A few weeks ago, a fired worker unloaded his rage at his Minneapolis employer through a shooting spree that wounded two, killed six people and then shot himself. It appears that mental illness played a partial role, but what motivates a 36-year-old to get even by killing people who upset him? The answer is complicated but nothing justifies these actions.
Work environments can be places of stress for those who struggle to deal with anger in a reasonable manner. With today’s violent media modeling acts of horror in movies, the unbalanced person who has not developed good coping skills can act out a fantasy of getting even. But getting even is not an answer. People need to control their anger and learn how to manage it. Here are seven cool down strategies taken from my small book on Breaking Free from Anger and Unforgiveness that has sold close to 100,000 copies.
1) Count to 10 or higher, deep breath and relax your body. We are taught this as children and it works. Count to 10, breathing slowly and calming down your body. The key is to try and slow yourself down, relaxing the body.
2) Take a time-out. Get away from the situation but your self-talk matters during the time-out. You have to calm yourself, not rev yourself up with what may feel like an injustice. Self-talk like, “It will be OK. I can handle this. I need to be more forgiving. I am not a victim and can deal with this…” are the types of calming statement to tell yourself while you are in time-out.
3) Pray. When you are frustrated, angered, pray. Jesus was the brunt of injustice and knows that feeling. Take your anger and outrage to Him. He sympathizes with your plight. now, cast those cares on Him. Retaliation is not the Christian way.
4) Practice restraint. Don’t act impulsively or meditate on ways to get even. Be the bigger person and use restraint. The Holy Spirit in you, can calm you down if you submit to God.
5) Write a letter you do not send. If you need an outlet for rage, write a letter that you don’t send. It may help you release those feelings and is a safe way to vent. But venting anger, often gives rise to more.
6) Problem-solve in ways that are not hurtful. If you feel unfairly treated, misunderstood or victimized, think of ways to solve the problem without violence. Most times, you have options.
7) Minimize consumption of violent media. Violent media do contribute to our desensitization of violence and do increase aggression. If you struggle with anger impulses, be sensible and don’t consume media that feeds that struggle.