How to be kinder when angry

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by Astrodynamicist, Feb 20, 2019.

  1. Astrodynamicist

    Astrodynamicist Adequate Potato Goblin

    Heya, so I have a problem with being as kind and patient as I want to be when I get angry or hurt, and I'd appreciate it if folks have any tips for how to be better in the moment/how to force myself to be better even when I don't necessarily feel like it in the moment.

    For example, last night I had an... altercation? it wasn't really a fight, just a conversation that went pear-shaped -- with a friend. I just got issued a patent and was celebrating, and they got into "software patents are shitty actually" (I broadly agree, but that was so not the time for that commentary....).

    I asked after their specific reasoning about patents, and they then proceeded to respond in a really condescending way (unintentionally, I'm pretty sure - I get very strong clueless aspie vibes from this person, and I am sympathetic bc I too am clueless aspie vibes, and not everyone has the experience/opportunity/brain meats to get better at this shit at the same rate, but like... still shitty to be condescending).

    I hadn't really expressed any anger or hurt by this point, bc I figured they weren't trying to be a jackass about things ...and I'm just plain bad about expressing such things, but the condescension kinda put me over the line of "no i'm gonna address this". It occurred to me to use I think/I feel statements, but I was mad and decided to be snippy instead. It also occurred to me to put chat down and leave it alone for like a day, but again I was angry so I wanted to do a angry, plus I know myself and if I waited a day I just wouldn't have addressed it at all.

    I don't think I was enough of a jerk to owe them an apology for how I said things (if folks disagree and think I do owe them an apology, I can of course do that), but I do think I didn't handle it the best way for the sort of person I want to be.

    They were confused about what went wrong, and I laid it out, and they apologized for calling my patent-getting shitty (but not for the condescension, which I'm a little bothered by, but whatever, I'm not super inclined to bring things back up at this point, esp since the chat has moved on, which I contributed to for the express purpose of moving past fighty shit in main).

    (This is not the most dramatic example, but it's the same sort of pattern I run into with emotional situations where I get really lash-out-y. And it's fresh on my mind, and happened over text chat, so easier to break down.)

    So I guess my tldr actionable question is, how can I force myself to respond in a more constructive way than getting snippy/bitchy even when I don't want to in the moment? Like, instead of saying something like "gee thanks for the condescension" saying something like "hey I'm feeling really condescended to which makes me feel pretty frustrated".
  2. Mercury

    Mercury 17 Quicksilver Scribe Tramples The Unrepentant

    The big thing that stands out to me is that you lashed out toward the middle of the conversation, when your friend stuck their foot in it at the very beginning with their "when you actually think about it it's kind of a questionable thing to celebrate". I think that would have been the best time to stop things from escalating -- that would have been a good moment to say, "Wow, that's a really rude thing to say to me right now. Save the philosophical musings for later, please, this is not the time."

    I know it doesn't always happen that you can address something right away, for whatever reason - I know sometimes I don't even realize how angry something makes me until I'm mad enough to spit nails. I've found that the best thing to do in that situation is slow way down. I type out whatever I'm going to type out but I don't press enter, I re-read it and ask myself, is this constructive? Is it true? Is it nasty? Am I sure it's constructive, true, and not nasty? (I'm inclined to be an asshole, so I can't give myself wiggle room.) I probably re-type the thing and then ask myself again. And possibly again. This gives me time to think about how I feel so I can act on that, not react.

    And if I'm too angry to make something come out in a way that isn't lashing out, I tell the other person something like, "I need to drop this topic for a while," or if I'm really mad, "Actually, I'm not interested in discussing this with you right now." Depending on the circumstances, I may elaborate a tiny bit by adding that I'm feeling too angry/frustrated/whatever - it depends on if I think the other person knowing my emotion around the subject is going to be helpful or harmful. (If it's someone I don't know or like, I may also drop the 'right now' from the latter phrase.)
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  3. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    you thought of the right things to do, but then you decided not to do them. that's where you went wrong. i don't think there are strategies or tips for making the right decision there. you just have to sit with yourself and figure out whether you really want to be more patient or not. then it's just a matter of practice.
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  4. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    i agree with mercury's analysis that you lashed out in the middle of the escalation, rather than when friend actually stuck their foot in their mouth. ideal situation would've been cutting it off then ("hey, this is a thing i worked hard on and i'm proud of my accomplishment, and it's hurtful to use that as a diving board for a philosophical debate about the morality of software patents" is probably what i would have said? but i'm overly wordy often. shrug)

    i disagree with jacktrash though. i don't think it's a matter of "whether you really want to be more patient." i know for me, i have emotional regulation issues that never got properly addressed while growing up, so i hit high school as someone who was accurately described as "a ball of rage" and "someone who goes from 0 to 60 in 0 seconds flat." and i'd be able to see, sometimes, a different path i could take, but doing it was another matter entirely

