Excerpt From The Fix Your Anger Handbook

Coping Devices: Short-Term Defensive Strategies
Anger can have a devastating effect on your world. Have a plan to divert its negative energy before it takes control of your life.

By Faust Ruggiero, M.S.

Brutal Honesty, I Over E, Present/Understand/Fix, Slowing Down Life’s Pace, Internal Focus, Fact-Finding, Boundary Setting, Living in the Moment, Settling Past Issues, Life Inventory

In a perfect world, you would not have to live with anger, and you would not have to put up with people who make you angry. Almost everyone talks about what it would be like to live in a world where everyone loved one another, was helpful and cooperative, and always worked for the common good. Unfortunately, that is not the way the real world works. We live in an imperfect world with other people from all different walks of life. Sometimes we get along well but other times not so much.

You may be working diligently to reduce anger in your life, but this does not mean that the rest of the world is on the same page. Not everyone understands their anger, and not everyone admits they are angry. Even though you may have come to terms with your need to reduce anger in your life, not everyone else has. Expect other people and events in this imperfect world to continue to poke at you and get you angry. In this chapter, I am going to teach you some strategies to deal with these people and events. I will also explain what coping devices are and how you can use them in your imperfect world.

Middle Ground: Staying the Course
Somewhere in the middle of your fight-or-flight response lies an area where you can’t always beat someone up or run from them. Neither strategy seems to be the optimal way to deal with the situation. For example, you may be in a long-term relationship and your significant other has that annoying tendency of doing things that make you angry. You have tried to talk to them about it but to no avail. They don’t seem to care, and they continue to do those things that rub you the wrong way and have you on the brink of “ringing their neck.”

You certainly don’t want to give in or enable their ridiculous behaviors, or leave the relationship, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do physical damage. So, fight and flight aren’t exactly rectifying the situation. You are going to stay with them, and somehow, you must survive their insolent, childish behaviors. So, this is where you call on your thinking machine to become your strategy machine. This is where you activate that territory that lies between hurting them and leaving them. This is where you learn to use coping skills. What follows is a list of coping strategies you can use in anger-provoking situations or when someone is doing something that can trigger your anger. Some of them are important to use as anger is developing or if you are in the throes of an angry episode. Some of the others can be incorporated into your daily routine to help you learn to be more relaxed routinely.

Imagine a calm place: A calm place is often used in programs like systematic desensitization. It includes thinking about a special place that helps you feel calm like the beach or the mountains. Imagining this place for a few moments can give you a short break from your angry feelings. In some cases, if you can remove yourself from the situation, imagining a calm place can last for several minutes or longer. This coping strategy helps take your mind away from the angry moment and replaces it with something that makes your brain, emotions, and body feel  calmer.

Use a breathing-deceleration program regularly: Slowing your breathing down can go a long way in helping you to become a calmer person. Do breathing exercises as often as you can each day. They only take a minute or two, and you can do them almost anywhere. You can find instructions for various types of breathing exercises from reputable sources online.

Do internal sensory exercises: Grounding is a self-soothing technique. It's usually applied in times of stress, which can happen when you become angry. Examples include using soothing objects like spinners and rubber bands or cognitive games like identifying colors. More efficient sensory exercises consist of identifying pleasant objects or people in your immediate environment and directing your attention to them.

Exercise regularly: As discussed, much of the anger you feel can be physical, so exercise is a great way to relieve the energy that can drive angry thoughts and episodes. Start exercising regularly, but first, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.

Practice relaxation techniques: There are many relaxation techniques you can use to help reduce anger, such as meditation, yoga, and prayer. You can also use a program for the systematic desensitization I mentioned earlier. This is where you desensitize your entire body, one part at a time, systematically. You can find examples of this technique online.

Mixing and Matching
As you saw in Part Two, there are many types of anger. It should not be a surprise that attempting to use one coping strategy might fall short in your attempts to either hold back your anger or to address someone else’s. There are so many ways anger can manifest in someone’s life. Rarely, if ever, is there only one cause for anger. There may have been initial circumstances that caused the anger to develop, but along the way, it attaches itself to other life circumstances. Therefore, to reduce anger should use a multifaceted coping approach. For example, if someone is dealing with rapid-onset anger, coping devices like time-outs, exercise, and getting professional help may apply. With passive-aggressive anger, setting boundaries and positive internal language can be more helpful.

If you have read other books in The Fix Your Empowerment Series, you probably noticed that I use more examples in this book to help illustrate important points. This is because anger, unlike anxiety and depression, tends to be explosive and can put you in a position to react fast. Angry expressions can cause severe damage not only to the person using it but also to whatever their anger is directed at. Here is an example to help you understand how to use coping devices to help you reduce anger’s impact on your life:

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