How to stop breaking things out of anger

How to Overcome Destructive Anger

Warriors basketball player Draymond Green has a reputation for being a “hothead.” In June, he was suspended after Game 5 of the championship series for flagrant fouls, which may have contributed to the Warriors losing the title. Recently, he made headlines after being arrested for slapping a fan at a bar, an infraction that could incur fines or jail time.

It’s impossible to know what prompted Green to lash out in these situations without getting inside his head. But, if he’s like the many hundreds of people I’ve worked with over my 40 years as an anger management specialist, it’s likely he feels out of control around his anger, and may not even understand its root causes.

Like all emotions, anger serves a purpose, typically alerting us that we are suffering from some form of distress. This is important, because although anger can be uncomfortable mentally and physically, it can also motivate us to address our underlying needs, desires, or perceived threats. It’s unprocessed anger that can lead to conflict, social isolation, problems at work, substance abuse, depression, shame, and even incarceration.

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In my new book, Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work, I outline what I’ve learned about the nature of anger—what triggers it, how it affects our bodies and our minds, and what we can do to manage it effectively. Luckily, there are ways to maintain a healthy dose of anger without letting it rule you—whether you’re an average person trying to manage the stresses of everyday life or a star basketball player.

The anatomy of anger

Not everyone processes anger by punching someone or being aggressive. Some people express anger passive-aggressively or direct their anger toward themselves; others deny their anger, or become silent and withdrawn. None of these are healthy reactions. But because many of us are predisposed toward anger—either because of our biology, how we were treated by others in the past, or what we observed from family members, partners, friends, or even the media—we may not have learned other ways to cope.

Anger usually begins with a triggering event that challenges your internal harmony and well-being. It may or may not be related to another person’s behavior—it could also be due to circumstances, such as a sudden illness. A trigger may involve a single negative event or a series of events that combine to affect your mood. Or a trigger can even be imaginary, based on something you anticipate happening in the future.

Whatever the trigger, how you respond to it is the result of a series of expectations you have about how people should behave or about how life should play out, some of which may be quite unrealistic. For example, you may feel that your friends should always be available to help when you need them, or that you should never have to feel the effects of aging. If you have these expectations, then experiencing the unavailability of a friend or arthritic pain in your joints may trigger you to respond in anger.

Anger can also result from how you choose to appraise a triggering event. You may think the event has a deeper, more general meaning, such as when your spouse comes home late from work because of a traffic jam and you interpret it as uncaring or disrespectful. Being more aware of your thought processes here can help you avoid getting lost in stories of what your spouse’s behavior might mean.

Usually, anger is a reaction to other uncomfortable feelings below the surface, such as hurt, disappointment, sadness, anxiety, embarrassment, or shame. Even if these uncomfortable emotions are not acknowledged in the moment, they may still be there.

Sadly, too many people tend to want to flee these feelings before they fully understand them—and that’s where mindfulness comes in.

Three skills for managing anger

This essay is adapted from Bernard Golden's new book, Overcoming Destructive Anger: Strategies That Work (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016).

To manage anger in a healthier way—and to prevent it from turning destructive—involves self-reflection, using skills from three broad areas of understanding and practice: mindfulness and mindfulness meditation, self-compassion, and self-awareness.

How can these help? Mindfulness and mindfulness meditation help you examine your own experiences without reacting to them or becoming overwhelmed. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help teach you that your thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions are only temporary rather than a fixed part of who you are. This gives you increased freedom to choose how to react to them.

For example, through mindfulness—acceptance of your moment-to-moment experience—you may be able to say to yourself in a moment of anger, “This is a feeling I’m experiencing right now,” creating the sense that you are the observer and in control. This awareness allows you to ponder the choices available to you in responding to anger. It can also help you to be more accepting of your thoughts and feelings, so that you don’t have to push them away.

