10 is my point of no return. Usually my “blackout” mode where I do and say things I usually regret in relation to the situation.
Everyone is going to have different symptoms per level. If you don’t know what yours are but are quick to get angry, I suggest you figure them out sooner than later. Seeing the spectrum for myself, I was able to look back on the times when I was a Level 10 when I really could have handled the situation at Level 2 or 3. It was a bit disheartening to see how little I had control over my emotions, specifically the most dangerous one, anger. Understanding the levels of your anger, more specifically the symptoms of each level, will help you establish a boundary for how far you are willing to go in a situation.
Coping mechanisms to handle our anger and calm down are the bread and butter of controlling social interaction. Time outs are my go-to thing. When I am creeping up to Level 4-5 anger and catch myself wanting to be sarcastic, I go ahead and excuse myself from the situation. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LEAVE a situation that is upsetting you. Obviously this has to be tailored to the type of confrontation you are in (you can’t leave in the middle of a court room). Do not fume and boil over in a confrontation for no reason. It is not productive and you will continue getting angrier.
During my time out I usually call someone from my support network (friends, family, therapist) to vent. I do all of my fuming in a quiet, secluded place (bathrooms and cars are great for this) just so I can calm down. Depending on how angry you were it may take 10 minutes to calm down or more. It takes me about an hour or two to completely cool down from a confrontation, however I can usually get back to the person and speak calmly to them after after 30 minutes. Your time out may consist of angrily tweeting, calling a friend, breathing deeply, quick meditation, or stretching. Take this time to also refocus on what you want to communicate. You are allowed to express that you are angry, but dig deeper on what that feeling actually may be. Why am I even angry? Was it something they said or their lack of understanding? Do I really need to be this angry right now? Am I feeling hurt, betrayed, confused, abandoned, ignored? Would it hurt to communicate how I truly feel to this person?
Time outs are not failures. You are stepping forward and using your cognitive mind to make a decision and maintain control over yourself DESPITE the situation. Do not feel weak or at a loss because you asked for a minute to think over the situation before coming back. You caught yourself before you let your emotional mind take control, and essentially lose control.
Another coping mechanism that helped me regain control over my communication with others was figuring out what were my social triggers. What got under my skin and shot me up from a Level 1 to Level 7? Here are a few of my own social triggers:
- Someone cutting me off
- Being insulted
- Being told to stay calm when I already was calm
- Raising voices
- Rolling eyes, exaggerated movements like waving hands, slamming doors
- Being spoken down to (physically and verbally)
- Someone nitpicking my words for their own favor
Some of these triggers could be harmless, with no ill intent, some are not, however it is important that I realize they affect me and how to deal with them. Usually when I catch a social trigger, depending on its intensity I can put it aside by thinking in a very detached manner. These thoughts help me when I catch a social trigger and may not be able to take a time out at that moment:
- Don’t take it personal.
- The words they say are a reflection of them, not me.
- I can either correct the offensive behavior or let it go. Regardless I cannot expect them to listen to me, however I do have the right to end the conversation.
- They don’t know that this bothers me. I can tell them or ignore it.
- I am not responsible for how they feel. I am responsible for how I react (so let me think clearly.
Build yourself up during each encounter you have where you don’t go straight to Level 5 anger or worse. Encourage yourself and understand this is process of dealing with other architects who may not be as socially savvy as you. Treat their ugly comments as fleeting and remember you can end the communication if no conclusion can be met by either of you.
In the next post which affects passive people the most you learn how to stop internalizing everyone’s comments and accepting your mature communication as your only form of closure.