Anger is a tricky feeling. What compounds anger is the thoughts that can go with it. Angry thinking can blind us from realistic thoughts. Angry thoughts often fall into the following categories:
- Shoulds: knowing what the world should be. Realistic thinking knows the world is unfair and there are limitations.
- Filtering: only looking at negative aspects of situation. Realistic thinking considers positive and negative aspects of situations.
- Magnifying: Making a situation or behavior bigger than it is. Realistic thinking keeps situations in perspective and does not exaggerate the importance of an event or magnifying the “wrongness” of others.
- Labeling: Thinking of situation or person in an insulting, negative way. For example, thinking someone is “stupid” or “lazy.” Realistic thinking does not use blaming labels.
- Mind-Reading: thinking others are judging or thinking only negatively about you. Realistic thinking recognizes that assumptions about others is just that, assumptions and are often inaccurate, particularly if we are upset.
- Perfectionism: setting unrealistic expectations or standards for others. Realistic thinking acknowledges what has been accomplished even if it is less than perfect. Meaningful achievements are often outcomes with less than a 100% success.
As seen by the diagram, these thoughts generate more anger not resolution. The first step in stopping this vicious cycle is to identify when you have angry thoughts. Then recognize how your thoughts trigger your mood. Begin to challenge thoughts that bring more anger and replace them with calmer, realistic ones.
Diagram created by D. Bilsker, J. Samra, E. Goldner