The key to controlling your anger and preventing destructive behavior—even violence—is recognizing that you’re becoming progressively more agitated until you reach what anger-management guru Mitch Abrams, Psy.D., calls the “explosion threshold.” And believe it or not, it’s rarely a “sudden” occurrence.
Below, Abrams, who works with both pro athletes and death row inmates, walks us through a hypothetical escalation. At each point, he recommends visualization exercises (picture a quiet beach, where waves roll in, one after another) to bring you back down to your “baseline”—the resting emotional state when you’re calm, content, and happy.
You’re Unaware You’re Irritated
“You wake up with a headache and some flu symptoms,” Abrams says. “You’re in a negative mindset but don’t even notice it.”
You’re Clearly Annoyed
“At breakfast, your wife nags you about a bill you forgot to pay, and you argue, which raises your overall irritation. Now you’re definitely annoyed.”
You’re Pretty Damn Steamed
“As you leave, you spill coffee on your shirt. It’s a small annoyance, but all of a sudden it seems huge. You feel your muscles tighten. Now you’re definitely on edge.”
You’re Seriously Angry
“Driving to work, a person cuts you off in traffic. Now you’re mad. You scream and swear and consider chasing him. You feel hot, and your heart is racing.”
You Completely Lose Your S#*t
“At the afternoon meeting, your boss criticizes a job you did, and instead of apologizing or letting it go, you argue. You yell. Now you’ve crossed the line and hurt yourself.”