Life Lessons

How do you Avoid Flying Off the Handle?

Are you familiar with the idiomatic expression “fly off the handle”?

Well, for clarity sake and to do away with ambiguity, it means: to lose one’s temper suddenly and unexpectedly.

I’m no anger management expert. But we all must admit that anger is a natural feeling that we all feel as humans, and to different degrees, levels of control and ability to express.

However, anger can be an emotion that is often channelled negatively, and this is where it becomes a problem.

Whether or not you actually have or think you might have an existing anger problem, this post serves to offer some real-life tips to manage this and prevent it from being destructive.

It’s like learning how to defuse a bomb.

While I’ll be giving some pointers, methods that I’ve personally used and worked for me, this list is not at all exhaustive and all-encompassing.

Anger Management itself is more complex than meets the eye.

How would you like to be able to say the above quote?

So let’s dig in, shall we?

BREATHE

I love to practice breathing exercises. They’ve been proven to be very calming and relaxing. So when you sense that tension rising up inside of you, do breathe in and out slowly and for a few minutes. Do it subtly too. If you don’t want to do this, you can simply count numbers till you feel calm enough to act. The goal is to relax the nerves and reduce tension in them.

Amidst breathing, some also like to practice reciting mantras. I particularly know of a lady that would say to herself “inner peace” whenever she found herself in a situation that might make her lose her cool. You can use any set of words that would work for you, maybe even say a short quiet prayer or simply reaffirm who you are regardless of the situation. Reminding yourself of these things would also help.

Remember: pause and breathe. It helps you think before you act.

EVALUATE THE SITUATION

After having a few seconds or minutes to clear your head, there’s a border for a decision to be made, to either:

  1. Walk away or
  2. Respond in kindness

As for walking away, sometimes, this is the easiest to do, and other times, it’s the hardest. Just walking away, till the problem sorts itself out, till things are calmer or ignoring till you can think more clearly and take action steps that you’re sure won’t lead to regrets.

Wisdom is profitable to be applied here too, as humans we could get mixed up in issues we have little or no business with, so it’s important to ask ‘am I minding my business here?’, is being reactive beneficial? Does this validate an immediate response or am I better off walking away?

We talk a lot about choosing to be proactive instead; not letting others determine or control our actions, it’s choosing in advance how we want to respond to certain probable situations or scenarios.

It’s saying, “today, regardless I won’t lose my cool”, or let someone’s bad or negative attitude impact or affect me from maintaining a positive one”. This is actually not easy to do and easier said than done. It’s a mind over matter thing. Our minds are incredibly powerful tools and can be trained.

Taking a few seconds to think really helps decide the best course of action. If it’s difficult or impossible to walk away, do the suggestion above. It works too. When having to handle an unavoidable confrontation, try practising the next step.

DO THE OPPOSITE

Ever heard of mirror neurons?

It is said that the human brain tends to act in a way that mimics the behaviour of the person we might be interacting with. It’s why when one person yells, the other instinctively also yells. We have this natural inborn tendency to copy expressions and actions. But we can train our brains and rewire it such that we do the opposite. We whisper when the other yells. This act takes the other person off guard and it douses the fire.

Here’s some biblical wisdom other than what science and psychology have to teach us about our biology and behaviour respectively.

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Proverbs 15:1 KJV.

At this juncture, I would like to narrate a story told by a psychology professor. He was teaching about the above scripture verse.

So one day, he asked his students, ‘why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they’re upset?

The students thought for a while. One said because we lose our calm. But why shout when the other person is just next to you? Asked the professor. Isn’t it possible to speak to him/her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you’re angry?

The students gave some answers but none satisfied the professor. Finally, he explained, ‘when two people are angry at each other, there is a distance in their hearts psychologically. To cover the distance, they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will shout to hear each other through that great distance.’

Then the professor asked, ‘what happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly. Why? Because their hearts are psychologically close. The distance between them is very close. The professor continued, ‘when they love each other even more, what happens? They don’t speak, only whisper and they even get closer to each other in their love. Finally, they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all.

So next time you shout on a loved one, know that you’re creating distance between your heart and that person’s heart.

