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Anger: 8 steps to Freedom

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The following steps aren’t rocket science, but are based on solid cognitive neuroscience and more importantly - they work. If you actually do them I bet you will be a lot less angry and more able to meet any situation with more poise and effectiveness. The hardest part is being willing, because when we are angry, we like to insist on our right to stay angry, usually to prove our point. We have to be willing to not be angry and do what it takes to change our state to a better mode of communication that is more productive for self, other and world. 

1. NOTICE – “I feel annoyed”, “I feel angry”

2. CHOOSE to be FREE – “I want to be free to control my anger, not have my anger control me.”

3. If you can or if you need to: CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT

     a. “call time-out” on yourself and go someplace else

     b. Go for a walk, go to the bathroom, go to a different room, get some fresh air. Sometimes this is all it takes, otherwise...

     c. Do steps 4-8

     d. Then, if necessary/desired, come back to express/communicate what you need to having changed your state

4. SCAN the body and MELT muscular tension

     a. Notice: “My body is more tense when I feel angry; if I deliberately make my body less tense I will feel less angry.”

     b. Imagine: Have a picture, image of yourself as loose, relaxed, soft, open; see a gentle smile on your face as you soften the following…

     c MELT around the eyes

     d. MELT the jaw muscles

     e. MELT the muscles of the shoulders/neck

     f. MELT the fists/hands – shake them out

     g. MELT the muscles in the stomach, make it soft

     h. Shake everything loose...  arms, hands, legs, butt, hips, shoulders, neck... shake it out

5. SLOW the breath, especially the exhale

     a. Notice: “My breath is more rapid and shallow when I feel angry; if I deliberately make my breath less rapid and more full I will feel less angry.”

     b. Imagine: have an image of yourself exhaling long, full, and slow and see yourself smiling softly.

     b. Blow the breath out with whistle lips (but don’t whistle)

     c. Make the exhale as long as possible

     d. Repeat many times until you feel better

     e. Notice how re-thinking about what “made” you angry, “makes” you angry again. So, stop it. Focus on the exercises until you are calm enough to think about it differently.  

6. COOL your BODY down

     a. Notice: “My body feels more warm when I feel angry; If I deliberately make my body cooler I will feel less angry.”

     b. Imagine: Picture yourself cool, calm and collected. See yourself smiling.

     c. Take off a layer

     d. Splash cold water on your face

     e. Take a cold shower

     f. Roll down the window, turn up the a.c.

     g. Drink cold water

7. SLOW DOWN

    a. Notice: “Things tend to speed up when I feel angry; if I deliberately slow things down I will feel less angry.”

    b. Imagine: Visualize yourself slowing down, enjoying the sensations of your body, smiling.

    c. Purposefully talk slower

    d. Purposefully move slower

    e. Purposefully breath slower

8. Repeat steps 3-8 as many times as needed to achieve your desired state of FREEDOM. 

Michael Boyle, LAMFTComment