Misplaced anger causes many problems. It can ruin relationships, spoil communication, and might even lead to a lost job or fight with a stranger. If you often get hot under the collar, you already know cooling down your temper is a good idea. Here’s how to transform rage into composure.
Much of the time, people get angry after incorrectly appraising events. If they were clear-headed, they would see the whole picture before them and respond appropriately. Misinterpretation occurs due to cognitive distortions. Problems are exaggerated and focused on or wrong assumptions made.
Step one: Examine how you interpret events
The first step to subduing your temper is to identify how you respond to an event that triggers anger. You might, for example, find it hard to keep your cool if other drivers fail to follow the rules of the road. The trigger in this case is a driver’s behavior. Your road rage, though, stems from how you think about what’s happening. Examining your thought patterns will help you recognize when you make the following mistakes.
When you enlarge problems, you focus on them and miss other relevant details. At the same time, you emphasize their importance, blowing their significance out of proportion. When the vehicle in front of you begins to move at a slow pace, for instance, you may tell yourself you’ll be late for the meeting you’re on the way to attend. Instead of bearing in mind you have plenty of time and are almost at your destination, you’ll get angry.
When you make assumptions, you imagine you have the complete picture of events as they unfold without giving others the benefit of the doubt. In the example with the slow vehicle, you might assume the driver is incompetent or thoughtless, when he/she is driving slowly because there’s a concealed side road coming up. Due to being unfamiliar with the area, the driver may need to decelerate to spot where to turn before indicating.
Step two: Apply balanced thinking
Once you’ve evaluated whether you are misinterpreting an event it’s time to pause and choose a better way to respond. If you know you’ve jumped to a conclusion and made an assumption, look for data you haven’t included in your assessment about what’s occurring. Fill in the missing pieces and you’ll become calm. If you’ve magnified a problem, you can remind yourself it’s not important. When you do so, letting go will allow your anger to fizzle out.
The tendency to fly into a rage can be changed by applying the two-step process mentioned. Once you have adopted the habit of examining thought-distortions and choosing how to react, you will be calmer and happier.