Do you ever find yourself feeling very angry and frustrated that you can't do anything about it? If so, you're not alone.
Psychologist Steven Stosny explains that feelings of anger surge very quickly and that relaxation techniques and impulse-control strategies - often touted as the gold standard for anger management - just don't work. We get too angry, too fast for these standard tips to be effective and when we fail, we feel guilty and ashamed, which actually worsens our feelings of anger.
Stosny suggests a new method for getting over our feelings of anger, he calls it the HEALS technique:
H: HEALING WORD. When you first start to feel angry, think of the word "heals" in your mind. If a situation is upsetting you, imagine a billboard with the word "heals" painted on it; if a particular person is making you mad, picture that person's face with the word "heals" painted on their forehead.
E: EXPLAIN. After you've pictured the healing word, Stosny recommends that you try to talk out or explain your "deepest core hurt" that lies behind the anger. To do this, ask yourself: what am I feeling? What really upsets me so much about this? What's the deepest part of this feeling? What thought makes this feeling so intense?
A: ACCESS. The third step is to "access your core value": Review those things that make your life worth living, like good things you've done, the last compliment you received, the loving relationships you have, the values and morals you're proud of.
L: LOVE. Next, "love yourself" - do this by saying supportive and loving things to yourself. Tell yourself the things you'd tell a close friend or a loved one who was telling you that they didn't think they were good enough - you might say, "It's not true that you're dumb, remember when we all played Scrabble and you won?" or "It's not true that you're insensitive, remember when you took flowers to Mark's house when you heard his mom had cancer?"
S: SOLVE. Finally, "solve the problem": Look at what is really going on underneath the anger. Anger is a normal and healthy emotion, but one we need to be careful with. It's your responsibility to address the feelings that underlie the anger and work on them. My favorite technique for doing this is to write down what I am feeling on a piece of paper, think of all the evidence for and against my feelings, then come up with an action plan.
To become a pro at managing your anger, Stosny prescribes 750 repetitions over the course of four to six weeks, which will train you to automatically go through the HEALS process during moments of stress. "What we try to do is condition this core value experience to occur with the arousal itself," Stosny says. "As soon as you start to get angry, you think about how you love this person. You have to practice getting angry, think about something that got you angry, feel the arousal and then practice it. It's like basic training in the military."
Give this technique a try and then let me know how it works for you - I'd love to hear from you!
Dr. Kathy Nickerson is an expert counselor who helps couples and families improve and strengthen their relationships. She specializes in marriage counseling, couples counseling, and pre-marital counseling. Many of her Kathy's materials, including audio recordings of the how-to questions she is most frequently asked, are available at no cost on her website: www.DrKathyNickerson.com. Kathy would love to hear from you and she may be reached at 949.222.6688 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.