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Anger Management

Anger Contracting

Harry Mills, Ph.D.

Commit With A Contract

hand signing contractIt is a very good idea to draw up a written contract detailing the things you agree to practice in the course of your anger management program. Signing such a contract is a way of providing yourself structure and support, both important for your success. Print out your contract on paper and sign it with ink. Get one or more people who want to support your anger management progress to co-sign as witnesses. You may even consider posting the contract in a public place so that people you interact with on a regular basis become aware of your commitment. Going public with your contract and intention to change will strengthen your commitment.

The details of the contract - exactly what you write into it - are important. You want to be very specific in describing:

  • Your goals for the program (what you hope to accomplish)
  • What you agree to do to reach those goals
  • How and when you will practice those things you've agreed to do.

Be specific! Do not write down obvious generalities, such as "I intend to stop overreacting." as your program goal. Vague goals like that are impossible to measure and leave you too much wiggle-room to bring about real change. Instead of vague goals, describe specific situations that are upsetting to you, and the specific behavioral techniques you will practice and use when confronted with those situations. We've already covered many of the techniques useful for controlling your anger, but they bear repeating just the same. Repetition helps with understanding.

Take a time-out

Agree that you will take a temporary time-out (a temporary break) when confronted with angering situations, whenever this is possible to do. Taking the opportunity to step away from an angering situation will give you space and time you need to calm and gather yourself, and to evaluate the situation from a more rational, cool-minded perspective. Return to the situation when you're done with your time-out.

As an illustration, when a fight breaks out between you and your spouse or partner, agree to take a temporary break from the fight to allow both of you to cool down. You already know that if you let the fight progress, it will get increasingly out of control. Taking a few minutes to step away, calm down, and think critically about the issue you're fighting about can put you into a better frame of mind to deal with the issue at hand.

Similarly, if you are habitually overwhelmed by family demands upon returning home from work, agree that you will provide yourself with private alone time after work but before you return home. Note that having a drink is not a healthy way to decompress. Drinking alcohol will only make your situation worse. Instead, go to the gym and work out. Take a yoga class. Simply sit in your car for 10 minutes and read that magazine or book you've been interested in. Do something to provide yourself with a little buffer zone so that when you do return home to your family you can appreciate what is good there and not be cranky or hostile. Often, a few minutes of alone-time or time-out can help you to better handle the situation when you do arrive at home.

Relax

Agree that you will practice relaxation exercises on a regular basis (preferably on a daily basis).

Since learning to control your anger often means learning to react less violently during stressful situations, it will be beneficial for you to become skillful at relaxing yourself. Relaxation techniques (including deep breathing exercises, meditation, and physical exercise as well) are an effective means of calming yourself down. When practiced daily, relaxation techniques become a proactive means of reducing your general overall arousal.

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