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5 Steps to Calming your Anger Meltdowns

Let’s talk about melt-downs.   There’s the “mad meltdown” from anger, the “tearful meltdown” from sadness or frustration and the “mystery meltdown” that seems to sneak up on you. 

One of the most difficult feelings to deal with is anger.  Why? For one thing, energy is in huge motion with anger.  The adrenaline response is high.  That chemical reaction can make a person feel very powerful in a physical way.  And, it is so strong that it disrupts the thinking part of the brain. Aaaand, anger-fits seem to work for getting one's way.  Bullies seem to get what they want when they threaten their victims which reinforces the behavior.

Beneath the surface of anger is fear and pain.

When we see someone who is afraid or in pain, our natural human response is to offer comfort.  Conversely, when emotional energy manifests as anger, the tendency is to protect oneself by fight (our own anger rises and a battle ensues), flight (take cover, back away) or freeze (play dead).

What would be better?

It starts by becoming aware of your own anger episodes first.  Can you identify where in your physical body you feel anger?  It might be a feeling in your stomach.  Maybe the jaw and/or fists clench.  You may feel tension in your legs, arms and shoulders.  If you can notice places of tension, take a breath and tell your body to relax, the battle is more than half won.

Remember, “Anger is a mask for fear and pain.”  

Have you ever seen a child who is afraid?  Have you ever held that child and whispered “It’s OK.  You don’t have to be afraid.”  Imagine some form of that for yourself.  Tell yourself, “It’s OK.  You don’t have to be afraid.”  Then notice your breath and consciously take deeper breaths.  The old adage to “count to 10” is golden advice!

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Once you can begin to master your own anger in private it is easier to apply the same steps when other people around you get angry.  When your kids or co-workers have a fight, do you feel anxious? You are internalizing THEIR energy.

I use the Becky Baily phrase, “Own your own upset.”   As I repeat that when my child (or someone else) is upset (angry), I am less likely to hook into the energy that is in motion in THEIR body.  I can stay centered in myself and calm, (breath awareness helps!) then I can look behind the mask of their anger and see the true fear or hurt.  Once their energy slows down, I am calm enough to give comfort instead of ramping up the energy more.

Use this as a mantra practice: Repeat the phrase “Anger is a mask for fear and pain.  Nurture him/her/myself”. It will bring the phrase to your mind at the very moment you need it– that moment when anger begins to rise before your brain goes off-line.  Repeating this phrase could be a powerful tool to help reverse the anger response patterns in your life.

Beyond Anger

Tearful, sad-induced meltdowns (think depression) and mystery meltdowns (i.e. suddenly I feel like crying or screaming and I don’t know why) arise from unresolved hurt.  

When it is “mysterious”, it is an emotion you buried long ago (often from young childhood) and something you are not aware of in your conscious mind has been triggered. 

In the 5 Meltdown buster, replace the word “anger” with the word “sadness” and in the last phrase add appropriates words like “… retreating, pretending, blaming…” 

To internalize these concepts, get your free printable.  Color it if you like and hang it somewhere as a reminder. 

© Holding Space