Powerful techniques to optimize your emotions, beliefs, and behaviors


The most common causes of anger are a mix of attitudes about events and physical and environmental factors. I'll run them down for you.


*Demandingness and commandingness in the form of shoulds, musts, and have got to's. These iron clad rules for other folks' behavior and events elevate preferences and desires into demands. Examples: "He SHOULD never cut me off." "They MUST never call me this late!"

*Negative other-labeling. Coupled with demandingness, we give others narrow and stereotypical negative labels. Examples: "They are ROTTEN." "He's a no good %&$#*."

*Low Frustration Tolerance. Heightening our anger is making an event into something we can't stand or handle or it's too much. Example: "I can't stand them doing that!"

*Catastrophizing. Another heightening element in anger is viewing something as catastrophic, awful, or horrible. Example: "What they did was absolutely horrible!"

*Personalizing. Here we see someone as aiming their bad behavior at us when it was not intended that way. This sparks anger.

*Personality Clusters. Some groups of Personality Clusters (schemas) may impact strongly on how we view events and spark anger. These are groups of distorted and self-defeating beliefs, are leftovers from hurts and traumas and may turn on anger and regressive rages.


*Sleep. If we don't get proper sleep we're more likely to think irrationally. Seven to eight hours of sleep helps us think more clearly.

*Low Blood sugar/skipped meals.

*Allergies, diabetes, chronic pain, and disease. These stresses are frequent culprits behind short tempers.

*Too much caffeine. Several cups of coffee per day can wobble blood sugar. Lots of coffee has been linked to rage.

*Hormones. Hormones can alter blood sugar and the ability to think clearly.

*High stress and burnout. Adrenal burnout often turns on a short temper.

*Mood disorders and depression. Mood disorders and depression make folks quick to get annoyed and angry.


*Lack of proper light. Persons suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder may be more anger prone.

*Noise. Excessive noise can contribute to stress and edginess.

*Allergies. These stresses are frequent culprits behind short tempers.

*Environmental toxins have been known to alter body chemistry and blood sugar.

*Excessive eating of simple carbohydrates may contribute to blood sugar challenges.

*Excessive heat and humidity can make folks uncomfortable and lethargic.


*Assertiveness training teaches folks to express their anger in unaggressive ways and non-passive ways. Taking a class in assertiveness training at a local university or community college can be helpful. Practicing assertiveness in real life, in role play, and through imagination helps make assertive patterns a habit and feel natural.  See our tips on assertiveness.

*Having a quick way to deflate high arousal is extremely useful. The tried and true gentle tongue bite for the count of 10 will lower arousal. Our Shrunken Head works wonders in this department as does the Dive Reflex (if you are near an ice bag). Learning to comfortably bite your tongue can slow down high arousal to turn on clear thinking. Limiting arousal goes a long way in stopping angry outbursts.

*Limiting demandingness and commandingness through practicing preferences and wants over shoulds, musts, or have got to's does wonders, as does avoiding name calling (negative other-labeling). Secondary thought distortions such as catastrophizing and Low Frustration Tolerance (I can't stand it-itis) also require being challenged and changed. Preferential thinking and other-acceptance require practice like assertiveness. Consider the rules and assumptions we have about others' behavior and the way the world "should" be. If we have overly high standards about the way others and the world "should" be, we're going to be angry or irritated a good deal of the time. These rules and assumptions need to be changed.

*Learn how to control angry impulses by switching behaviors during the time when our impulses take over. See the Habit Cracker or the "Behavior Repatterner" in our book:
Your Emotional Power.

*Focus on solutions instead of blame.



You assert yourself in a polite manner.

You aim at resolving any conflict or accept it as a fact of life.

You hunt for reasons why the other person didn't intentionally act out of malice.

You ask the other person to alter their behavior.

You allow the other person to disagree with you and voice opinions.


You think about the situation or others’ behavior in terms of preferences.

You attempt to understand the other person's viewpoint.

You acknowledge that you and the other person may be both right and wrong to some degree.

You permit others to live according to their values and rules.

You prefer that others and life conditions don't thwart your goals.

You reasonably view others' behavior.

You want to be treated well and not put down.


You become physically or verbally aggressive.

You plan revenge.

You sulk or give the other person the silent treatment.

You vent your anger on others instead of the person who you believe triggered the anger.

You hunt for evidence that the other person maliciously intended to hurt
or harm you.

You get back at others in indirect ways or through passive aggression.


You demandingly use shoulds, musts, have got to's and rigid rules about how someone must or ought not behave.

You strongly insist that others should not disrespect or put you down.

You refuse to consider another person's viewpoint.

You believe you are absolutely right and others are absolutely wrong.

You command that life and others give you what you want when you want it.

You jump to conclusions that others have deliberately acted badly toward you.


*Disagreements are an unavoidable part of life and need to be faced from time to time. Having assertiveness skills in place is very helpful in limiting hostile anger. Many folks dread confrontations because of the potential for anger and heightened conflict. It doesn't have to be this way. A number of anger defusing actions can lower the probability of anger appearing during disagreements. Consider these:

*Is this conflict something that can be accepted as a "fact of life"? Some conflicts are ongoing for years. Many of these dry out from being accepted. Can we live life without this conflict being resolved? Can we accept it as "fact of life" No need to go further with the conflict if you can accept it as a fact of life. Live and let live.

*Be well-rested and fed prior to having a disagreement talk.

*Use "I statements" rather than "you statements" during the discussion as this inhibits defensiveness in others.

*Listen closely to what the other person says, paraphrase, and sincerely find kernels of truth in what they say. Step into their shoes and see outward through their eyes on their view of the issues.

*Leaning toward them and nodding limits defensiveness and the possibility of hostility.

*Know that if you get into a tight spot and start to get aroused into hostility, the old 10 second gently bite your tongue actually works to inhibit arousal.

*If things start to get out of hand, take a step back and request a "time out" until cooler headedness prevails.

*Avoid any form of personal attacks or name calling because this gets the fur flying and blurs the actual issues.

*Be wary of any "shoulding" or "musting" that you're doing. Demandingness and threats will heat up a discussion.

*The "Shrunken Head" (sucking in your lips and cheeks, briskly rubbing your palms and fingers together, and gently biting your tongue) will ratchet down arousal the fuel for anger.  So will our Dive Reflex if an ice bag is handy.

*Avoid putting extra emphasis on your words as this is likely to stoke both yours and their arousal.

*If issues involve a change in behavior, make sure you ask for "specific" changes in behavior. This leads to more clarity and less frustration. Also when issues are behavior specific they avoid discussions about the other persons self or personality.

*Be wary of anger trigger words such as:

-Why? The implication might be that the person is wrong or their thinking is wrong.
-If you really... This implies that the other person might not care.
-What! This denigrates what the person just said.
-Any expletives. Cursing fuels arousal and hostility.

*Keep your voice calm and neutral.

*Avoid eye rolls and snickering.

Take care, Steve