by Gina Simmons, Ph.D.
Many times, when we’re angry, we hope to gain power over a situation where we feel threatened. If someone is loudly accusing us of something, we shout back more loudly. If someone criticizes us, we criticize him or her more strongly. Unfortunately, in relationships, and in negotiation, we lose power as soon as we lose our temper. The first one to lose their cool in an argument usually loses. When angry, our thinking narrows, our problem solving skills weakens and our blood pressure builds. True personal power comes from emotional control. The ability to feel angry, and yet choose how we will behave, is the essence of self-control, and personal power. The better we become at self-control, the better we feel, and the smoother our conflict resolution skills.
How does one increase personal power? First we have to decide whether we want to win, or whether we want to feel better. If we decide that winning an argument, and convincing the other person we are right is the only solution, we give away our power. We make our serenity dependent on someone else changing. The more dependent we are on other people doing something for us, or changing something for us, the more angry and unhappy we will become. If, on the other hand, we choose to feel better, there are many ways we can calm ourselves, release tension, and regain internal peace and harmony. We take our power back, when we choose to feel better.
Take a moment to make a list of all of the things you can do to create a mild feeling of pleasure or contentment. Some common ways to feel better might include taking a break from an angry argument, physical exercise, write in a journal, play a musical instrument, paint, talk to a friend, take a warm bath, meditate, or read an inspiring book. There are hundreds of activities we can perform which will distract us from a negative mood and provide soothing comfort. When we feel better, we have a chance to resolve the conflict with a clear head because we can think more clearly about solutions.
Switching the focus from self-protection to self-soothing is the first step to personal power, and a key ingredient for successful anger management. Self-soothing gets easier the more we practice it. And it sure feels a lot better than staying angry.