Use our ACEing strategy to manage your anger
In our training course, Understanding Anger, we like to use a process which follows our three-part acronym ACEing through a grid of questions. ACEing translates as “A” for assessing, “C ” for choosing, and “E” for executing that choice. The “ing” is added because the acronym is action-oriented; that is, it requires processing the grid (or subset) of questions.
The first part of ACEing: ASSESSING
So, to “A” assess someone’s anger using our grid process, begin by asking several questions:
- What might be the cause(s) of my anger?
Remember that something is triggering angry feelings and behaviors. To assess, it helps to think through details carefully: what are the facts of the situation? What is there about the situation that feels unjust, unacceptable, dangerous or unacceptable? What trigger thoughts am I having?
- What do I believe about me, the other person or the situation?
- What do I want to be certain that I do and do not do?
For this question, some details in your assessment may include: I want to remain clear and focused so I can bring myself back to being in charge. I do not have to permit an amygdala hijacking because I can recognize symptomatic feelings. I want to stay in my cortex by being calm and rational. I do not want to damage my relationship or someone else’s emotional health. I want to keep my cool and preserve my integrity even if it means walking away from this situation.
- What am I expecting, and on what am I basing these expectations?
Assessing these types of issues includes considering: what do I believe should or should not be happening? Could I have been overestimating someone’s ability? Am I ascribing emotions to someone’s behavior because he or she did not meet my expectations? Am I assuming he or she is out to hurt me? What may be a fairer set of expectations based on a clear understanding of the person I am in relationship with?
- Where is my power?
Some of the assessment grid for power includes knowing what is and is not within my power because I can attempt to address only those things over which I have power. I do have power to think clearly about my choices, to engage my creative self as I manage my anger, to seek other resources if I feel like I have no other options, and to make choices about how I will respond to my feelings of anger. In essence, I can have the power to behave in a calm and respectful way.
- Where don’t I have power?
It is important to realize that I may not have power in some areas, that I cannot force someone to agree with me or even appreciate my perspective. I also have to recognize that some things can be undone and others cannot. Therefore, I need to focus on what I can do and not put energy into solutions that are not possible.
- What are my responsibilities? (These are important questions to ask in terms of what one can do about a frustrating situation.)
These questions include: What have I agreed to do? What is fair for me to be accountable for? Why am I accepting this responsibility? If this issue is not my responsibility, then I do not need to put energy into it.
Other assessment dynamics that we could consider are:
- How emotionally healthy am I right now?
- How healthy is this relationship right now.
- What is my intuition telling me right now, and how can I frame these issues in a healthier and more accurate way.
Practice using the “A” strategy, then learn the “C”
Assessment of the volatile dynamics around you really can help to stop an anger outburst. The “A” process also helps you to be intentional about looking at the facts and perceptions of a situation that may needlessly catapult you into an angry place.
There are inherent benefits to creating your assessment grid. 1) It will allow you to gain perspective in a moment of anger; 2) It will enable you to use a calmer and more balanced process of dealing with volatile situations; and 3) It will permit you to be aware of and manage some difficult triggers that can flare an angry response.
Putting the ACEing process in place can help us deal with our anger in a productive and appropriate way.
In my next post, we will talk about how we can make new choices as we deal with our anger.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Some information taken from Understanding Anger, 2004, Diane Wagenhals.