By Anna Mitchell
I had a great question from a reader about my earlier article, “The Monster Within.” How can I control my anger? Not many of us are born with the skills to handle intense emotions and unfortunately sometimes our environments do not facilitate the kind of healthy learning that we would like.
Sometimes we get caught up in the emotional heat of the moment and say or do things we perhaps wish we hadn’t. When our actions are preceded by an unpredictable emotion such as anger we do not always make the best decisions. When we perform we want our actions to be planned and purposeful. Reacting to an emotion takes that control away from us leaving us with unpredictable results. Anger requires a lot of emotional energy and can leave us feeling scattered, unconfident, unfocused and drained. This is not where we want to be prior or during an important competition.
Competition does, however, bring out our best and our worst. When we want something that is really important to us, we become emotionally invested. When we have an important competition coming up we can experience an onslaught of emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety. These emotions can become a volatile cocktail that can explode under pressure if something goes wrong. More often than not this explosion is expressed as anger and can be very detrimental to our performance.
So what can we do to control our anger and thus save our performance?
· Remember that anger is a secondary emotion, meaning that it usually evolves from a completely different type of emotion. For example, men often express fear or sadness as anger because anger is more socially acceptable. Women often express anxiousness or frustration as anger because it seems easier to understand. The key to managing your anger is determining where it is coming from and tackling the underlying emotion.
· Track your anger. When do you get angry? What precedes your angry response? Tap into the emotions you were feeling before you got angry. For example, the little old lady that you yelled at for driving too slow was probably less likely the cause of your anger than your concern that you will miss your competition.
· Own your anger. The other person cannot “make” you angry. It is your choice how you respond to that person no matter what they do or don’t do.
· Know your anger triggers. Learn what pushes your buttons then try to avoid those situations before a competition. If you know that running late makes you feel angry make sure you have plenty of time to get to the competition and get organized. If a certain person always seems to say the wrong thing before you show, try to avoid that person or gently ask him/her to give you a little space while you prepare.
· Use the Serenity Prayer as a mantra to keep calm. “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
· Use your relaxation and mental skills to help control the discomfort of anger. Breathing exercise, physical activity, positive affirmations, and imagery can help to diffuse the raw emotion and calm your somatic symptoms.
· Learn how to express anger appropriately. It’s ok to feel angry but it’s not ok to lash out physically or verbally at others. Learn how to express yourself assertively rather than aggressively.
Remember that we all feel angry at times but it is what we do with that anger that makes the difference. Learn to control those intense emotions so they don’t jeopardize all that time and hard work you have spent preparing for your important event.
How do you manage your anger? Has your anger ever hurt your performance?