Anger in itself is not bad, of course. We all get angry at times. It is a signal that something is off, and we need to figure out how to address the issue.
Like many adults with ADHD, you may find you feel your emotions, including anger, very intently. As a result you may act on your anger before you’ve given yourself a chance to decide how you really want to express it.
So, you may walk away, send an email or blurt out something before you’ve had a chance to ask yourself, “Do I want to say or do this?” And then afterwards you may think, “I wish I wouldn’t have…” But it is already out there, and you can’t take it back.
So, while your anger in itself is not a problem, you may not be expressing your anger the way you want.
You can change this.
While impulsiveness may be a particular problem for you because of your ADHD, lack of self-care can also exacerbate the way you express your anger.
You know you may become more easily angry when you
- are tired
- have not taken your meds
- are hungry
- have not exercised
- are overwhelmed because of too much on your plate
- do not have enough down time
So practicing good self-care will help you manage your anger, as well as your other ADHD symptoms.
Even with good self-care, anger will show up from time to time. Happens. And sometimes it will seemingly come out of nowhere.
But, if there are situations you know have the potential to trigger your anger, you can anticipate these and take steps to minimize the chances of your anger arising.
Bob hates doing his finances. So, he was already feeling resentful when he sat down Sunday morning to tackle them. Then the kids started running around, and he could barely concentrate. When his partner came in to remind him that he promised the kids he would take them to the park he just exploded.
An alternative scenario:
Bob acknowledges he doesn’t like doing finances. But he decides he wants to do them because the more he avoids them the worse his financial affairs get. So, he brainstorms with his partner about a good time to do them – when he doesn’t have other commitments and the kids are involved in other activities (or asleep). He also thinks about how he can organize his environment so the space feels comfortable – maybe some music, tea, etc.
By being proactive in the above way, he minimizes the chances that doing his finances might trigger his anger.
What are situations that might trigger your anger? How can you be proactive in order to increase your chances that you can keep it at bay?
In The Moment
How about when you find your anger arising in a situation you could not have anticipated?
Knowing how it shows up in your body can help you make a decision before it is “too late.” So, when you have physical warning signs, like the knot in your stomach, buzz in your head, the clenched teeth, etc., pay attention to them. They can serve as a cue for you to:
- acknowledge the feeling in your body
- take a step back
- take time to explore what is going on for you
- plan how you want to respond
Following the above will help you to minimize the times you say, “I wish I wouldn’t have…”
Question Your Thoughts
As part of exploring your anger (Step 3 above) it will help to recognize that anger is a response to a thought. And you can choose what to do with that thought.
To do this effectively you can use a very simple but powerful method of questioning created by Byron Katie, author of Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life.
Let’s look at the example of Bob, again. What if Bob exploded because he thought,
“Dan is intentionally allowing the kids to be noisy because he is mad at me for not taking them to the park. He could take them to the park. He doesn’t have anything to do! And the kids are just being loud so I will take them to the park.”
Using the Four Questions, Bob can question this thought, and, perhaps, arrive at an alternative perspective.
Step 1 – Is it true?
Yes, it could all be true.
Step 2 – Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
Maybe Dan does not think the kids are that loud. After all I know I am much more sensitive to noise than Dan.
And he does have the report to do for work. He might want to work on it while I take the kids to the park.
The kids are probably just being kids. They are just playing and not thinking about their noise.
Step 3 – How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
I feel resentful at the kids and Dan, and my anger just wells up.
Step 4 – Who would you be without the thought?
I might feel like the kids are just playing like they usually do. And Dan is not thinking about the noise. He is just fine drinking his coffee and reading the paper.
I would work with Dan to figure out a plan so he can get his report done, I can do the finances and the kids can get to the park.
I would remind myself that I need to plan so I can have a quiet environment to work.
And I would not think Dan or the kids were trying to intentionally make me angry!
Think of situations where your anger gets the best of you.
What steps can you take to keep your anger at bay and/or express it in the way you want in the future?