    which is to say, timeouts. timeouts are not just for little kids. if it's something you're really, really upset about, put a conversational pin in it ("i can't talk about this right now. can we discuss this later?") and just... do something else. and for me, it's always been key to immerse myself in something else. it's not enough to drop the conversation, i have to actually be distracted and not thinking about it. my general rule of thumb is "if i'm not upset about it half an hour later, it probably didn't matter" (exception being if it's a thing that repeatedly spins me up, ie, certain sounds). sometimes the break i need to take is longer than half an hour. some of my fights with lebesgue, i had to take an entire day of processing - distracting myself afterwards, going to bed, and then analyzing in the morning. (the going to bed thing can be really key sometimes. idk, it functions as a great reset button for me)

    after working on this for like 5 ish years now, i have actually made some progress, mostly in the "bowing out of an interaction before it becomes an altercation" arena, but lately i've started being able to have less serious disagreements in real time, without taking a timeout.

    the biggest area i fail with that, that i think most closely mirrors this, is when fighting with my family. i just... there is so much history, and baggage, and it's familiar to fall into old habits, so when we fight, i can see the route i'm supposed to take... and then i don't.

    it still starts in the same place, i think, which is taking that damn break.
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  5. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    sorry, you're right idiomie, i'm being too harsh. i guess i'm carrying baggage from alix's bullshit here and that's not fair to astro.

    i had serious anger issues too, to the point where i was physically abusive to seebs sometimes early in our relationship. seebs refused to put up with it, and that helped me get a grip. what i wanted to emphasize was that the power was mine and so was the responsibility; i needed to really look at how i was acting and internalize that it wasn't good and that i wanted very much to change it. then it was a matter of practice. of, each time i screwed up and cut loose, saying "welp, i fucked up. i will do better next time. i will keep trying."

    anyway, you have the right idea, you just need to implement it. keep bearing down on that resolve.
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  6. LumiLapin

    LumiLapin Bad Bad Bun

    Usually when I have the urge to get nasty I vent to someone unconnected to the situation. Whether that's here, my girlfriend, or another friend, I can get the worst feelings out there and get feedback for how harsh I seem. When I'm calmed down and think I can come back to it safely I try to make a post explaining that this affected me and here's why. Sometimes I run this post by ppl to make sure it's reasonable.
    I'm someone where if I can't get feelings off my chest I'll just stew in them more and more, so venting is important to me not exploding. I get needing an outlet for the anger. But by expressing the worst of it in a less confrontational space, you can kinda free urself up to navigate the situation better, and get some outside advice
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  7. Aondeug

    Aondeug Cringe Annoying Ass Female Lobster

    So I can provide some advice on like...strategies I myself utilize when trying to not flip my shit in public. As a note, these are things I have to make use of because I've got extreme emotional dysregulation problems and in particular that relates to anger management problems.

    Now the issue isn't 'I want to not be angry at all ever when I don't want it,' I don't think. Less anger is a thing you work towards. For now you want to start on managing the spurts as they are occurring and be focusing energy on containing the issue as it comes up. This is going to result in you having to do work outside of just the moment. But that's fine. It's something that needs practice.

    Noticing my mood is the first thing. I've gotten better at recognizing what my mood is and I'm still working on better figuring that out and faster. So for that I do things like...note how I am feeling physically. Am I hot? Is my face light? Is there a sort of rush in my heart? I might be angry. Notice that feeling. I take note of thoughts too. Like become really familiar with your internal monologue habits. If I'm starting to repeat a specific phrase over and over in an almost manic fashion internally, chances are I'm currently splitting. I can then take that thought and backwards work to how I'm feeling physically and emotionally. So where do you go from recognizing the thoughts and the feelings? Well you go back even further! Where did that come from? What sparked it? Both in the moment and, if it's a recurring issue, in the grander scheme of things? Is this a trigger sort of issue? If so what is the trigger? Were you just feeling short because a bunch of stuff was piling up and this was the straw that broke the camel's back? Find that cause. Note that cause. Note where it came from.

    Now note that this is just that.

    A feeling. With a source.

    Note that it's going to pass. If you must run through past memories you have if you can. Things of like times when you were happy or when you were sad or when you were bored even. It doesn't matter what so long as it was a time before this feeling. Note that you felt different then. Remind yourself that this is going to pass. It is.

    Now do this with every emotion you have and do it A Lot. The thing here is practice makes perfect. It's going to feel awkward when you first start it out and honestly you might not be able to do it perfect for a while. That's fine. It's a skill and it's one you build up by practicing it a lot. Even for, especially for, less extreme and interesting feelings. Are you bored? Just kind of mildly so? Think about that. How you feel physically. What thoughts your having. What feelings you have emotionally. Where the thing is coming from and why. If you keep at this and you keep practicing it it gets a lot easier to realize what you're feeling and when. And this can be used to slam the brakes on yourself.