I saw a statement that said, “love doesn’t fly off the handle”.

So maybe an anger problem is sometimes a love problem.

For this, I pray: Teach us to love Jesus, to love like you, the way you will have us love others.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end.
1 Corinthians 13:3‭-‬7 MSG

I’ve never heard of a case scenario where flying off the handle has ever proved to be helpful or beneficial to anyone. It’s a toxic trait that often causes a lot more harm than good, and I hope we all are able to do away with, myself included (yeah, of course, I’m not perfect. Not an infallible human, but definitely a work in progress).

To imbibe patience, gentleness, and meekness. These things aren’t easy in themselves, though they come more naturally to some. However, regardless of temperament or personality type, the good news is that all behaviour is learned, good or bad, and habits can be changed. For our greatest superpower as humans is the unique gift of adaptability.

Do you have any tips you use? Kindly share in the comments what has worked for you so far and how you avoid flying off the handle in presenting life situations.

Love and Grace,

© Zizi 2020.

19 thoughts on “How do you Avoid Flying Off the Handle?”

  1. Thanks for the write up Zizi. All your points are valid and true!

    It is also good we learn to let minor matters go, truly go from our hearts and mind without bottling it up because we don’t want to “fly off the handle”.

    Overreacting or bottling up hurt emotions are equally damaging. So if we must react, react calming but if not, truly let it go.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s true. Repressing emotions is also not healthy. We need to retreat till we’re able to calmly express ourselves in a way that is mutually beneficial and brings understanding…

      Like

  2. Very insightful. The professor’s insight also made me laugh hard,which is very true & practical. I personally keep silent&walk away when I’m angry. If I can’t walk away in the situation,my silence could be very torturing to the victims.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the story, walking away is a good choice. Silence is golden, but please don’t torture people for too long via silent treatment, when prolonged its actually not so good. 24-72hrs max should be enough for you to calm down and think things through, anymore more would be unbearable. Although the Bible says to not let the sun go down on our anger, meaning God expects us to make resolutions before a day’s end. Part of making a resolution can be choosing to pick up the conversation another day and time…

      Like

  3. Zizi, thank you for sharing the lesson the professor taught. “When two people are angry at each other, there is a distance in their hearts psychologically. To cover the distance, they must shout…” What a wise observation. It helps put a person yelling in a different perspective. They are most likely “feeling” unloved or distant at that moment. It can frame a completely different reaction to shouting with that thought in mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve just learned of this new expression. ‘Flying off the handle ‘ very well explained.

    The professor story is very educative I’ve loved it. So many lessons in one post. I’ve never heard of mirror neurons and the way you’ve explained makes a lot of sense. If only we could be taught such priceless knowledge from an early stage.

    “We whisper when the other yells. This act takes the other person off guard and it douses the fire.” This one hit home. 👌🏾

    A very good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed the post and were able to pick these lessons. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s deeply appreciated. Indeed, it’ll be amazing if children can understand these things at an early age. I feel psychology should be incorporated into every aspect of learning. For psychology is life, and teaches us the basics of understanding fellow humans and how to interact with them. This is a basic life skill needed from childhood right up to adulthood. However, it’s never to late to learn right? As long as we have the eagerness of a child to learn, I think we’ll all be alright. ☺

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ve said it well. As long as we are willing to learn with the eagerness of a child, it’s never to late. True these lessons should be basics in education but I feel they are intentionally not taught for a reason. Leading to ‘almost not discovering the self’ walking blindly in life.

        Welcome. I enjoyed the post a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The education system that we are on was designed and introduced at the birth of capitalism and industrialization. Then, they considered Labour as a factor of production and to capitalise on it was to train people to better fit into it. One of the important factors to achieve that would be to develop skilled people who are disciplined and easy to control. The education focusing on the outside factors neglecting personal development and self realization-for control. Just my thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Welcome. Yes, we owe to ourselves.

        A few try to seek it early enough but most of us wait for an external trigger later in life mostly for many is a painful situation that pushes us to want to grow, be more, find purpose and seek understanding of the many paradoxes of life.

        Check on kensho and satori.

        Liked by 1 person

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