In 2002, I worked with a behavioural psychologist. We were conducting HR training programs for corporates in Bangalore.
She used to suggest various behavioural therapy techniques for controlling anger.
- Punching pillows
- Tearing newspapers
- Drawing vigorously until the paper tears
- Throwing things at walls
- Breaking paper cups
- Screaming out loud in a closed room
- Let out your frustration at a photograph of a person you are angry with
I was sceptical about this technique and asked her why she suggested it. She told me that punching pillows are one of the most effective ways to control anger.
I thought it was nonsense and said so.
There is no scientific research which backs these bizarre techniques. Research shows that these are not good strategies for calming down.
Anger is a vile emotion.
Unchecked anger lead to aggression and violence. It is challenging to justify anger unless:
- You need to protect yourself from violence or threats
- You need to stand up for your values and beliefs against attack on your fundamental rights
- Your physical space is violated or abused.
- Your life is in danger.
We do not get into such situations often. Yet, we see people get angry frequently.
Anger is an emotion. It needs a calming strategy. Over-excitement, fear, worry, jealousy, embarrassment, guilt, overwhelm, and silliness are just a few more examples of emotions that may need calming, though anger needs to be prevented or neutralized.
Prevention strategies are calming strategies.
Preventing means recognizing and neutralizing your emotions before you fall prey to them. It doesn’t mean reaching a particular emotional experience; it just means regulating your responses to whatever emotion you’re experiencing. It’s mindfulness, listening to your feelings and needs, and this is something we can learn from our meditation and silence introspection.
The message isn’t “Don’t get angry” but “How to avoid anger.” Not “Control your anger,” but “How to avoid disappointments.” When we label feelings as unfavourable, we shut down essential lessons, but when we teach ourselves how to identify, label, and manage our emotions, we’ll develop genuine emotional intelligence.
Our emotional lives are complex as children. Researchers found that the emotional well-being of youngsters was strongly linked to the emotional and social conditions under which they lived.
As children grow up, they learn from their parents’ behaviours and attitudes; these affect how their brains are wired. Early childhood is crucial for developing positive ways to cope with life’s challenges.
Now, listen to this.
Some calming techniques may be doing more harm than good.
It turns out that strategies such as punching pillows, stamping your foot, screaming into cushions, etc., may do no good. New evidence suggests these are harmful strategies. Studies show that expressing anger can increase aggressive behaviour.
The researchers conducted an interesting study.
They asked volunteers to write an essay. Then, they gave them harsh feedback to make them angry. They found that people who got angry were also more furious if they’d been hitting a punchbag beforehand. And they were much harsher towards others, too, whether they were the ones who’d hurt their feelings or not.
If you teach yourself to use your fists when angry, you may learn to associate rage with physical action rather than verbal expression. You may then be unable to control yourself when you feel mad. The thrill of punching someone may become addictive. It might soon become hard for you to stop using violence.
Five-step calming strategy to help you neutralize your anger
1. Teach yourself to recognize your feelings.
Sit in silence. Meditate in Sahasrara. Identify your anger. Who do you get angry with often? List their names. Who are they? Now, write another list of people whom you love the most. And, write a third list of people who love you the most.
Are these three lists identical? Do they have the same names?
Shame on us, isn’t it? We get angry with the people whom we love the most. We get mad at the people who love us the most.
2. Identify the root causes of your anger.
Why do you get angry? Ask yourself what is your contribution to your anger. Think if the other person is triggering your anger purposely or helplessly. You will often discover that your anger is your unconscious choice or purely habitual. You may imagine that others are triggering your anger. But, if you think clearly, you can differentiate between the trigger and your anger response. The catalyst may be actual. But your anger response is your own choice.
3. Find the underlying expectation that led to your anger
Disappointments lead to anger, most often. Find your expectations that were threatened. Recognizing and admitting that you are the root cause of your anger will help you resolve not to get angry next time.
4. List down the effects of anger
List the ill effects of anger on yourself and others. It will help you to remember that anger hurts you first, and then it hurts your loved ones.
5. Discover creative solutions
Anger is useless.
Try to use friendship. Use love and compassion. Use humour.
With positive strokes, you may be able to change people’s behaviours.
Go back to Sahasrara meditation. Visualize your creative solutions being put to good effect.
Repeat the process until you can completely neutralize anger for each person.
Start with the most frequently affected person.
Then the second. Then the third.
You will soon get rid of anger entirely from your system.
In conclusion, punching pillows doesn’t really help you deal with your anger issues. Sure, it feels good, but it won’t solve anything. Instead, meditate, sit in silence, introspect, find creative solutions, visualize your solutions and neutralize anger. That’s the real solution to controlling your temper.
Is this useful for you? Add your comments below.
Let me know if I can help you in any way.
Be Blessed by the Divine!
Krish Murali Eswar.