the situation and can be very helpful in avoiding and controlling aggression.
Indeed, one of the major methods of anger control (Novaco, 1975) uses
relaxation, Rational-Emotive techniques (#24 below), and self-talk (#10
below, plus self-instructions--method #2 in chapter 11--and stress-
inoculation--method #7 in chapter 12).
Stop hostile fantasies. Preoccupation with the irritating situation,
including repeatedly talking about it, may only increase your anger. See
method #10--thought stopping--in chapter 11. Also, punishing your anger-
generating fantasies--methods #18 and #19 in chapter 11--or substituting
and rewarding constructive how-to-improve-the-situation thoughts--method
#16 in chapter 11--might work to your advantage in this case.
I am too busy with my cause to hate--too absorbed in something bigger than
myself. I have no time to quarrel, no time for regrets, and no man can force
me to stoop low enough to hate him.
Guard against escalating the violence. When we are mad, we
frequently attempt overkill, i.e. hurt the person who hurt us a lot more. There
are two problems with retaliating excessively: the enemy is tempted to
counterattack you even more vigorously and you will probably start thinking
of the enemy even more negatively (in order to convince yourself that he/she
deserved the severe punishment you gave him/her) which makes you want to
aggress again. Thus, the saying, "violence breeds violence" is doubly true--
violence produces more hate in your opponent and in you. Research has
shown that controlled, moderate retaliation so that "things are equal" (in
contrast to "teaching them a lesson") feels better in the long run than
excessive retaliation (Aronson, 1984). Better yet, walk away from the
argument, let them have the last word.
Record the antecedents and consequences of your anger. As with
all behaviors, you need to know (a) the learning history of the behavior
(angry reactions), (b) the antecedents or situations that "set you off," (c) the
nature and intensity of your anger, (d) your thoughts and views of the
situation immediately before and during the anger, (e) what self-control
methods did you use and how well did they work, and (f) the consequences
(how others responded and other outcomes) following your emotional
reaction. If this information is carefully and systematically recorded for a
week or two, it could be enlightening and valuable. Examples: By becoming
aware of the common but subtle triggers for your emotional reactions, you
could avoid some future conflict situations. By noting your misinterpretations
and false assumptions, you might straighten out your own anger-causing
thoughts. By realizing the payoffs you are getting from your anger, you could
clarify to yourself the purposes of your aggression and give up some of the
unhealthy payoffs. Remember: "Aggression pays!" Perhaps you could gain the
things and reactions you need from others in some other way.