Psychologist T.W. Smith explains anger as “an unpleasant emotion ranging in intensity from irritation or annoyance to fury or rage.” One of the most common reactions to being triggered is anger. Misophonia sufferers often spend a lot of time feeling angry – it’s just a part of life for the majority. This reaction may feel ridiculous, getting so angry over a small noise that a person is making unintentionally. For this reason, a lot of sufferers have issues with coping with their anger. It feels wrong to be mad at a noise. Hating someone for something that is seemingly trivial, such as the way they chew or breath, can feel unfair. Wishing bad things upon someone out of anger, because they make a trigger noise, can feel downright evil. The bright side of this issue is that there are many tried and true ways to cope with anger.
The most important thing to remember is that you have to control your anger before it controls you. This can feel impossible, especially when you’re in the middle of being triggered, but it is possible. First of all, understand why you’re angry. You have a neurological disorder, and it is not your fault. You’re not actively choosing to be angry, and that is very important to remember. You need to take action to help yourself, but you need to avoid blaming or shaming yourself.
Honestly, the key to coping with anger as a misophonia sufferer is taking responsibility but not shaming yourself. If you hate someone because they chew loudly, then you have to take responsibility for that. Don’t pretend that you don’t feel very angry towards them. But don’t shame yourself for it either. Feeling bad for yourself is not constructive. You have to work towards accepting and coping with the anger you feel while avoiding blaming yourself.
Misophonia sufferers often feel remorseful and guilty because they are shamed by other people, so don’t shame yourself.
Another way to avoid anger is to try to reason with yourself about how useless anger is. Denying anger doesn’t work. When you feel angry, accept it, but don’t hold on to it. Anger clouds your mind, hurts your health, and can hurt others. Once you understand that, it will be way easier to let go of any anger you feel when you are triggered.
All of that aside, it is important to note that, since you are a human, you will get angry sometime. No matter how Zen you are, or how logically you think when you’re not triggered, every once in a while you will get angry because of a trigger. When this happens, you can try any anger management technique that exists, as they exist for this very reason. Below are some of the best ways to cope with anger:
Distracting Yourself: This is a very common coping technique and easier said than done. It’s still worth trying, though. If you hear a trigger and start to get angry, don’t focus on it. Instead, distract yourself in any healthy way. Focusing on anger only intensifies it, so focus on something else. Think happy thoughts, work out a complex math problem in your head, have something to eat or drink, listen to music or read a book – do anything that lets you stop thinking about how angry you are and focuses your mind on more positive things.
Counting to 10: Thomas Jefferson famously said, “When angry, count to 10, before you speak; if very angry, 100.” While this may seem like a useless thing to do, it truly is effective when you’re angry. Slowly counting to any number distracts you, passes time, and gives your body a chance to calm down. For example, counting to 10 might be enough to get your heart rate down a bit, and that will do a lot of good for you, both physically and mentally, as you will begin to feel calmer and your arousal will decrease.
Breathing Exercises: While this could be lumped in with distracting yourself or counting to 10, it can be a separate and very effective way to cope with anger. When you’re angry, take a deep breath. It will slow down your heart rate. You can distract yourself by counting how many seconds you inhale, holding your breath for a second or two, and counting how many second you exhale. The American Psychological Association recommends taking deep breaths from the diaphragm, so avoid shallow ones from the chest. It doesn’t matter how specific you get, as long as the main idea stays the same. Inhale slowly, take a second to relax, and exhale, and you should feel much better and way less angry.
Forgiveness: This one can be a huge challenge for misophonia sufferers, but it’s a very good tactic for coping with anger. When you feel triggered, try to simply forgive the person. It definitely does feel like the person triggering you is being either incredibly rude or doing it on purpose, but chances are that neither is the case. If someone is breathing loud, they might just have a cold. If someone is tapping their fingers or shaking their legs, it could be a nervous habit for them. So, while it is a challenge, it is important to not take things personally and learn to forgive, as it will help your anger at the heat of the moment and will help you feel better in the future.
Express your anger once you’re calm: Doing anything while you’re angry can be a bad idea. If you speak, you might come off as really mean or rude. If you try to fix the problem, your anger might take over and you’ll do something you regret. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to bottle up your feelings forever. Once you’re calm, you should consider how you felt when you were angry. If you have a trusted family member or friend, or you see a therapist, you should let them know how you felt. Sometimes simply saying why you were angry out loud and explaining how you felt can be a major help. You can also pour your emotions into something good like painting, writing, or music. Anything that lets your anger become something a bit more positive is a good thing.
Written by Victoria LeBlancWant to learn more? Join a Workshop with Dr. Jennifer Brout or Duke CMER at Misophonia Education.