Change Thoughts That Make You Feel Angry

Reviewed Jan 29, 2019

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Summary

  • Faulty thinking is the primary source of most of your emotional suffering.
  • Identify thoughts that fuel your anger.
  • Recognize distorted thoughts and learn to rethink them.

Feel angry more often than you want to? You can identify and retrain the thoughts that make you feel angry.

Catch your thoughts

Start by accepting that some of your thoughts aren’t accurate or rational. In The Feeling Good Handbook, David Burns, M.D. describes several irrational thought patterns that stir up negative emotions. The next time you feel irritable or angry, take a minute or two to write down any thoughts you catch racing through your mind. Perhaps you will recognize some of the following: 

Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

  • “My spouse never listens to me.”
  • “My kids always make too much noise.”

All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-or-white categories.

  • "I either want to win or I don’t want to play!”
  • “I will not tolerate imperfection in myself or anyone.”

Should statements: You criticize yourself or others with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.”

  • “That guy should turn off his signal if he isn’t turning!”
  • “People shouldn’t have more grocery items than posted in the express line.”

Labeling: You identify yourself or others entirely with their shortcomings.

  • “He’s an idiot because he left his turn signal on.”
  • “I’m a pig because I ate too much.”

Blame: You blame other people and overlook ways that you might contribute to a problem.

  • “The reason my marriage is failing is all my spouse’s fault.”
  • “The people in my work group are entirely to blame for problems there.”

Change what you can

Admitting that your thoughts might be distorted can be a challenge. And learning to rethink them can be even harder. Expect this to take time and practice. As you learn to identify distorted thoughts, consider alternative thought patterns that can help calm you down: 

Thinking in shades of gray: Try to remove “always” and “never” from your negative beliefs.

  • Can you truly never recall a time when your spouse listened to you, or your children were quiet? Change “always” and “never” to “sometimes.”
  • Allow yourself to be human, which means you will sometimes lose, fail, make mistakes, etc.

Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • Do you actually know the IQ of that driver in front of you?
  • Do you in any way resemble a pig?

Re-attribution: What other factors besides the person you want to blame may be upsetting you ?

  • Rather than constantly blame others for your sour mood, be willing to consider your part in the problem.
  • Consider that your low mood may be coloring your perspective at the moment.

The semantic method: Think thoughts that are less emotionally loaded. Try to use fewer "shoulds," "shouldn’ts," labels, etc.

  • "It would be nice if people honored the express lane system at the grocery store.”
  • “That driver must be too distracted right now not to notice that his signal is still on.”

Don’t give up as you try to manage thoughts that stir up your anger. And don’t expect perfection. Lack of sleep, illness, too many demands … these and other events shorten anyone’s fuse. If your anger is costing you relationships, jobs, or good health, you might consider working with a counselor or other mental health professional. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D. William Morrow and Company Inc., 1989; Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. Harper, 1999. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Dell Publishing, 1990.

Summary

  • Faulty thinking is the primary source of most of your emotional suffering.
  • Identify thoughts that fuel your anger.
  • Recognize distorted thoughts and learn to rethink them.

Feel angry more often than you want to? You can identify and retrain the thoughts that make you feel angry.

Catch your thoughts

Start by accepting that some of your thoughts aren’t accurate or rational. In The Feeling Good Handbook, David Burns, M.D. describes several irrational thought patterns that stir up negative emotions. The next time you feel irritable or angry, take a minute or two to write down any thoughts you catch racing through your mind. Perhaps you will recognize some of the following: 

Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

  • “My spouse never listens to me.”
  • “My kids always make too much noise.”

All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-or-white categories.

  • "I either want to win or I don’t want to play!”
  • “I will not tolerate imperfection in myself or anyone.”

Should statements: You criticize yourself or others with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.”

  • “That guy should turn off his signal if he isn’t turning!”
  • “People shouldn’t have more grocery items than posted in the express line.”

Labeling: You identify yourself or others entirely with their shortcomings.

  • “He’s an idiot because he left his turn signal on.”
  • “I’m a pig because I ate too much.”

Blame: You blame other people and overlook ways that you might contribute to a problem.

  • “The reason my marriage is failing is all my spouse’s fault.”
  • “The people in my work group are entirely to blame for problems there.”

Change what you can

Admitting that your thoughts might be distorted can be a challenge. And learning to rethink them can be even harder. Expect this to take time and practice. As you learn to identify distorted thoughts, consider alternative thought patterns that can help calm you down: 

Thinking in shades of gray: Try to remove “always” and “never” from your negative beliefs.

