Anger is a difficult emotion to process, and many people deal with it in unhealthy ways that can end up being detrimental to themselves or others. Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse; self-harm; and drinking and driving are some common behaviors of those who struggle with anger. To keep yourself and those around you safe, we’ve listed a few healthy ways to communicate and process anger.
1. Understand your core emotion
A wonderful and healthy way to communicate anger is by thinking “p before s”—processing before speaking. Before you start yelling at your partner or another individual, you need to make sure you’re understanding your emotions. Are you truly angry, or are you sad or hurt? Oftentimes, the real situation is that we’re feeling pain, rejection, or sorrow. Once you’ve figured out that core emotion it can help you better communicate your feelings.
2. Take a break
Another important step in processing and communicating anger is taking a time out. A pause or break before communicating with the person you’re upset with is incredibly important. About 20 minutes is a good amount of time—it will help you calm down and give you a chance to process your feelings.
3. Write it out
Before you go up to your partner to discuss the situation, think about writing down what you want to say first. This can help you further communicate what you’re truly upset about and can keep you from going on tangents when you actually start talking. If you find yourself consistently angry, it may be a good idea to journal every night before bed to ensure emotional health.
4. Utilize a Gestalt technique
Gestalt therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps an individual focus on the present and fully understand what is going on in one’s life. For handling anger, this technique encourages individuals to sit down and put another chair in front of them. Pretend that the person you’re upset with is sitting in that chair and vocalize everything that you’re upset about. Talk to that chair, yell at that chair, and get out that bottled-up emotion in a safe way.
5. Use “I feel” statements
When you have processed your core emotions and other underlying feelings, it may be time to talk to your partner. Make sure that you remain as calm as possible. Your partner deserves to hear your feelings but does not deserve violence or shaming. Stick to what you are feeling—use “I feel” statements to get across your emotions.
6. Stick to the subject
Amy Bellows, Ph.D., wrote in a PsychCentral piece about how important it is to stick to the subject when you’re talking to someone while you’re angry. Try your best to keep from digressing into different accusations and attacks, as this can lead to verbal abuse and other unhealthy behaviors. Remember that it is not productive to bring everything that’s ever bothered you up in a conversation; it can put both parties on edge and flare emotions.
7. Prepare to listen
Finally, and simply, prepare to listen. Chances are both people’s emotions are high, and to stop from creating a cyclical fight, you need to listen. Listen to things that have irritated your partner and refrain from doing them in the future. Hopefully, this will help keep a similar argument from happening again.
According to the American Psychological Association, “approximately 75 percent of people receiving anger management therapy improved as a result.” However, if you were unable to process and communicate your anger in a healthy way due to lack of resources, you may be in a different situation. If you ended up hurting someone or used unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drugs, contact Jared Justice. He’s a Clackamas County domestic violence and DUII attorney who can help you rectify any legal situation you may be in.