How to Control Anger: The ABC's of Anger Management

How do I control my anger?


Any time you are going to work on reducing the level of your anger you first have to look at the ABC's of anger. By breaking down our anger in this way, we can begin to look and examine our

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response to situations and people that make us angry.  

Let's begin with identifying the ABC's of anger.  

ABC stands for Antecedent, Behavior, Consequence.

The antecedent is what led up to the situation that caused the anger.

The behavior is what you did in your response to the situation (in this case anger).

The consequence is the result of your behavior.

A negative reaction to an antecedent (situation), leads to a behavior (yelling, blowing up, property destruction, aggression) that results in a consequence (ruined relationships, poor health, legal troubles).


Anger is usually a second emotion; this means there is usually something behind our feeling of anger that has very little to do with the situation we are angry about.


In looking at a situation of anger I like to use the analogy of an iceberg.  Eighty percent of an iceberg is under the water. The twenty percent of the iceberg we do see represents the outward anger we express through yelling, outbursts, conflict, etc. The eighty percent under the surface makes up the bulk of our emotional response, such as pain, depression, and anxiety.  


When you begin to talk about the things underneath the surface of your anger, your negative emotions can begin to heal and eventually you can work through these feelings. This ultimately results in better outcomes and feeling better.  This is especially true when working with children. If children are unable to adequately express their emotions they usually will react with increased anger and frustration.


Anger is a very quick response and likely stems from our primal "fight or flight" instinct of survival. By stopping and examining the situation when we begin to feel anger, we can start to develop a more thoughtful response.


To start developing a more thoughtful response, examine your options and make a more thoughtful behavior choice. This positive behavior choice will then lead to a better result (consequence). This can be done in a couple of different ways.


First, you can examine different situations that have created an anger response in the past and use a technique called "cognitive rehearsal." To practice cognitive rehearsal, imagine a situation that makes you angry and go through a step-by-step process of facing that anger and successfully dealing with it. Then practice these steps mentally over and over again. By reviewing these situations, you can begin to retrain your brain to have a more positive response.


When dealing with anger, the bottom line is to have plan in place to effectively cope with and effectively communicate your anger. If you experience extreme anger often, it is likely that there are unresolved emotions/ feelings underneath that are currently being expressed with escalation and outbursts. If you can begin to communicate these feelings more effectively while utilizing skills to remain in control, you will have much better outcomes/relationships with family, friends, and coworkers while feeling happier with your life.


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