Taming the Beast

hulk smashCan we really learn to “control” our anger?  Having a “short-fuse” or “lashing out” indicates something beyond our ability to control ourselves. 

My friend Mary from acupuncture college said to me a few years ago, “It seems like you’ve really calmed down a lot.  You used to have such a short fuse.”  She was right.  The slightest offense to my person, and I was all up in arms, defense mode.

Having kids on one hand mellowed me out quite a bit, but as my oldest one gets older (and more mouthy and boundary-testing), I find some old angry ways coming out that I don’t like.

Like the other night – really this type of scenario is just about daily:

*Me:  Ramsey, please stop waving that toy in my face.

*Ramsey:  (still waving the toy in my face)

*Me:  Dammit!  (swatting at the toy so it flies across the room)

There have been some times that I have almost swatted him.  It’s like he knows just how to push my buttons.  And let me get something straight here:  I am not a fan of spanking nor do I believe that children need to be spanked to learn discipline.  In fact, an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence says quite the opposite.  The more that kids are spanked, the more likely they are to do worse in school, not develop close relationships, and end up in prison!

So, obviously, I don’t want to do that.  But how to handle the anger / rage that boils up to the surface on a regular?

These anti-anger tips are for those of us with children, and without.  Really, any situation where your anger boils to the surface you can try these:  

Take a meta-moment.  The problem with anger is that it happens quickly, and usually before we are cognizant of it, we act on it.  It takes practice and commitment to – literally – take a few seconds when something ticks you off to take a big, deep breath.  Recognize that you are angry.  THEN – decide how you are going to handle it.  This way you avoid subconsciously lashing out or doing something you may regret later.  You can consciously direct your “better self” to handle the situation in a way that is more ideal.  More in alignment with who you want to be.  From there you can choose to deal with the situation with humor or empathy, for example.  

Relax your eyes.  In Chinese medicine, your eyes are not just the windows to your soul, but they are the corresponding sense for your Liver.  Your Liver, in CM, regulates qi and blood circulation, moderates the emotion of anger (or repressed anger), and corresponds with the color green (Hulk?  Did Stan Lee study CM?).  The condition of your Liver quickly shows in your eyes.  Think about it:  jaundice = yellow eyes; hung over = red eyes.  Usually when we’re pissed off, a line develops between your eyes.  Take all the tension out of your face.  Feel like your eyeballs are settling into your skull.  I notice that people on antidepressants tend to smile all the time.  Relax your face and stop worrying about looking a certain way.  It’s OK to not smile.  Some people call this the “resting bitch face.”  Try it; embrace it.  

Deal with it.  Take note of the anger and don’t fly off the handle because of it, but once the initial emotion subsides, deal with the situation that led to the anger in the first place.  Talk it out; write a letter or email; do what has to be done.  It’s always better to deal with it after the emotion has passed, which it will.  The only time the emotion tends to linger is when you deny it.  In other words, saying to yourself, “I’m not going to be angry…”  A psychologist said years ago that my family had trouble “expressing anger.”  I think this is when you are pissed, but you hold onto the anger, and just don’t deal with it.  I was taught as a young girl that expressing anger was “ugly,” so therefore was encouraged to not do that.  Just keep it bottled up, festering, stagnating.  In Chinese medicine, we call this Liver Qi Stagnation.  It’s often at the root cause of irritability, PMS, depression, anxiety, tension headaches, or period irregularities.    

angry donald duckGet physical.  Whereas children express their anger in a very raw way (my daughter, for example, who is almost 2 years old, sounds and looks like Donald Duck when she is angry), adults can learn to moderate their anger in a productive way.  Although, sometimes, it is nice to have a physical outlet too.  Go for a walk; journal; make art; make love; take a kickboxing class; etc.  

With my son, I’m still learning how to “deal with it,” as it is an ongoing lesson for both of us.  

*Me:  Ramsey?  (taking a deliberately long pause to breathe, relax, “control” anger, and get his attention at the same time)

*Ramsey:  What?

*Me:  When you wave your toys in my face, I’m worried that it’s going to slip out of your hand and hit me in the eye.  It’s not a relaxing feeling.  Why are you doing this? 

*Ramsey:  (shrugs shoulders) Hey, can I play video games?  

*Me:  Not right now.  

*Ramsey:  Whyyyyyyyy?  (collapses on the floor, holding onto my leg, whining and crying)

*Me:  (back to step 1 of controlling anger)


  1. I enjoy this! Thanks for sharing your stories!

  2. Then you have the teenager! One minute he’s your best pal and the next, he’s got the attitude of “Who are you and why do you think you know more than me?” Taking part in the relaxation camp helped quite a bit as well as doing many of the things you suggested here. Sometimes I just tell him, “That’s life and you’re going to have to learn it now or later.”


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