Lesson 3: Anger Control Plans – Helping You Develop A Plan for Controlling Anger
Checking In This Week
As you look at your homework you completed for last week, what was the highest level of anger you reached on the anger meter? Be sure you reserved the number 10 for situations where you lost control of your anger and experienced negative consequences.
Be sure you described the anger-provoking event that led to your highest level of anger.
Make sure you included the cues that occurred in response to the anger-provoking event.
Where did the cues fall in the cue catagories (physicial, behavioral, emotional, or cognitive)?
What strategies you did you use to either avoid reaching 10 on the anger meter or recovering after reaching 10?
Anger Control Plans
Up to this point, you have been focusing on how to monitor your anger. In the first session, you learned how to use the anger meter to rate your anger. Last week, you learned how to identify the events that trigger anger, as well as the physical, behavioral, emotional, and cognitive cues associated with each event. Today, you will begin to discuss how to develop an anger control plan and how you can use specific strategies, such as timeouts and relaxation, to control your anger. In later sessions, you will cover other strategies, such as learning to change negative or hostile self-talk and using the Conflict Resolution Model. These more advanced strategies can be used along with timeouts and relaxation.
The basic idea in developing an anger control plan is to try many different strategies and find the anger control techniques that work best for you. Once you identify these strategies, you can add them to your anger control plans and use them when you start to get angry. Some people refer to their anger control plans as their toolbox and the specific strategies they use to control their anger as their tools. This analogy may be very helpful. Again, it is important to identify the specific anger control strategies that work best for you. These strategies should be put down in a formal anger control plan for referral when you encounter an anger-provoking event.
An effective strategy that many people use, for example, is to talk about their feelings with a supportive friend who was not involved with the event that made them angry. By discussing anger, you can begin to identify the primary emotions that underlie it and determine whether your thinking and expectations in response to the anger-provoking event are rational. Often a friend whom you trust can provide a different perspective on what is going on in your life. Even if your friend just listens, expressing your feelings can often make you feel better.
The long-term objective of the anger management treatment is to develop a set of strategies that you can use appropriately for specific anger-provoking events. Later sessions will introduce a menu of strategies and techniques that are helpful in managing anger. Once you have selected the strategies that work best, you should refine them by applying them in real-life situations. To use the toolbox analogy, different tools may be needed for different situations. We will return to this concept in later sessions and highlight the importance of developing an anger control plan that helps you manage anger effectively in a variety of situations.
As mentioned in session 1, the concept of a timeout is especially important to anger management. It is the basic anger management strategy recommended for inclusion in everyone’s anger control plan. Informally, a timeout is defined as leaving the situation that is causing the escalation of anger or simply stopping the discussion that is provoking it.
Formally, a timeout involves relationships with other people: it involves an agreement or a prearranged plan. These relationships may involve family members, friends, and coworkers. Any of the parties involved may call a timeout in accordance with rules that have been agreed on by everyone in advance. The person calling the timeout can leave the situation, if necessary. It is agreed, however, that he or she will return to either finish the discussion or postpone it, depending on whether all those involved feel they can successfully resolve the issue.
Timeouts are important because they can be effective in the heat of the moment. Even if your anger is escalating quickly on the anger meter, you can prevent reaching 10 by taking a timeout and leaving the situation.
Timeouts are also effective when they are used with other strategies. For example, you can take a timeout and go for a walk. You can also take a timeout and call a trusted friend or family member or write in your journal. These other strategies should help you calm down during the timeout period.
Can you think of situations where you would use the timeout strategy? Please describe them.
Can you think of specific strategies that you might use to control your anger? Please describe them.
Sample of an Anger Control Plan
Anger Control Plan
1. Take a timeout (formal or informal)
2. Talk to a friend (someone you trust)
3. Use the Conflict Resolution Model to express anger
4. Exercise (take a walk, go to the gym, etc.)
5. Attend 12-Step meetings
6. Explore primary feelings beneath the anger
Relaxation Through Breathing
We have discussed the physical cues to anger, such as an increased heartbeat, feeling hot or flushed, or muscle tension. These types of physical cues are examples of what is commonly called the stress response. In the stress response, the nervous system is energized, and in this agitated state, a person is likely to have trouble returning to lower levels on the anger meter. In this state, additional anger-provoking situations and events are likely to cause a further escalation of anger.
An interesting aspect of the nervous system is that everyone has a relaxation response that counteracts the stress response. It is physically impossible to be both agitated and relaxed at the same time. If you can relax successfully, you can counteract the stress or anger response. We will end this session by practicing a deep-breathing exercise as a relaxation technique. In our next session, we will practice progressive muscle relaxation as a secondary type of relaxation technique.
Practice the deep-breathing exercise as a relaxation technique now.
You can practice this exercise on your own by focusing on your breathing, taking several deep breaths, and trying to release any tension you might have in your body. You should practice this exercise as often as possible.
Here is the audio file you can use. Just click on, “The Breathing Exercise MP3” below to start The Breathing Exercise audio file.
The Breathing Exercise MP3 - Darren Love
To make your own recording, use the script below or put it in your own words.
Find a comfortable position in your chair. If you would like, close your eyes; if not, just gaze down at the floor. Take a few moments to settle yourself. Now become aware of your body. Check for any tension, beginning with your feet, moving upward to your head.
Notice any tension you might have in your legs, stomach, hands and arms, shoulders, neck, and face. Try to let go of any tension.
Now, become aware of your breathing. Pay attention to your breath as it enters and leaves your body. This can be very relaxing.
Take a deep breath. Notice your lungs and chest expanding. Now slowly exhale through your nose. Again, take a deep breath. Fill your lungs and your chest. Notice how much air you can take in.
Hold it for a second. Now release it and exhale slowly. Inhale slowly and fully one more time. Hold it for a second, and release.
Continue breathing in this way for another couple of minutes. Continue to focus on your breath. With each inhalation and exhalation, feel your body becoming more and more relaxed. Use your breathing to wash away any remaining tension. Now take another deep breath. Inhale fully, hold it for a second, and release. Inhale again, hold, and release. Continue to be aware of your breath as it fills your lungs. Once more, inhale fully, hold it for a second, and release.
When you feel that you are ready, open your eyes.
How was that?
Did you notice any new sensations while you were breathing?
How do you feel now?
This breathing exercise can be shortened to just three deep inhalations and exhalations. Even that can be effective in helping you relax when your anger is escalating. You can practice this at home, at work, on the bus, while waiting for an appointment, or even while walking. The key to using deep-breathing as an effective relaxation technique is to practice it frequently and to apply it in a variety of situations.
Practice the deep-breathing exercise, preferably once a day during the upcoming week, and develop a preliminary version of your anger control plans.
For the day with the highest number, identify the event that triggered your anger, the cues that were associated with your anger, and the strategies you used to manage your anger in response to the event.
Use the following questions for your weekly review before completing the next lesson:
- What was the highest number you reached on the anger meter during the past week?
- What was the event that triggered your anger?
- What cues were associated with the anger-provoking event?
- What strategies did you use to avoid reaching 10 on the anger meter?
For each day of the upcoming week, monitor and record the highest number you reach on the anger meter.
_____ M _____ T _____ W _____ Th _____ F _____ Sat _____ Sun
Review – Four Cue Categories
1. Physical (examples: rapid heartbeat, tightness in chest, feeling hot or flushed)
2. Behavioral (examples: pacing, clenching fists, raising voice, staring)
3. Emotional (examples: fear, hurt, jealousy, guilt)
4. Cognitive/Thoughts (examples: hostile self-talk, images of aggression and revenge)