I get the question of what do you do if you’re feeling angry? Like it just bubbles up and you’re going to explode.
We’re all human and we all experience anger. What matters is learning how to control the anger and not let the anger control you.
For people living with ADHD, it’s especially difficult to regulate their emotions. ADHD affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This is the part of the brain responsible for executive functions, such as impulse control, decision-making, and emotional regulation.
People with ADHD have lower activity levels in the prefrontal cortex, making it more challenging for them to control their impulses and emotions.
Emotional regulation is also challenging for ADHDers because it’s challenging to manage stress and anxiety. When anyone is stressed or anxious, their fight-or-flight response is triggered leading to a surge of adrenaline and other stress hormones. This makes it hard to regulate emotions and control impulses.
So what can you do when you’re triggered and ready to blow?
Number one: Wait. Pause
Before you say that mean comment, before you write that mean reactive post, before you freak out on somebody or break something, as soon as you feel angry, make your mind go: Wait.
There is this old thing in psychology, called stimulus and response.
Those who struggle over and over in their relationships, in their careers, on any path to achieving anything significant do so because they keep living from a place that’s too impulsive.
They are impulsively reacting to the world. They are always reacting and justifying the reacting. “Well, you made me do this. You made me feel that.”
No one makes you feel anything without your permission. Eleanor Roosevelt taught us that, didn’t she? That it is on us to control our internal representations, internal thoughts, internal feelings.
The world is not responsible for that. We are responsible for ourselves and our reactions to the world. You must develop a great capacity in life to go, “Wait” whenever you have that anger.
Most of the time anger is coming from an impulsive part of yourself that is reacting to a hurt that probably isn’t really there. It is coming from a place of concern, overwhelm, and overthinking.
It’s what Brendon Burchard calls The Drama Mind.
Most anger is simply poor management of the mind. The mind comes up and this ego child comes out and says, “How dare you”. You scream at somebody when something unexpected happens but in the big scheme of things it was not that big of a deal.
Maybe you took something personal and they weren’t even talking or thinking about you. Most times you didn’t even hear it right or you were hearing it for you and it had nothing to do with you. Sometimes it’s not about you.
Maybe it came from that place where someone was saying something and it sparked an old reaction from some old stories inside of you.
Most anger isn’t happening in the actual context of what’s going on. It’s an old story coming up, an old hurt, an old wound, an old concern.
- Am I respected enough?
- Am I cared for enough?
- How dare they?
All these things are the child’s mind. They are the ego or drama mind that wants to make something a bigger problem than it really is.
Here’s the reality. If you keep getting angry about the same thing over and over again, you are a victim of the drama mind. And that victim is you.
You have the ability to turn that off by waiting, pausing. You enlarge the gap of time between stimulus and response. That’s where all self-mastery comes from. Enlarging the time between stimulus and response.
Now it’s not the drama mind. It’s not the impulsive mind. It’s the intentional mind. It’s the mind that says, “How would I deal with this if I was centered? How would I deal with this if I was an adult? How would I deal with this if I could be proud of myself later on?”
Your job, wait/pause and enlarge that gap so that:
- you can listen
- you can ask questions
- you can still engage with it but not fight with it
- you can understand what’s really happening
- you can get composure because you will find personal strength and pride in finding composure.
If you keep losing your composure over and over to the same things, you’re operating in the child’s mind. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean that you are still operating like a child from a reactive place.
Let me give you an example. I know a lot of people who on their morning commute, every single morning, they get angry. The same thing happens every morning. Somebody cuts them off and they go into a rage about it every day.
If you know something’s going to happen and it’s going to lead to the same negative emotional reality every time, then you just haven’t trained yourself.
If you don’t learn to anticipate it and adjust your response to it, you’re still the child. But hey listen, truthfully, if you’re still getting upset about the same thing over and over again, it’s time to step back as an adult and say, “Wait, is there a better way to deal with this for my health, for myself, for other people?”
Enlarge the gap between stimulus and response. And now you have intention. Now you have more personal power. Whenever that feeling of anger comes up, wait, pause.
