So this is the second in our series about HALT. Basically, when you feel your brain start spinning in place and your pulse racing, stop and assess…are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired? In this mini-post, I’m thinking about Anger.
A=Angry So if your first response is anger (or its introverted cousin, sadness), hunger or tiredness could be a factor. But the truth is that sometimes anger is legit. The good news? If you don’t feed it, the initial heat of your anger will burn off and you can decide what to do about it. Sometimes the answer is nothing…sometimes it’s a huge life change. But while you’re still furious, you won’t be in any shape to make a clear-headed decision.
From my dad I inherited the deep belief that when something is wrong, it should be rectified. No surprise then, that we’re both champion “letter of complaint” writers. The same rules for writing a letter of complain can be used to assess and deal with your anger in any situation. 1) begin with the good relationship or high expectations you had initially 2) describe the event without editorial comments (just the facts, ma’am) 3) Spell out the way in which what happened didn’t meet your expectations and how that made you feel 4) Be specific and reasonable about the way you expect the other person (or soulless corporation) to respond.
Not only does this get you results, it can also help you put your anger in context. If you tell the airline you want a refund for the extra money you paid because they gave you the wrong information on getting a ticket for a lap baby or you tell the hotel you want a refund for the more expensive hotel where you had to go when they didn’t have the port-a-crib you reserved (see a theme here?) or you tell the organizer of a conference you want an apology for the lack of organization and a promise that this issue will be addressed in the future, you take constructive action to make your world a better place. Writing a letter of complaint and not sending it can help you articulate what upset you about the lunch with your friend or the phone call with your sister-in-law. Then you can assess whether or not you need further action to let your anger go.
My husband and I don’t fight often, but we have had the occasional “heated discussion.” The kids were a little concerned, but I told them that we get angry at each other just like they get angry at us (especially when it’s time to turn off the electronics!). Being angry doesn’t mean we don’t love each other and it doesn’t mean we’ll stay angry. For us, anger passes, love lasts. I’d disagree here with the old saying, “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” Sometimes sleeping it off is your best move.
I did check with my sister (the one who’s a a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Art Therapist here), and she recommended What to Do When You Grumble Too Much and also the work of Ross Greene, a clinician who wrote The Explosive Child www.livesinthebalance.org/about-lives-in-the-balance
We also used Take the Grrr Out of Anger and When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry for our kids, who struggled with managing their anger in about 2nd grade. (and the books didn’t hurt us at all, either!)
This is a good post to note that I am in no way a medical professional or therapist or any such thing. These posts are intended as helpful suggestions, not as diagnostic tools or treatment for major issues.