    The brake slamming, for me anyway, works sort of like my practice for realizing how I feel. I'll run through the sequence. Figure out how I am doing physically and mentally feeling wise. Figure out my thought train. Figure out where this was all born from and so on. This slows your brain down. It's now focused on picking things apart as opposed to running loose like a bull in a china shop. Another useful tactic I have is what I call The Little Fact List. The Little Fact List are a series of things that are true that stand in contrast to what the angry brain is saying. I'm not sure how big an issue that is for you, but for me when I am angry I begin to lose track of reality. I no longer see the happy times I had with a particular friend. They're angry at me now which means that they've always been that way. But ah! I've got facts! I've got counterpoints brain! Like this time we happily had ice cream together! What is your argument to that, well? I've got lots more too! These both get a lot easier to do in the moment with frequent practice.

    Whatever the case though I'm trying to slow the brain down. I'm trying to tie it down so it doesn't do The Thing. And if I do this right I can have conversations with people about a thing that is upsetting me then and I know I won't get back to later.

    I'll admit that this is a lot of work. And it doesn't quite work unless the work is put in. And it's still a work in progress for me and I might learn better ways of handling it down the road. But this is currently the thing that seems to be producing results for me when it comes to trying to not be snippy.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2019
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  8. jacktrash

    jacktrash spherical sockbox

    oh, a very simple and physical coping technique: rhythmic motions.

    walking is a classic, but ask any knitting club if 'angry knitting' is a thing and you will get SO many knowing nods. personally i like my rowing machine when i'm feeling healthy enough. martial arts was my go-to for a long time, and fencing; i'd practice strikes and lunges until i found my center again. when the weather was nice sometimes i'd take a basketball to the schoolyard across the street and practice lay-ups.

    even just folding laundry or sweeping a floor can be centering if you do it with a rhythm. it releases endorphins and triggers hardwired 'safety' feelings in the monkey brain. try it, it really works!
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  9. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    I like contemplating kitties.

    I can be pretty mad at Devy, but I can also remember that so far as she knows, the most likely future outcome is passing out bleeding in the snow, and that helps me put the squeaking in context. This can work with other people, too.
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  10. Astrodynamicist

    Astrodynamicist Adequate Potato Goblin

    Thanks everyone!!! i have more specific responses but not spoons for writing them up tonight.

    I think timeout -> vent to unrelated person -> only interact once anger has dissipated is probably the most plausible strat?

    i tend to get stuck between the two extremes of "this is fine"-ing myself until i hit a splode point (or just let it fester forever), and returning to the interaction too soon before i can calm down enough to force myself to not be an asshole. so, venting to not lose response momentum plus not fester so bad, but hard timeout on the actual interaction itself until i can be trusted to not do the thing.

    enforcing doing that is the sticky part. >.< maybe i can arrange with a friend for them to be not just a shoulder to vent on but also for the first vent response to be "fuck off until you're calmer you know you gotta" and then "go talk to them about it don't let it fester" like a day later or whatever? hm but im bad about imposing like that. well, i'll figure something out. maybe i just do need a hardline policy of "you feel a mad? exit" and then figure out debugging the other fallout later.

    hopefully with practice i can rein myself in better and in more extreme emotional states....

    some other pieces:
    i am pretty good at realizing what im feeling and then spooling out the stack trace to figure out why. it's the next steps that i get stuck at. but the notion of like... almost weaponizing? mindfulness as a way to trap my brain is really fucking clever, like it reminds me of vampire myths where you dump a bean mix on the floor and they gotta sit and sort it and you can scamper off. bc i don't always have a videogame or a knitting project or exercise options handy when things come up, but i always have my own logical processing.

    thinking about folks' context is very useful to me in other circumstances, but i have some pretty bad baggage of my anger being shoved down from darvo-y junk that in the heat of the moment "hey they have reasons for whatever they're saying be kind in respect of those" feels like "you aren't allowed to have feelings". i know intellectually that's not what it is, but... it's problematic enough for me to just plain not be a useful tool for angerymode.
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  11. kmoss

    kmoss whoops

    not sure how helpful, but both my bf and me have issues with getting just, cranky, or overloaded, and we have both noticed that when we're able to say, out loud "oh man I'm getting cranky", it really helps to navigate that. it works for me for anxiety spirals too,and when I'm really frustrated.
    so: naming the emotion can really help- but also, ymmv
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  12. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    I've done very similar things a lot, so I'm gonna be watching this thread for advice too.
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  13. sirsparklepants

    sirsparklepants feral mom energies

    I used to have really bad issues with flipping out on someone when I was upset - not always through anger but hysterical crying generally doesn't make the other party feel any better or more productive in a discussion. I second everyone else who said "take a break" and I'd like to add that the skill of the graceful conversational exit is something to practice as well. When I first started learning how to control myself I'd let small shit that bothered me go until I got too emotional to leave gracefully and ended up doing something like shrieking "I can't do this!" and leaving the room and perhaps the house at a run, which isn't great for you or the other person. So practicing going "hey I'm feeling a feeling I need to leave", even or especially when it was a small or positive feeling, was key to me. It helps your brain go "oh okay that's an acceptable option".