Support for this comes from studies showing an association between mindfulness and the ability to differentiate between different emotions—an ability that, in turn, helps you better regulate negative emotions. In a 2011 review of mindfulness research, authors Daphne Davis and Jeffrey Hayes of Pennsylvania State University found that mindfulness “predicts relationship satisfaction, ability to respond constructively to relationship stress, skill in identifying and communicating emotions to one’s partner, amount of relationship conflict, negativity, and empathy.” In addition, “people with higher trait mindfulness reported less emotional stress in response to relationship conflict and entered conflict discussion with less anger and anxiety.”

Once you are mindfully aware of your experiences, self-compassion involves being sensitive to your own suffering and accepting yourself without judgment, as well as seeing yourself as deserving of nurturing and care. It embodies neither self-pity nor self-indulgence, but rather a healthy affirmation of oneself. Practicing self-compassion allows you to recognize anger as a signal of underlying pain that must be addressed. Furthermore, it can help you to judge your emotions less harshly, another way to mitigate anger.

Research by self-compassion scholars, such as Kristen Neff, has shown that self-compassion increases emotional resilience and stability, and decreases negative self-evaluations, defensiveness, and the need to see oneself as better than others. In a series of studies on self-compassion, researchers found that “people high in self-compassion appear to cognize about negative events in ways that reduce their impact” and that “self-compassionate participants had more self-relevant thoughts that reflected self-kindness, common humanity, and mindful acceptance” than those who were low in self-compassion. All of this bodes well for decreasing anger.

When practiced together, mindfulness and self-compassion skills “reduce reactivity, strengthen autonomy, promote emotional sensitivity, enhance understanding of historical sources of our hurts, and provide guidelines for safe, effective communication,” says Harvey Aronson, author of Buddhist Practice on Western Ground.

There are other self-awareness skills that can help us look deeply into each experience and further our capacity for healthy anger. For example, I often ask my clients to fill out an anger log (after they’ve calmed down) to get them in touch with the types of situations that trigger anger for them and the feelings and thoughts that precede and follow a triggering event. The anger log can make you more skillful at altering the course of anger progression by giving you information about where you get stuck.

By reviewing your thoughts and being open to new ways of thinking, as well as understanding your personal histories and emotions, you can learn how to be more compassionate for yourself and others.

A healthier kind of anger
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Of course, one of the challenges to reducing unhealthy anger is that sometimes anger feels positive in the moment you experience it. Anger can give you a cortisol rush that makes you feel alive and energized. It can also help you avoid taking responsibility for your own decisions, since anger is a way of blaming others for your suffering. Plus, anger can temporarily give you what you want: It can distract you from pain and threatening feelings, while making others feel anxious or threatened, thus allowing you to gain the upper hand. No doubt Green is privy to these positive impacts.

But regularly directing anger at someone is likely to make him or her less supportive of you in the long run and possibly withdraw, leaving you more isolated and vulnerable. Feeling and expressing anger frequently is a drain on your body and health—not to mention your work life and relationships.

If we make a commitment to ourselves to aim for healthier expressions of anger, we do a great service to ourselves and to others. Mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-awareness can lead us toward greater compassion for those around us, and to more authentic, happy relationships. It may take some discipline to look at anger this deeply, and there may be setbacks along the way. But, in the end, understanding and managing anger will lead to a more fulfilling and authentic life. 

It may even save your basketball career.

Why Do People Destroy or Punch Things When Upset?

Remember when the San Francisco Giants were playing the Miami Marlins in the summer of 2018?  Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland blew a save—essentially causing his team to lose the game. In frustration, he punched a wall. He fractured his right hand in the process and couldn’t play for weeks on end.

Punching things, breaking things, throwing things out of frustration—some businesses have even found a way to monetize these common venting techniques. The Break Room, with locations all over the world, offers customers the chance to grab a bat or any other heavy stick of their choice and literally smash some dishes, glasses, or appliances in a room.

But why do so many people want to destroy or punch things when upset? And does it actually help?

The release of tension that brings us to acts of aggression when we’re mad is thought to be stress-relieving. Yelling, screaming, slamming doors, throwing things—these are all considered to have the same venting effect. Whether it’s a “no” from your parents to something you really wanted to do, receiving criticism, or a major breakup—these things can make you furious. In your rage, you may be shaking. Your heart may be pounding, your ears ringing, and you’re sweaty, hot and red-faced. You can’t think clearly, but you just know you need to punch something. Instead of a person, you pound your fist into a wall.

