ANGER MANAGEMENT QUESTION LIST
by Frank D. Young Ph.D., C. Psych.
As soon as you become aware that you may be angry, begin to break the short-circuit to aggression by using these questions and methods:
A. CHANGING THE ACTIVATION LEVEL (blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, breathing rate, etc.)
1. Do I want to be angry? This introduces the element of choice.
2. How angry do I want to be? On a scale where 1=irritated to 10=total rage, where would I rate myself right now? Where would I like to be? Again, the element of choice.
3. How long do I want to be angry? One minute, 2 hours, 2 days, a weekend, 4 months, a lifetime? This is the point at which you remember that being trapped in anger is a form of attachment to the anger object or person. Do you really want to be that attached that long to that event, that person?
4. How do I want to express my anger, if at all? What would it look like, feel like, sound like to myself and others? What would then be accomplished? How would everybody get along after that?
5. Which method will I use first to bring down my activation level? If that doesn’t work, what will I use then? What is my fall-back plan? Use breathing techniques, PMR, imagery, biofeedback, yoga, tai chi, other meditation methods to bring your emotional temperature down. When you have done that, you are ready to ask the next set of questions.
B. COGNITIVE REAPPRAISAL OF THE SITUATION
1. What aspect of the situation is bugging me? Is it the behavior, the number of times, the extent, the frequency, the tone of voice he uses, the gestures, the context, who is present, when it happens or where? (This question suggests possible variations in place or scheduling that could be potential solutions).
2. What vulnerability in me or my group or family is being threatened? Is it a physical threat, loss of security, loss of status, my sense of order or control, my job, my membership in this group, losing face in front of others? What does this incident say about me and my insecurities? (This question proposes that my sense of insecurity may be part of the problem).
3. What does it say about my sense of how reality should be that I feel so offended? Does reality have to be the way I would like it to be? (This question examines the issues of entitlement and egocentricity. It also leads to acceptance, the surrender of attachment to desire while maintaining personal purpose.)
4. If I were not feeling angry in this situation, what emotion would I have to deal with? Could it be sorrow, sadness, worry, the frustration of not having a need met, disappointment, despair, loneliness, powerlessness? How would the situation be different if I expressed my primary emotion or real need instead of the secondary emotion of anger? (possible point of exploration to solution).
5. How can I reappraise this situation so that it does not feel so threatening? (possible solutions).
C. EMPATHY, UNDERSTANDING, COMMUNICATION, RESOLUTION
1. What does this situation look like from the viewpoint of the other persons involved? I know that a genuine solution will not be possible until I have empathy for their perspective, so what resources do I need to gain this understanding? Is there any information that I could be lacking that would help me understand what would lead him to do that behavior? (Indicates the necessity of empathy in problem solving, and begins the search for understanding the issues involved on many sides before rushing to a premature resolution).
2. What are the needs of others in this situation? What are my needs here? Do I understand their needs? Do they understand mine? (Communication and feedback are required before problem resolution can occur).
3. How can I construct a win-win solution for the needs of all to be resolved? How can I invite others to engage with me in this process? How can I respect and consider their proposals for solution? How can I make my proposals attractive to them?
4. How can we ensure that the action plan and its results will be reviewed and modified in the future?
5. How can we ensure that the 4 elements of an adequate apology have been met? (Acknowledgement, accountability for each contributing factor, an action plan, and arrangement for restitution plus 10% of damages done).
6. How will I feel when I have taken this process through to resolution? (Positive imagery fuels the patience, understanding, and personal self-discipline needed for problem resolution).
D. UNDERLYING ISSUES
1. How do I invite this problem to keep happening to me over and over again? (search for common elements or patterns). What brings back the problem, even when I thought it was solved? (Look for pseudo-solutions, premature resolutions, caving-in to the other rather than a solution where your needs are also addressed)
2. With what kinds of people do I have these problems? Who or what earlier life situations does this remind me of? (possible transference from mother, father, older sibling, teacher, authority figure)
3. Do these outbreaks only occur in family or “safe” situations where I can be my true self? (suggests overcontrol and lack of assertion in other contexts, displaced tension and hostility). Do these problems only occur in intimate relationships? (possible problems with issues of intimacy, engulfment or abandonment fears, extra sensitivity to perceived issues of control and autonomy).
With whom in my
life do I have to make peace? With whom are there unresolved issues or
tensions? How can I begin this process, even if the other people are dead or
unavailable? How do I make peace with
the roles and rules that have held me back from peace and happiness in my life?
5. Who can I trust to be supportive and firm in guiding this process of self-examination on the path to internal peace? (guidelines in search for therapist, intimate friend, spiritual guide).