In a few days I will be posting another anger management worksheet for your use. It will be a free download in the form of a 5 page PDF document. The first two pages comprise the anger management worksheet. The last three pages include most of the worksheet descriptions that you will find in this article.
Skill 3: Identifying Your Driving Thought as the Main Thought Intensifying Anger
In my series of anger management worksheets I am introducing my 12 Skills for Honest Optimism as I go. The purpose of this worksheet is similar to the previous worksheet is this series, but with a twist. In the last worksheet goal was to provide a tool for learning Skill 2: distinguishing thoughts from feelings. If we know how to do this then we will know where to concentrate our efforts. Working with thoughts is nearly always more productive for anger management than trying to change feelings directly. This is one of the cardinal principles of cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT.
But in the order of anger management worksheets this one adds Skill 3: identifying your driving thought. This worksheet walks you step-by-step through a thought process to identify your angry thoughts and to compare them. How are you comparing them? You are thinking about each angry thought in order to determine which one is the driving thought. That is, which of your angry thoughts is the most responsible for that rush of intense anger? Developing the skill to answer this question accurately is what this worksheet is about. You may complete the worksheet in one of two ways: (1) remembering how you thought and felt in a recent situation; or (2) looking at how you think and feel right now as you remember the recent situation. The worksheet uses a series of questions to guide the user through a thought process in which each of his or her angry thoughts is evaluated for it’s relative power in driving up his or her anger in a given situation. The questions include some of the following:
- Which of my angry thoughts do I catch myself arguing in my mind?
- Which of my angry thoughts do I think about most often?
In this soon-to-be-released worksheet the main metaphor is an angry brain with a fuse. When you are angry your brain is full of emotion. Your body is feeling the tension and rush of being tightly wound and ready to pounce. This is the classic fight-or-flight stress response.
The fuse represents the woven strands of angry thoughts that control your swirling emotions. The burning flame on that fuse represents the main, driving thought.
Once the driving thought is identified, one can pinch the flame, stop the fuse from burning and diffuse the anger bomb in the brain.
Let’s Get Personal: Is That Me in the Mirror?
Of all the anger management worksheets, this one may be the most important. It is designed to be a mirror that shows you which parasite is corroding your brain with unnecessary, stressful anger. The driving thought is the one that you must get a handle on if you are going to control your anger effectively. But you can’t get a handle on it if you don’t know which thought is the primary one driving your angry feelings. Once you grab that handle, you may pull on it and your anger will decrease. Instead of futile efforts to “stop being angry,” you concentrate your effort on something that is within your control: your thoughts.
Trying to change your thoughts is much less frustrating than trying to change your feelings directly. Furthermore, you don’t even need to get rid of your anger. All you need to do is to reduce the intensity enough to ride the bucking bull to safety. This next worksheet will be a tool to help people think through this process in a step by step fashion.