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Problem is, punching a wall isn’t really a solution. While it may or may not help you in the immediate moment with a cathartic release of stress (which is why some mental health treatment centers offer kickboxing as an experiential therapy), nothing really changes in terms of your anger management issues. In fact, one 1999 study suggested that people who punched something when upset actually became angrier and more aggressive later on than those who didn’t punch anything.

Ok, fine, I won’t punch a wall. What should I do instead?

We’re glad you asked.

There are definitely better ways to release your frustration and distress instead of engaging in activities that lead to fractured hands and trouble with your parents (and maybe even the police, if it’s public property damage). In Anger Management, a program often incorporated at teen mental health rehab centers, you learn that you don’t need to hold in your anger—you just need to express it in other ways.

Also, if you consistently struggle with anger, you may want to consider whether you have a mental health issue. This can be oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD), or conduct disorder—all characterized by extreme anger and irritability.

Or, it can be another mental health issue like depression or anxiety. Those who struggle with excessive anger are more likely to be clinically depressed or anxious too. Why? Anger ruins family relationships, friends, jobs, and more. It negatively affects every area of one’s life. Teens with anger issues often have low self-esteem, because of the shame or remorse they feel after acting out. It could go the other way, too, though—with anger being a symptom of depression. In fact, in the DSM, irritability and angry outbursts are symptoms of depression for adolescents.

If you do have a diagnosed mental health issue, you might need to attend a teen rehab center. There are residential treatment centers (RTC), intensive outpatient programs (IOP), and partial hospitalization programs (PHP) for adolescents who struggle with extreme anger. There are also dual-diagnosis treatment programs for teens who have substance abuse problems in addition to their anger issues. But even if you don’t have an official mental health disorder, you should still get help for your anger if it’s becoming detrimental in your life.

What if My Spouse Punches Walls When Angry?

Punching a wall when angry is often considered to be a sign of domestic abuse. Throwing things when angry, breaking things when angry, and slamming doors when angry are all serious signs that an anger management program might be needed to help your spouse learn how to manage their anger in a way that doesn’t involve violence. 

If your spouse’s anger leads to behavior that frightens you or leaves you feeling like you’re walking on eggshells, they’re not the only person who would benefit from professional help. Living with someone who has a hard time controlling their anger takes a serious mental and emotional toll. 

Speaking with a therapist can help you understand how your spouse’s actions are impacting you and provide support as you figure out how to navigate your relationship. 

Asking for help is especially important if you and your spouse have children. A key element of child abuse prevention is recognizing when children are living in a physically or emotionally unsafe environment and taking the necessary steps to make positive changes.   

Why Do People Hit Themselves When Angry?

There are two main reasons why people hit themselves when angry: to “punish” themselves and to create a distraction from the feelings they’re experiencing. Struggling to manage anger can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and frustration at the self, and hitting oneself is sometimes an attempt to deal with those feelings. 

All forms of self-harm, including hitting yourself when angry, happen because the act of self-harm creates an emotional response. Often, that response is a sense of relief that comes from being distracted by a new sensation. 

Regardless of why it happens, hitting yourself while angry is an attempt at coping, and a professional can help provide healthier coping skills for managing acts of impulsive anger.

Is It Normal to Punch Holes in the Wall?

It’s fairly common to see people on TV and in movies punch a wall when they’re angry. However, most people can refrain from violent and destructive acts, even when they’re very upset.  

Punching holes in walls is a serious sign that you’d benefit from professional anger management treatment. A program can teach you the skills to regulate and process anger without resorting to physical violence. 

Why Do I Want to Break Things for No Reason?

Experiencing a sudden urge to break things or looking for something to punch when angry isn’t exactly a typical response to anger, but it is understandable. Everyone experiences emotions differently. For some people, anger can be an intense experience. 

It’s normal to want to find an outlet for aggression, especially when anger feels overwhelming. The key to healthy anger management is to find an outlet that doesn’t cause harm or involve violence. 