  • Can you truly never recall a time when your spouse listened to you, or your children were quiet? Change “always” and “never” to “sometimes.”
  • Allow yourself to be human, which means you will sometimes lose, fail, make mistakes, etc.

Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • Do you actually know the IQ of that driver in front of you?
  • Do you in any way resemble a pig?

Re-attribution: What other factors besides the person you want to blame may be upsetting you ?

  • Rather than constantly blame others for your sour mood, be willing to consider your part in the problem.
  • Consider that your low mood may be coloring your perspective at the moment.

The semantic method: Think thoughts that are less emotionally loaded. Try to use fewer "shoulds," "shouldn’ts," labels, etc.

  • "It would be nice if people honored the express lane system at the grocery store.”
  • “That driver must be too distracted right now not to notice that his signal is still on.”

Don’t give up as you try to manage thoughts that stir up your anger. And don’t expect perfection. Lack of sleep, illness, too many demands … these and other events shorten anyone’s fuse. If your anger is costing you relationships, jobs, or good health, you might consider working with a counselor or other mental health professional. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D. William Morrow and Company Inc., 1989; Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. Harper, 1999. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Dell Publishing, 1990.

Summary

  • Faulty thinking is the primary source of most of your emotional suffering.
  • Identify thoughts that fuel your anger.
  • Recognize distorted thoughts and learn to rethink them.

Feel angry more often than you want to? You can identify and retrain the thoughts that make you feel angry.

Catch your thoughts

Start by accepting that some of your thoughts aren’t accurate or rational. In The Feeling Good Handbook, David Burns, M.D. describes several irrational thought patterns that stir up negative emotions. The next time you feel irritable or angry, take a minute or two to write down any thoughts you catch racing through your mind. Perhaps you will recognize some of the following: 

Overgeneralization: You view a negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

  • “My spouse never listens to me.”
  • “My kids always make too much noise.”

All-or-nothing thinking: You look at things in absolute, black-or-white categories.

  • "I either want to win or I don’t want to play!”
  • “I will not tolerate imperfection in myself or anyone.”

Should statements: You criticize yourself or others with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts.”

  • “That guy should turn off his signal if he isn’t turning!”
  • “People shouldn’t have more grocery items than posted in the express line.”

Labeling: You identify yourself or others entirely with their shortcomings.

  • “He’s an idiot because he left his turn signal on.”
  • “I’m a pig because I ate too much.”

Blame: You blame other people and overlook ways that you might contribute to a problem.

  • “The reason my marriage is failing is all my spouse’s fault.”
  • “The people in my work group are entirely to blame for problems there.”

Change what you can

Admitting that your thoughts might be distorted can be a challenge. And learning to rethink them can be even harder. Expect this to take time and practice. As you learn to identify distorted thoughts, consider alternative thought patterns that can help calm you down: 

Thinking in shades of gray: Try to remove “always” and “never” from your negative beliefs.

  • Can you truly never recall a time when your spouse listened to you, or your children were quiet? Change “always” and “never” to “sometimes.”
  • Allow yourself to be human, which means you will sometimes lose, fail, make mistakes, etc.

Examine the evidence: Is there any proof that your thought is valid?

  • Do you actually know the IQ of that driver in front of you?
  • Do you in any way resemble a pig?

Re-attribution: What other factors besides the person you want to blame may be upsetting you ?

  • Rather than constantly blame others for your sour mood, be willing to consider your part in the problem.
  • Consider that your low mood may be coloring your perspective at the moment.

The semantic method: Think thoughts that are less emotionally loaded. Try to use fewer "shoulds," "shouldn’ts," labels, etc.

  • "It would be nice if people honored the express lane system at the grocery store.”
  • “That driver must be too distracted right now not to notice that his signal is still on.”

Don’t give up as you try to manage thoughts that stir up your anger. And don’t expect perfection. Lack of sleep, illness, too many demands … these and other events shorten anyone’s fuse. If your anger is costing you relationships, jobs, or good health, you might consider working with a counselor or other mental health professional. 

By Laurie M. Stewart
Source: The Feeling Good Handbook by David D. Burns, M.D. William Morrow and Company Inc., 1989; Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns, M.D. Harper, 1999. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. Dell Publishing, 1990.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, assessments, and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical, health care, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2019 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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