If it gets hot in your thought closet from time to time, I understand. It gets hot in my thought closet sometimes, too. Here are some things I do to help keep the temperature down. Maybe they will help you, as well.
My Anger Management Key Words:
1. Shock: When something happens or someone says something that makes us mad, what happens immediately is not our choice. Our bodies react along with our brains! Usually our hearts race, our breathing becomes shorter, and our muscles become tense. Your brain gives your body a command to flood itself with adrenaline. Voices may start shouting in your head, “She thinks I’m stupid!” or “How dare he do that to me?”
The first way I approach managing my anger is to recognize the shock factor. It’s real. We feel it physically; we feel it emotionally. When I clue in to the fact that I just got jolted--shocked and alarmed--by the anger bug, I am able to recognize my autonomic response, detect the voices pounding on the door of my thought closet, and…breathe! Really, I take a deep breath. I try to relax. Since it is really hard to grab those racing thoughts, I try to quietly wait until the voice of reason is louder. That leads to the next key word.
2. Spock: Remember the steady, non-emotional Vulcan from Star Trek? Well, I am not suggesting our Spock response is without emotion; rather, it’s with controlled emotion. Respond with a neutral comment such as, "I have no idea how to respond to that," or ”I am hurt and angry right now; I will respond in a minute.”
Most Spock responses begin with “I” rather than “you.” This provides an opportunity for clarification rather than going into immediate combat! It also makes you a team member (rather than an adversary) with the person who has angered you. It’s tough, I know. I’ve failed plenty of times with this one. But when I apply it, it works, and it leads well into choice three-the third key word.
3. Knock: Appeal to the other person--enter into their perspective. Probe as if you are an ally searching for the same hidden treasure. Asking-- rather than telling--is a good way to knock. The goal of “knocking” is to use our words to cross a threshold rather than build a barrier. Warning: it doesn’t mean that you become a doormat, though, and that means you must pay attention to the next key word.
4. Lock: Secure your position. Stand up for yourself. If you are able to remain calm and think rationally, you can do this without being defensive. And that leads to the last key word…
5. Stock: Take stock of what just happened. Assess the situation. Was the other person justified? Were you justified? Did you handle it well? How could you handle a similar conflict in the future? What was the cause?
The important thing I must always remember when it comes to managing my temper and anger is that it is my responsibility. I don’t use phrases anymore like, ”You really make me mad.” The fact is that I choose to become angry; I choose to fly off the handle. I can choose to be calm. We really can be angry and “sin not” as the Bible says. Remembering the progression of SHOCK, SPOCK, KNOCK, LOCK and STOCK really helps me keep it cool in the thought closet!