If you feel the sudden urge to break things when you’re not angry, it’s a sign that you may be repressing your feelings. A mental health professional can help you develop a deeper understanding and can guide you to find outlets that help you identify your emotions and process them in a healthy way.  

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Help Cure Anger Problems?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective method of helping people learn how to manage feelings of anger. Anger problems don’t get “cured,” but they can get better. 

Anger issues happen for different reasons. They could be related to factors like unresolved trauma, the effects of alcohol abuse, or imbalanced brain chemistry. It’s not uncommon for parents dealing with childhood anger to be left deeply confused by their child’s behavior. 

Whatever the reason behind anger, CBT is a style of therapy that can provide the insight and skills to develop a different approach to handling emotions.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with overwhelming anger, especially when it leads to violent behavior, isn’t fun for anyone. Anger management treatment can be a life-changing experience for you and your loved ones.  

Punching a wall when angry isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy. The good news is that it is possible to learn alternatives. You just have to recognize there’s a problem and ask for help. 

Evolve offers CARF and Joint Commission accredited treatment for teens with mental health disorders and/or substance abuse. Your child will receive the highest caliber of care in our comfortable, home-like residential treatment centers. We offer a full continuum of care, including residential, partial hospitalization/day (PHP), and intensive outpatient treatment (IOP).

To speak with our admissions coordinators, call: (800) 665-4769

Yael Klein

Originally from California, Yael combines her background in English and Psychology in her role as Content Writer for Evolve Treatment Centers.

EVERYTHING IS FUCKING. How to stop being angry about everything? Instructions - Meduza

Anything can cause anger, irritation and an outburst of anger - including keys that cannot be found at the bottom of the bag, or stupid comments on social networks. Or you are denied a well-deserved (in your opinion) promotion. Or, for example, you are late for work - and suddenly a child spills freshly squeezed orange juice on a white and ironed shirt. All of this is VERY FUCKING. On the one hand, feeling angry is quite natural, it is a basic emotion. On the other hand, your relatives suffer from your intemperance, and in general, it’s hard to get angry all the time. At the request of Meduza, Alyona Prihidko, PhD in Psychology and an expert in emotional regulation, explained what to do if you are often angry, unable to control yourself, and lash out at others (and want to deal with it). nine0003

If you like to rage , put this instruction aside and read about censorship on Facebook or an investigation into how Igor Chaika's business partners receive state money for Muscovites going to paid toilets.

So, everything irritates you - and it is this that irritates you first of all. In any family, there are so-called patterns of emotional response: even in childhood, we learn to control ourselves by watching adults - through imitation and identification with parents or loved ones.

If the elders allowed themselves aggression, then the child can learn to express his feelings with screams and fists. Restraint is basically a social skill: someone learns to manage their emotions (for example, by evaluating the consequences in advance), and someone is not able to cope with them. Or doesn't want to. In addition, anger is an emotion of a socially privileged person: a boss can express anger at a subordinate, but not vice versa. It's the same with parents and children. If you feel that you have anger management problems and want to fix it, consider that the first step has already been taken. nine0003

Analyze your triggers

Triggers are situations, people, thoughts that make you feel intense emotions. For example, for parents, the most common trigger is the disobedience of the child. The traditional model of family and parenting implies that the child must obey the parent in everything. If this does not happen, parents feel that their authority is undermined - and this ultimately causes anger and aggression. Especially if before my eyes there was the experience of my own mothers and fathers, who resolved controversial issues with a cry or even physical punishment. Or someone may absolutely hate being late: if your friend is late (never happened before, and here again!), You literally begin to shake. Anger arises where we care, and where we are especially sensitive. nine0003

Therefore, you need to study your triggers - in order to prepare for the situation in advance. For example, if you know that your friend is constantly late, then you can take a coloring book with you if it calms you down. Or turn on music that lifts your spirits while you wait. In addition, remember that any action has its own reason - even chronic lateness or unwillingness to do homework.

