Cognitive Techniques for Anger Management – Part I

Here’s some cognitive techniques for anger management. Reduce your expectations by choice. Expect less and enjoy more. This is a decision, not a reaction. You are not turning off your reactivity, just changing how many reactions you need or want, and what makes you happier or not when you do. You have control over this, even if you are not used to thinking this way. Try it, and then practice. For example, try to not be so attached to what you think is right or wrong. While there are exceptions (traffic laws), most things in your life are not life and death, so you don’t need to over-react.

Here’s some cognitive techniques for anger management. Reduce your expectations by choice. Expect less and enjoy more. This is a decision, not a reaction. You are not turning off your reactivity, just changing how many reactions you need or want, and what makes you happier or not when you do. You have control over this, even if you are not used to thinking this way. Try it, and then practice. For example, try to not be so attached to what you think is right or wrong. While there are exceptions (traffic laws), most things in your life are not life and death, so you don’t need to over-react.

Practice under-reaction to get the hang of non-attachment. Again, this is not, not reacting (detachment). It is channeling the reactions you have to frustrations through your “programming,” which you are now consciously altering.

One popular version of this is what I call “The Five Year Rule.” This states that if you are not going to remember something in five years, don’t get so bothered by it now. Put another way, ask yourself what you remember five years ago from today. Most of us come up blank.

Drop perfectionism. “Things” are not perfect down here on planet earth. Accept this and stop trying to make it otherwise. I have what I call the “Rule of Two or Three.” This rule states that for every two or three things you attempt, it will take two or three tries to accomplish (to get things the way you want it to turn out…). In other words, only one in three times “things” will go your way the first time. The world is imperfect. Roll with the punches.

Don’t take things personally. The world is not about you. Think about what footprint you have on this planet. With only a few rare exceptions, it’s very, very small. When something happens in your life, is it aimed specifically at you? It is much more likely you just happened to be in his or her orbit. You got the brunt of something they did, but again, it probably wasn’t about you, personally. A common example of this is being cut off on the freeway. Did the other driver cut you off, meaning you _________________ (fill in your name), driving right next to or in back of them? Do they know you? No. They were acting in their own best interest, possibly selfishly, but definitely considering their needs more than yours.

To the other driver, you were probably not even a person; rather, just a moving obstacle. Because we are in cars, we often feel insulated from other humans driving in other big moving insulators. Our personal psychology is to think we are not involved with others so much because our personal space is enclosed, and if we offend them, so what. Most of us think we will never encounter that driver again, so our driving behaviors are inconsequential.

Written By: Steven Griggs, Ph.D.

Initially posted on 6/04/2010

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