    Also I'm a fan of venting to get the negativity out but I'd also say a vent space is a good space to practice being angry and still speaking calmly. Not denying that you feel the anger, just being able to feel it, let other people know you feel it, and still talk about it. This was a very important skill for me to learn, being able to articulate being upset without going over the top. I tend to ask myself "what is a way I can communicate my feelings without escalating?"a lot, while keeping in mind that while escalating may feel good, it won't help me resolve the actual root issue. Sometimes I start with a really aggressive way to get my anger across in the vent space and then look at it and figure out how to say whatever it is more neutrally. So something like "if that motherfucker goes into my room one more time I'm going to punt them into the sun" becomes "when you go in my space without permission I feel my boundaries are violated and that's upsetting and makes it hard for me to trust that you respect my safety and security" or something of the like. And after practice - a lot of practice - you're able to move from the first sentence to the second in your own head fairly quickly, which makes addressing the anger-making thing in the moment easier.
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  14. seebs

    seebs Benevolent Dictator

    I am a big fan of regarding it as important to be fair especially when angry. I have seen people venting, and working themselves up over things, and end up believing things that were just plain not remotely true, not because of anything else, just because they kept saying all these angry and extreme things and saying things like "I can't worry about being fair to the person I'm mad at, I have to vent!" -- and then they say false things, a lot, and come to think those false things are actually true because they said them a lot and no one argued with it.
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  15. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    I think some people here have mentioned the idea of a conversational safeword or other cue for "I am getting overwhelmed, I'll come back later". In my personal case I think it would be more useful for other people to have a cue to tell me when I'm obviously getting overwhelmed because I tend not to notice till it's too late, and that wouldn't work online because people can't see or hear me... But it might help you.
  16. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    I'd add that noticing your upset is still on you. Asking other people to point out when your getting worked up can be helpful, especially if you're someone who in the moment genuinely can't tell, but it's important to not put the onus of managing your reactions on the other person by doing so. It's an easy trap to fall into, "of course I acted that way, you didn't tell me I was getting worked up!"

    Also I know for me that I am like. Absolute shit at handling that kind of response. It will pretty consistently take me from "getting spun up but feeling in control" to "batshit nuclear."

    Practicing steps to take when you're upset when you're not upset is really key, I think. When you're freaking out and getting spun up and constantly working yourself higher and higher, it's really hard to do what you know you should. Practicing exiting a conversation early, like sirsparklepants said, lets you learn how to do it when the situation is higher stakes.
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  17. sirsparklepants

    sirsparklepants feral mom energies

    Oh also something that's helped me take a break and step away: a lot of my bad moods can be mitigated at least a little by a drink and a snack. This doubles as cool down time and also self care - I tend to get really emotional if I haven't eaten properly. Even going to just get a glass of water can let you calm down a little.
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  18. Astrodynamicist

    Astrodynamicist Adequate Potato Goblin

    One of my friends and I call that “zero levels” (from “check the zero level protocol” in debugging tech stuff, ie “is it plugged in”), though we mainly have applied it to despair spirals rather than anger ones.

    (Sharing bc maybe some of y’all will like the name too ^.^ said friend started it, and I like having a stand-in phrase for the “get a drink of water, are you hungry, are you tired, did you take your meds” litany)
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  19. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    I know it's not other people's responsibility and it's not even possible over the internet because no one can detect my mood from there, it just would be nice if that was a thing that could happen, you know?
  20. idiomie

    idiomie I, A Shark Apologist

    hey, @ChelG, if you want to talk about this separately, i'm more than happy to move this conversation elsewhere, and i think i worded my initial response as possibly more accusatory than meant. i've sorta been watching your latest couple threads, and i think talking about this more might help you and i'm game, but i'm also not sure that conversation belongs here. you're welcome to send me a pm, hop into my vent thread (bijou feels weird, pls don't), or invite me into a thread of your own, or just totally ignore me

    i was trying to point out a possible major failure mode of the idea, and it wasn't directed at you as a criticism of something i think you do. it was more, "that was an idea i tried, and it blew up in my face horribly, and here is why i think that happened." i'm sorry if that wasn't clear/it came across as a accusatory towards to you
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