Be prepared for an outburst of anger

A well-known proverb says: if you knew where you fell, you would spread straw. You need to prepare in advance for the fact that you will get angry: think about how to remind yourself to stop and not dive into the emotional funnel. Imagine how you pour hot coffee into a large cup: you pour, pour, pour - and in the end it pours over the edge right onto your bare foot. It hurts, it's embarrassing, and the consequences must be eliminated. This would not have happened if you had followed your actions and stopped in time. But for this you need to be attentive to your feelings, know the size of the cup and the temperature of the drink. So it is with anger. nine0003

If you know in advance in which situations you can experience it and in which situations it is especially difficult for you to cope with yourself, then it will be much easier for you to stop it at the very beginning and exhale. And then there will be no breakdown. Signs of an approaching outburst of rage can be different: someone begins to clench their fists or their neck warms up, someone feels that they are out of breath. Watch yourself, remember what is happening to you - and then it will be easier to cope with the impulse.

Change your way of thinking

Emotions, including anger, are directly related to thoughts. It could be thoughts about how terribly wronged you are, or that life is fundamentally unfair. Marsha Linehan, creator of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, offers a metaphor for "teflon consciousness". Imagine that your consciousness is like a Teflon frying pan, from which even the remains of a burnt scrambled egg easily slip off - straight into the trash. And now bad thoughts are slipping away, and you are peacefully drinking coffee that has not overflowed from the cup. No matter how tired the word "mindfulness" (or mindfulness) has been lately, this is it. nine0003

It is interesting and useful to look even deeper and understand what your values ​​basically influence your anger - what role it plays in your relationships with other people. Our emotions are functional: being angry with a person, we try to convey to him that his behavior is unacceptable for us. Think about how exactly you can explain this without anger? Most likely, it will turn out that the same goals can be achieved in a much less aggressive way.

Use the environment for peaceful purposes

In a fit of anger, we often want to throw something at the wall or even at the person we are angry with. Throwing plates, throwing things or hitting a pillow is a classic of unrestrained display of anger. In fact, these are aggressive actions that can only recharge your anger.

To calm down, you can use the surrounding objects or stop words. Emotional regulation specialist, Stanford University professor James Gross calls them "helping elements." For example, in the film Anger Management, Jack Nicholson's character, a psychotherapist, taught his clients to chant the strange word "gu-usfraba" in a moment of acute anger. “Gu-usfra-a-a-aba,” the clients sang and gradually calmed down: they associated this nonsense with the psychotherapy group, gave a pause and threw a bridge between anger and the ability to pull themselves together. nine0003

Let's say you know how difficult it is to put children to bed, but you don't want to raise your voice or punish them. Not only the rules in relations with children will help, but also work on yourself. For example, you can hang a print on the wall in the form of the frontal lobes of the brain (which are responsible for managing emotions) and write on it: “Calm down! Take care of the neurons! Or, for example, a colleague annoys you for some reason. Put a postcard to yourself with the inscription "Breathe" next to the computer - and every time anger rolls over you, you will remember that you need to breathe - for example, on the count of ten. Finally, it's important to remember that anger is the emotion needed to attack, so exercise is a good way to deal with it. nine0003

Don't try to "show things off" during a fight

If you want to talk to a loved one about being angry, it's best to do so before you get "pissed". You can talk about what upsets or annoys you and what you would like to change. Maybe you have ideas how - or you want to find a way together. Try not to blame or "make claims": this is also a kind of aggression, which again can result in a quarrel or a serious conflict. During a quarrel, in principle, you should not try to solve the problem. In the case of most other emotions, to cope with them, it helps to talk about your feelings. But with anger and anger, everything is more difficult. If you are already in the heat of a quarrel and start talking about your problems and emotions aggressively, anger can only increase. nine0003

Remember that emotions can be "infected"

There is such a relatively studied phenomenon as emotional contagion. This is an unconscious process associated with empathy: we "intercept" someone else's emotion non-verbally, through facial expressions, gestures, and direction of gaze. Scientists say that this can even happen remotely (for example, if you watch a video), and sadness is more “contagious” than joy.

