Anger Management and Molding Clay
All my life I’ve had an explosive temper with a hair trigger.
Can anyone suggest a way – any way to keep it under wraps and on a tight leash?
Anonymous, Wrong Planet
I love the picture in this article.
I picked it because I think of learning to manage anger as a skill much like creating a pot out of clay.
Our anger is an emotion – raw, untamed, unfamiliar.
If we’ve never created pottery, we’ll make a mess out of the lump of clay, which represents anger.
But if we learn pottery making skills from a skilled craftsman, we can learn to make progressively better creations out of the clay.
In the same way, you and I can become progressively better at managing anger by applying techniques from those who have learned to manage their anger.
Unmanaged Anger Costs Us
As I shared in the last episode, unmanaged anger costs us!
Unmanaged anger (yelling, throwing things, even hitting people or ourselves):
- Destroys our personal relationships
- Destroys our school or work relationships
- Very often makes bad situations worse
- Anger often leads to aggression (either verbal or physical)
“So What Can We Do To Improve Our Anger Management?”
Here are 3 anger management techniques I gathered via a combination of reading up on autistics and Aspergians stories and also from the general research literature.
Apply these three techniques with a growth mindset and I promise you you’ll see better results with your anger management.
Anger Management Technique 1 – Self Awareness
Self-awareness is the first key technique to help us manage our anger.
Self-awareness, according to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, defines self-awareness as “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources, and intuitions.” (Source, Why Self-Awareness Matters, and How You Can Be More Self-Aware).
According to researchers David. R. Vago and David A. Silbersweig, from the Functional Neuroimaging Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, USA,
“through training in FA, OM, and EE styles of meditation, a sustainable healthy mind is proposed to be supported—reducing maladaptive emotions and cognitions common to most ordinary experience, such as lustful desire, greed, anger, hatred, worry, etc., increasing pro-social dispositions (e.g., compassion, empathy, and forgiveness) toward self and other, reducing attachments to thoughts and feelings, and removing biases inherent in habitual forms of cognition.” (source, article, Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transcendence (S-ART): a framework for understanding the neurobiological mechanisms of mindfulness).
Bottom line: As we improve our self-awareness, we’re able to reduce “knee-jerk” unhealthy reactions to anger.
I propose using Apps as a way to help us move toward better self-awareness.
I used Calm for years before going to a paid version of the app, which costs about $60 per year. The Headspace app is more expensive, but those who have used it have told me it’s worth the price.
You can get the free version of Calm or Headspace and start using it daily.
Like any other habit, you’ve got to do it daily to see the greatest results over time.
Here are a couple of resources –
Instant Mindfulness – These are some “instant mindfulness” videos to help you in the moment.
Learning about zones of regulation is another way to make sure you’re self-aware and self-monitoring.
Self-Monitoring: A Type Of Self-Awareness
According to study.com, “Self-monitoring is the ability to both observe and evaluate one’s behavior.”
The more we observe our own behavior and evaluate it, the better we can manage it.
I’ve mentioned in other podcasts how I have some habits that annoy my family.
A couple of habits have been singing songs or sneezing too loudly.
My son is very sensitive to noise, and none of my family members particularly enjoy hearing me sing.
First I told myself they were over-reacting.
But over time I came to realize my annoying habits, like poorly controlled anger, were costing me by annoying my family members and distancing me from them.
A little later on, I heard someone talk on a podcast about using Way of Life to track good and bad habits.
I’ve been using it ever since.
You can keep track of both good habits you want to form, and bad habits you want to get rid of.
Anger Management Technique 2 – Sensory Soothing
Here are a couple of quotes from Aspergians at Wrong Planet.
“One of the aspects of AS that has been the most difficult for me has been whenever I’m exposed to sensory overload, whether it be noise, crowds, a hectic setting, smells, lights, etc. I seem to be on a hair trigger. ”
“I get a mix of panic and anger when I have sensory overload.”
Since sensory overload can contribute to many people’s anger, Sensory Soothing is another technique that can help us manage our anger.
Identify what types of sensory triggers you’re most susceptible to.
Then check out this episode about 3 valuable sensory processing tips to learn more about sensory challenges and tips.
Finally, here’s another great resource to help reduce stress.
Your 3 Step Sensory Action Plan
1. Learn about sensory processing disorder. Then take Dr. Sharon Heller’s sensory defensiveness test. Reflect on which type of sensory stimuli you struggle with most. Seek out an occupational therapist to evaluate your sensory needs.
2. Create A Sensory Toolkit. Bookmark the article, 26 Sensory Integration Tools For Meltdown Management, and check out her list of 26 tools. See if any of those would be helpful to you. Then go to my table (in the create a sensory toolkit section of this article), and add any items that are helpful to you.
3. Create a Sensory Diet Integrated Into Your Daily Schedule. Re-read my section about creating a sensory diet. Print out a copy (or copies) of Dr. Sharon Heller’s Daily Sensory Diet Schedule. Choose sensory processing activities that will help you get through stressful points in your day.
Anger Management Technique 3 – Self-Talk
In cognitive behavior therapy, clinicians examine how our thoughts affect our emotions and our behaviors.
I used to have a problem with trying to figure out what I am thinking and then “telling” myself to think differently.
Here’s a better way to think about self-talk.
We’re automatically thinking every moment of our lives.
When we learn to identify our thought patterns it’s like stepping back, and “thinking about our thinking.”
There are thinking patterns that intensify our anger, and then there are more “balanced” thoughts that will neutralize our anger.
To learn more about this, go to Self Help For Anger, a free resource.
You’ll learn about the Anger Cycle, and positive ways to get out of the cycle.
P.S. You may enjoy listening to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression on the Autism Spectrum, with Dr. Lee Wilkinson, for examples of how cognitive behavior therapy works with anxiety and depression as well as anger management.
It can be frustrating, I imagine, to try to make a pot out of unformed clay on the first few attempts.
But if you and I attend classes, practice faithfully, and learn from our lessons, we’ll learn to fashion a respectable pot out of the clay.
It’s the same with an intense emotion like anger.
Here’s your Anger Management Plan of Action –
- Practice self-awareness. An app like Calm or Headspace will help you develop general self-awareness. Use Way of Life to track specific habits you want to change (like losing your temper, for example).
- Become aware of your sensory challenges. Use the sensory action plan outlined above to help yourself keep stress at bay.
- Learn how to develop balanced self-talk that will help you instead of setting you up for more upset.
- Many Aspergians in the WrongPlanet forums talked about the benefits of exercise for helping reduce stress and anger.
What are some anger management skills I left out? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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