Waiting or pausing sounds easy, but it’s not. It takes practice and you can learn to pause using some of the following strategies:
- Recognize and acknowledge your feelings: The first step in pausing before an emotional outburst is to recognize and acknowledge your feelings. Pay attention to your body sensations and thoughts that may be signaling anger.
- Take a deep breath: When you feel anger rising, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. This can help you to pause and gain some perspective.
- Count to 10: Counting to 10 can give you a moment to step back from the situation and think before reacting.
- Use positive self-talk: Tell yourself positive and encouraging messages, such as “I can handle this” or “I can calm down.”
- Walk away: If you feel overwhelmed or on the verge of an outburst, walk away from the situation and take some time to cool down.
Number Two: Wonder
Ask yourself where is this coming from, this anger? As you are waiting to react, go, “Where is it coming from? What am I really upset about here?”
When someone cuts you off, and you feel angry, wonder, “Is this really about me?”
- Maybe that person didn’t even see me.
- Maybe that person is really rude?
- Are they really a terrible person because they cut you off?
- Maybe they need to get home because their child is sick.
- Maybe they are in an emergency. They need to get home faster than you.
- Maybe they truly didn’t see you.
- And maybe it doesn’t even matter.
It’s always going to happen and those things that are always going to happen, you must wonder why is that still triggering me? What is it about that?
I think it’s important to learn to step back, to be the observer, to wonder,
- Why am I acting so angry right now?
- What is it about myself?
- Where do I feel like I’m not being valued or respected?
- And why do I have to be so valued and respected?
- Why don’t I let go of all that?
You will find extraordinary power in disconnecting yourself from the emotions that get you so razzed up.
To let yourself go, “Oh I see myself getting upset here. I wonder why.” And then let it go. “I wonder what’s got me here. Oh that’s it.” Once you understand and know what upsets you, you get to choose to be in control or not. With understanding comes a great level of emotional power.
Number 3: Wiser-Self
If you are like, “Hey, I can’t wait and I don’t know why I am mad. I am just mad.” Then insert this question. As soon as that anger comes up, ask the simple question, “How would my best self respond?”
Have the expectation in your life from now on that you’re going to respond to situations
- With grace,
- With ease,
- With confidence,
- With a sense of peace
I know that I am not perfect but if I could have a person who is so much wiser than me. If I could look out into the future and my best, strongest, happiest, boldest self could step into this situation, how would my best self advise me now?”
You always find that your best self will say, “Calm down. It’s not that big of a deal in the bigger picture. You’re stronger than you know. Believe in your ability to figure this out.”
Take a breath. Take a couple of breaths.
Your best self would tell you,
- “You know what? Handle this well, so you can respect yourself later.”
- “Handle yourself well now just to prove that you can.”
- “You know what? If you handle yourself now, you will have fewer regrets later.”
- “You know what? Instead of being angry, try to be compassionate. From compassion and love comes a greater power to influence then you will ever have as an angry little child.”
The questions you ask yourself in moments of conflict, dictate the answers in the way in which you behave. And so, I say to you:
- Wait, take a beat,
- Wonder, Ask the questions,
- Wise-self, Channel your best self
- Let it go.
Number 4: Well-being
Ask yourself, “How could I explain myself so I feel good about myself and I’ve conveyed what I need to convey. ”How could I respond in a way that would help somebody else with their well-being – that would give them a little more perspective, a little bit more wisdom.”
What if you went from the angry, reactive, impulsive child into the adult that inspired the world with how you behaved even when you had the right to be angry?
Maybe, next time you have all the reason in the world to be angry, you don’t justify it and you say, “I’m going to take a higher ground. I’m going to use this incident, this moment, this time to develop some personal strength.
I’m going to use this moment, this time, this context to inspire. I’m going to use this moment, this time to be the rational mind here, to be the mind that will help, that will serve, that will demonstrate patience because patience is a virtue.
I will use this time, this moment to demonstrate that I am a good person.”
If you can practice the 4 W’s more often than you have in the past, you will start to feel stronger and in control of yourself, your relationships, and your contribution in this world.