Of course, this is not always the case. In order for this to happen, the person "transmitting" an emotion to you must express emotions brighter than you, but at the same time not worry about your feelings. Like, for example, a small and desperately sobbing child. It is important to notice such moments, protect your boundaries, not succumb to someone else's anger and again try to remain calm. nine0003

Don't be afraid to study yourself

Be sure to analyze yourself - after all, it won't be worse than it is. Watch how your reactions arise: from a situation to an emotion, then to a clear thought, a desire to do something, and, finally, a real action.

Let's say you're stuck in traffic on your way to an important meeting. First you feel angry, then swear to yourself, then you start to panic (“horror, I’m late, what will happen now, everything is gone”), then you feel like ramming the cars in front, like in GTA, and as a result, you press hard on beep. nine0003

If you carefully observe your anger for several days, you will begin to notice patterns in reactions and their ins and outs. For example, Emotionally Focused Therapists note that anger is often a secondary emotion that masks fear, anxiety, shame, or guilt. And anger is a kind of disguise, like the lid of a saucepan, under which completely different feelings seethe.

Did this manual piss you off? Let's discuss in the chat!

Alena Prihidko

Healthy aggression: 5 ways to deal with anger


© Thought Catalog/Unsplash

Author Yulia Tsiruleva

June 19, 2019

Feeling angry is a normal human reaction. It is important to let it out, but in a way that is not destructive to you or to others. And here's how you can do it.

When we condemn ourselves for being angry, it doubles the annoyance and makes the situation worse. Experts advise to recognize unpleasant feelings and try to find the cause of aggression. Perhaps a colleague who didn’t notice you at the meeting felt bad, and a loved one was late for a date because he unexpectedly got stuck in traffic, and not because he neglected your time. If anger is the result of actions that really threaten your well-being, then being aware of this will help protect yourself. Psychologists have developed simple techniques to deal with negative feelings and learn how to behave better. nine0003

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The easiest and fastest way to calm down is to even out your breathing. The brain does not know how to immediately disconnect from strong emotions, so you need to help it pause with the help of breathing exercises. Try to take a few deep breaths in and out, trying to breathe in your belly. Measured breathing allows you to get rid of unpleasant emotions and tune in to a calm, relaxed state.

Crying is a natural biological mechanism that allows you to throw out negative emotions and reduce stress. You can scream in the car or at home, loudly, at the top of your voice or into a pillow. Try to watch a sports match and cheer. Or scream to the music - the latest research shows that heavy metal, punk and hard rock are calming and help neutralize anger and bad moods. Be prepared for the fact that after a scream, the reaction may change to uncontrollable laughter. nine0003

For example, beat a pillow. Fists, legs, tennis racket - as you like. You can get yourself a special durable “whipping pillow” - old sofa cushions are well suited for this. If possible, spend five minutes exercising or dancing. A short, simple exercise helps to get rid of stress, calm down and improve mood.

Another useful way to deal with anger is to clean up. Use the energy of aggression to clean windows, take apart cabinets, or move furniture. If you want to destroy more than clean up, use a special service where you can beat dishes, misbehave and smash appliances and furniture to pieces. nine0003

We often avoid unpleasant conversations until the very end for fear of offending the interlocutor, worsening the situation, or in response to an important request to be rejected. But the accumulated negative emotions and unspoken desires do not go anywhere. In this state, a minor occasion can provoke an outburst of anger.

Try to talk directly to others about your condition. Close and beloved people, friends, colleagues may not realize that you lack their attention, you feel offended and forgotten. nine0003

When deciding to talk, try to avoid accusations and criticism. You may need to apply one of the previous methods first, or even try them all. The best way to use I-messages is to talk about your feelings in the first person. Then you can calmly explain what hurt or angered you. Ask the interlocutor to explain his position - probably together you can understand the situation and find a solution.

Psychologists believe that it is useful to express anger and resentment on paper or in a computer file - this is another way to throw out what has accumulated inside. Try writing a letter to someone who made you angry or offended. No need to focus on writing coherent, beautiful text: write whatever you think and feel.

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