Anger: Managing with Self-Talk & Other Methods1

Use self talk to help you manage anger. This is part of Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), a method with excellent research support and experience. Rehearse saying many different self statements often so they become almost automatic. This can be powerful for managing anger. Use self talk with other methods including relaxation therapies.

What is CBT?
CBT helps you make your thoughts and attitudes more effective. In this booklet you learn to say more effective statements to yourself. This helps improve your thinking.

Reduce the:
• number of times you have
• durations of
• believability of
• undesired thoughts.

Increase the:
number of times you use
number of situations you use
duration of
believability of
speed of starting
your confidence in desired cognitions.

Preparation Phase
You are aware that a situation can or will soon occur in which you could become angry and show your anger. You have time to prepare your reactions to the event. Here are statements you can say to yourself during this phase. You can add your own statements.

• This situation could upset me, but I know ways to cope.
• This is a chance to practice better ways to cope with stress and anger.
• I am not going to take personally what happens.  
• If I start to get upset, I will remember how to be calm.
• I am not going to take this as seriously as I did in the past.    
• I will use relaxation before and during the situation.
• I will use new self-statements before and during the situation.
• My sense of humor can help before and during the situation.
• Keeping some perspective will help.
• I will rehearse and use new self-statements before and during the situation.  

Impact and Confrontation Phase
In the impact phase, you realize that anger is happening. Use multiple self-statements.

• Stay calm & relax my breathing.
• When I am calm, I’m in control.
• Just flow with it & don’t let it trigger me.
• Remember what I want to achieve.
• Remember how good I feel afterwards if I stay calm.
• I will continue to look at the situation in new ways.
• It’s a shame that s/he is acting like this.
• S/he may not really understand, or s/he has her/his own problems s/he is dealing with today.
• If I let this trigger my anger, I am risking too much.
• It isn’t worth that price.
• What s/he is saying to me is not the problem.
• The event is not what is starting to upset me.
• I can still manage and keep myself calm.
• The price of anger is too high.
• Catching myself now and taking a new path is good for me.
• Awareness of what is happening and having choices feels good.  

Arousal Phase
This phase happens because the situation was unexpected or severe, or you are still learning to manage anger. It occurs despite prior efforts. You need other self-statements during this phase. Remember that mastery of new methods might not occur as quickly as you had expected. Consider using these statements.

• It is time now to focus on relaxing.
• This anger is a sign for me to make different self-statements.
• Pause for a few moments to take stock.
• Pause & relax muscles & breathing.
• I have the right to feel annoyed, but I not need this much.
• Wait! I will short-circuit this right now.
• Wait! Getting upset is unnecessary. I can stop it.
• Look at this more objectively.
• I see how humorous her behavior is.
• I will now interpret the situation rationally.
• I will see the situation more calmly.
• I can still help myself by taking a different path right now.

Reflection Phase
Reflect on the situation after it ends. If you did well, then praise yourself. If the result was not desirable, then reflection can help.

• I am proud of myself for handling it.
• I got through it without much anger.
• Having choices feels good.
• Being in better control feels good.
• I did it this time so I can do it again.
• This difficult situation takes more time.
• I will think about what went wrong.
• Use relaxation now & quiet my body.
• This was only one event, not a setback.
• Negative thinking now will not change what happened.
• It is not a setback, only one event.
• Next time I can better prepare.
• This new approach feels better as I get more practice.

Homework and Guidelines
Become more aware of your thoughts before and during times you are having anger. Thoughts are often inaccurate and not based on good logic and facts.

• Write your current ineffective thoughts.
• Check their logic and accuracy.
• Challenge some of the thoughts.
• Discuss this with a specialist.

Can we use humor to manage anger?
Feeling angry & genuinely laughing usually do not happen together. Good humor helps create some needed distance from some life stressors. Of course, we should not laugh at everything that otherwise might upset us. Plenty of life is serious. Yet we do take much of life far too seriously. Humor can help create some perspective when we need it. Many people believe that good, hearty laughter is even healthy.

Relaxation methods are important parts of reducing, managing, & stopping anger. These methods reduce tension and help you realize that you can control some events & your physiological reactivity. Relaxation methods include focusing on releasing tension in muscles, breathing, & relaxing phrases.

For more information:
Michenbaum, Donald (2007). Stress Inoculation Training: A Preventative & Treatment Approach (Ch. 19). In P. M. Lehrer, R. L. Woolfolk & W. S. Sime, Principles and Practice of Stress Management (3rd Edition). New York: Guilford Press.

12008 Mark S. Schwartz, Ph.D. Endeavors,
  Adapted from publications on Stress Inoculation Training  by Donald Michenbaum, Ph.D.