I get angry very quickly. Things trigger me, and I feel like I can't control it. How can I get a better handle on my anger?
- 16 year old female
I can absolutely relate to this. As a kid, a teen, and through most of my 20s, I had a horrible temper. I’d get so angry about things (big things, little things) that I could feel it, physically, like a hot knot in my chest. Sometimes I’d lash out; often, I’d overreact. Not only did I feel guilty for hurting people I cared about, but I hated that helplessly angry feeling I’d get.
Growing up I’d had some poor examples. I didn’t learn the right tools to help me deal with anger or stress, so I let them balloon inside me until they felt uncontrollable. BUT, eventually, I figured out how to manage it. And I can honestly say now that I haven’t felt that tight ball of rage in years.
For me, the trick is perspective. Taking a moment to recognize that feeling just as it starts, then disengage. Step away, take five deep breaths. If you’re mad at a person, say “I need a break,” and leave the room. Go outside, shut yourself in another room, and count through some deep breaths until the feeling loosens. I let myself turn my back on whatever made me angry until I’m calm enough to think it through. It isn’t about not being angry, but instead feeling in control of that anger. So often, I’d get angry about something that I had every right to get angry about, but my reaction to it would make it worse. By taking a step back, acknowledging that I'm about to lose my temper, and trying to separate that temper from whatever it was that triggered it, I could figure out a solution to the problem instead of making that problem bigger.
This sounds small and easy in a paragraph, but trust me, it wasn’t. It took time to train myself to turn my temper off. But with practice, it worked. By teaching myself to recognize that rage and actively turn away from it, I eventually taught myself to skip feeling it at all. This doesn’t mean I don’t get angry! I definitely still do. But now I feel in control of that anger instead of it controlling me.
About The Author: Lillian Clark, a graduate of the University of Wyoming, grew up riding horses, climbing trees, hiking, and going on grand imaginary adventures in the small-town West. She’s worked as a lifeguard, a camp counselor, and a Zamboni driver, but found her eternal love working as a bookseller at an independent bookstore in historic downtown Laramie, WY. Now living with her husband, son, and two giant dogs in the Teton Valley of Idaho, she spends her snowy winters and sunny summers reading almost anything and writing books for teens. Her debut novel, Immoral Code, was published earlier this year.
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A final note: We are strong believers in the power of therapy. We know that this isn't a realistic option for every teenager, since some of you might not have the parental support or extra income necessary to make this happen. But, if possible, please consider therapy. Many of the adults you respect most have benefited from therapy, and it's likely that you will too. There's no shame in getting support. You deserve it.