These days, reacting and outrage seem more and more common. It often feels more justified too!
But, outside of extreme situations, outrage and angry reacting is rarely a productive, long-term choice. A healthy, happy life involves a fair amount of compromise and cooperation. Such resolutions become impossible if your reactions are steeped in anger, aggression, and a need to win.
How Your Outrage and Reacting Can Create Problems
Anger is a normal, sometimes life-saving emotion. In a vacuum, it can even be somewhat neutral.
But life doesn’t provide us with vacuums and ideal testing conditions. Rather, life happens, we react, and the circumstances play out. If those circumstances regularly involve anger, you may experience:
- Loss of trust
- Rocky relationships
- Career/work/money issues
- Poor health
- Creating a fearful, perhaps abusive environment
- Guilt, shame, and anxiety afterward
This is not to say anger is never called for. But it is a reminder that happy results do not emerge from chronic anger. People are hurt — emotionally and physically — and connections are threatened.
5 Ways to Deal With Overreaction and Defensive Behavior
- Understand Your Reactions
Not all strong reactions are overreactions. The bigger question has to do with disproportionate reactions. Situations vary and remain flexible. Each case should be judged individually to discern whether you are responding in a way that matches the intensity of the events.
- Understand Your Triggers
This is not about your triggers being “right” or “wrong.” You have the right to feel what you feel about anything. But, until we recognize what sets us off, we remain captive to that trigger. We take away some of its power by naming it and understanding its impact on us.
- Learn to Be a Better Listener
This is a challenge for many of us. The tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later. But many times, what riles us up may not be what the other person actually said. Practice active listening, try not to interrupt, and ask for a break if you need it. Unless the situation is an emergency, it can be postponed until all parties are calm and ready to participate.
- Check Your Online Behavior
The growth of social media has some wonderful and positive benefits. However, it’s also taught us some very anti-social forms of conflict resolution. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d see that our responses during an online debate may not match what we’d ever say or do in person. In addition, social media has made it acceptable to simply delete and/block someone from our life for the mere “crime” of disagreement.
- Practice Regular Self-Care
Self-care helps us be the best version of us. The best version of us is in the best position to avoid defensiveness and overreaction while managing anger. Generally, a basic yet effective self-care routine involves elements like:
- Regular sleep patterns
- Daily exercise and activity
- Healthy eating habits
- Stress management and relaxation techniques
Is Anger Management an Option?
Anger, once released, is not easily brought under control. Even if we absolutely don’t wish to be angry, it can happen if we lack the proper management skills. Anger management is a program that identifies anger, addresses its causes and outcomes, and creates new, healthy strategies for conflict resolution. It’s a course in behavior and so much more. Your therapist will consider the likelihood that some emotional issues — like depression or anxiety — may be at the root of your anger. In addition, pivotal past events will be identified and explored.
The goal is not to eliminate anger. Rather, you can change your relationship with it. You’ll understand the anger, recognize its causes and triggers, and manage its expression in a functional way.