Creative Anger Management Activities

Stressed businessman

You'll find volumes of advice on anger management. Most of the ideas provide useful but common suggestions, some of which may help others but not you. The following original anger management techniques help those who need more assistance in controlling their rage.

Activities for Anger Management

Buddhist scholar Thich Nhat Hanh notes people rage for different reasons. They also handle their anger differently. Find the best activity that works for you depending on your personality and background.

Stop Anger, Be Happy

To work at a habit, you need to see it objectively. The problem is you're locked into your mind. You may believe your temper is less intense and less frequent than it actually is. The following method, called the Accidental Pie, will give you an outsider's view of your anger so you can see it as it actually occurs. This will help you control it better.

  1. Grab a piece of paper and draw a large circle to represent your entire day.
  2. Think about your emotions and divide them into two categories: good chemical emotions and negative chemical emotions. The first includes calm, contentment, friendliness. The second includes anger, petulance, and aggravation.
  3. Each day, draw pie slices that represent how much time in that day you spend with the negative chemical emotions. Each time you're angry draw a slice.
  4. At the end of your week, you'll have some idea of how your temper looks. How much of your circle each day is taken up with anger and other negative emotions?

The experiment is limited in that some life events may provoke you more than others, but it will give you some idea of the intensity and frequency of your rage. Continue this exercise for several weeks for a more accurate assessment.

Turn Anger Into Jest

Neuroscientists find pictures are often more effective at expression than using words. Images dominate the human mind and can knock emotion and thought out of the way. You can use this entertaining exercise to disperse your anger.

  1. When you find yourself stewing in cases like traffic congestion, long waits in a doctor's office, or being squashed in a crowded bus or train, you can repress your anger by counting under your breath something that sounds like the following: "1. funny pig, 2. scowling bananas, 3. graffiti-scrawled nosed bosses, 4. tumbling librarians…" and so forth.
  2. Imagine these images as vividly as you can. Of course, you can change them. The point is to make them as funny as possible.
  3. If you're alone or think you can do the following unobtrusively, you may also want to snap your fingers as you count.

Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick say absurd or unexpected images tend to stick in your mind stronger than regular ones do. This activity may defuse your anger and turn an annoying situation into a hilarious one.

Understand You Are Temporarily Insane

Philosophers have contemplated anger for thousands of years. Next time you are placed on hold for long periods while on the telephone, remember ancient philosophers, such as Seneca, Cicereo, and Plutarch, compared anger to mental illness. Here's how you can use that idea to backtrack your annoyance.

  1. Carry a small mirror in your pocket or handbag.
  2. Feel yourself brewing? Take it out and examine your face. See any difference?
  3. If you are alone, twist your face into caricatures of anger. For instance, scowl, glare, or make expression that shows you're angry.
  4. Look at yourself in the mirror. Do you think you look crazy?
  5. Now, straighten your face into a restful position and see the difference.

Seneca wrote, "Certain wise men have claimed that anger is temporary madness … But you have only to behold the expressions of those possessed by anger to know that they are insane." Try Seneca's words on yourself to see the truth of that statement and help calm your anger.

Draw the Person With a Diaper

This idea actually comes from G.K. Chesterton, who found himself constantly battling temper. When he was a schoolboy, Chesterton would write about his tormentors imaginatively placing them in funny and humiliating situations. Examples would include his principal stumbling through a door or a schoolboy glued to a chair. His imagined stories made him deal with these people more cordially than he might otherwise have done.

Images are quicker than words and can diffuse anger when they're funny. Use the idea and emulate Chesterton. Practice this activity before meeting a person who tends to annoy you. Alternatively, practice it in anger-provoking situations, such as being wrongly accused or dealing with an untidy roommate or family member.

  1. Carry a mini notepad in your pocket or bag.
  2. Depending on whether you prefer to write or draw, you can either cartoon or write a story about the annoying person, plunging them in a comic, mortifying situation. For example, draw your tormentor with a diaper wrapped around his shirt.
  3. Make sure the situation remains ethical and harmless.
  4. It's best to destroy your drawing or essay after it is complete so nobody else finds it.

Seneca explains you can't get angry at deaf people because they can't hear, nor can you rage at the very elderly because they're aging. Similarly, how can you be angry at babies who spit or toddlers who sputter? Convert the object of your anger into one of these vulnerable categories. Just do it behind their backs.

Question Your Perceptions

As scientists Kelley and Schmeichel pointed out in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, anger is really a matter of perspective. Angry people interpret actions, sights, events, or words as a threat, and they boil. What if you flip the perspective? A Beautiful Mind, the 2001 movie about John Nash, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, can help you.

  1. Borrow the movie from your library or download it online.
  2. Notice how John Nash interacts with the images of his mind. The FBI agent really exists, and Nash knows his best friend lives. These concrete hallucinations drive his actions, thoughts, and feelings.
  3. Notice how, as the movie progresses, Nash starts seeing these very convincing characters as figments of his mind. He shifts. He is outside them. At the end of the movie, he tells them, "I will not be able to speak to you anymore," and he walks away.

John Nash hallucinated. You don't. But anger, as Kelley and Schmeichel say, does distort what you see. This movie is a powerful tool that can help you wonder whether you're seeing the right thing when you're angry, or simply need to question your vision.

Deactivate Triggers

Certain triggers can set you off. These may be words, people, places, or anything that reminds you of something you fear, dislike, or that harmed you. This classic exercise was first suggested by famous British psychologist Titchener and is regularly used in Assertive Community Treatment (ACT). You can do it here with some changes:

  1. Sit comfortably in a chair in a private place. Close your eyes.
  2. Imagine someone who infuriates you. Imagine that person standing in front of you looking at you. Imagine the sweater, pants, and shoes he or she usually wears. Imagine their eyes, hair, and mouth. Can you get the feel of their hands? Try to see that person so vividly, you can smell her sweat or perfume.
  3. Say his name out loud over and again.
  4. Say it faster and faster, louder and louder.
  5. Continue for one minute.

After you stop saying his name, ask yourself what happened to the name while you were saying it. Did you find the sense of smell and vividness of the person muted?

Ask yourself this question: Which words, people, sights or sounds trigger you? Perform the above exercise with each of these stimuli (words, people, sights, sounds, smells, etc.) until you can detach from their impact.

Taking It Further

Learn more about anger management with the following resources:

Handling Your Anger

Each person has their reasons for anger and approaches to change. When you handle your anger well, you'll live a better life with less agitation, anxiety, and negativity and more peacefulness, serenity, calm, and goodwill.

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