When I was about 14 I noticed that I couldn’t control my anger. Most of the times, I noticed that I would get mad for no reason at all. I would yell, say really mean things, I would throw things, I would punch things and people. Now I am 22 years old and nothing has changed at all. My doctor told me that I am fine and it’s okay to be angry. After watching some of your videos, it’s opened my eyes up a lot to the fact that, yes, anger is sometimes okay – but not all the time. How can I control this? It also comes with depression and anxiety. Uncontrollable thoughts that race in my head daily. I really really need some advice on how to calm when I get mad. Anything and everything can make me mad. Please help me.
First, I think it’s so cool that you reached out for help. You’re obviously in a position where you are ready to do something about this constant anger, and I will definitely try to offer you some direction. Although it’s true that just about every adolescent struggles with hormones and confused feelings that can lead to anger (because anger is a lot easier to express than all those confusing feelings), it’s certainly more unique to still struggle with that same level of intense anger into your twenties.
As you might have seen from some of my YouTube videos, it seems much easier for us to be in a place of anger than to be in one of shame, depression, or anxiety. The reality is that when we are depressed or anxious, our bodies are producing much more cortisol and other uncomfortable chemical processes; whereas when we lash out in anger, our bodies are producing endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals often referred to as the “runner’s high.” So in short, it can actually feel better physically to lash out in anger than to sit in shame, depression, or anxiety; but as you might imagine, it certainly feels better both mentally and physically to be in a place of peace rather than anything else.
As you know from the personal experience you described, constant anger, especially a constant angry internal dialogue, is miserable to experience. It sucks being angry all the time. So what can you do? Well, without knowing anything else about your story, I can offer you this advice:
- Learn to let things go more. Angry people have a tendency to dwell on things that don’t go exactly as they expect or want things to go, and the antidote is to let go of what you want or expect, and begin to accept things for the way they are.
- Actively use more peaceful self-talk. Try repeating the phrase “loving-kindness” over and over to yourself, and watch what happens. If that particular phrase doesn’t fit with you, consider a similar one: The goal is to have your brain focusing on peaceful thoughts as much as possible. Short phrases tend to work best, and obviously the more you say them to yourself, the more they become a habit and the more you believe them.
- Tell yourself “it’s not the end of the world.” Although this sounds simple enough, by saying to yourself, “it’s not the end of the world,” or “it’s okay,” even when you don’t believe it at first, your body will begin to feel less and less like it has to be prepared to fight (or defend itself). Imagine the physical reaction you might have if you repeated this following phrase to yourself when things aren’t going your way: “You know what, things aren’t going the way I want them to right now, but it’s obviously not the end of the world, and I can handle it. I might not like what’s happening, but I’m okay.”
- Avoid extremes. Do your best to avoid using words like “never,” “always,” “terrible,” “horrible,” “can’t stand it,” etc. The more you avoid extreme language, the less extreme anger you feel. Try to catch yourself when you’re using extreme language, and when you can, try your hardest to replace extreme adjectives with more balanced language. For example, “It’s unfortunate, but I’ll get through it.”
The more in control you can become of your self-talk, the more in control you will be of your anger. Remember that you have spent your entire life developing the inner dialogue that you currently have, and it will take some time, effort, and a ton of practice to get this new, more balanced self-talk down pat; but with time, effort, and practice, you can definitely do it – and trust me, it’s worth it.
I wish you all the best, A.