Everyone thinks that anger management is about finding a solution to what you should do when you are about to explode. People ask me all the time: “What do I do right before I am going to lose it?” The expect me to tell them some secrete breathing technique or a magical phrase to say that will instantly make their anger go away. They are asking the wrong question. In fact, that is not anger management at all. Managing your anger is not figuring out what to do when you anger is at a 10. Anger management is taking care of your fuse so that you never get to a 10 in the first place.

Your “fuse” is a way to talk about how much tolerance you have left before you explode. How much do you have left in the tank, or in reserve? Your fuse is indirectly proportional to the anger scale (1-10) that we talked about in “your brain on anger” from step 2. If your anger is at a 0, then that means you have a full 10 units of fuse left. You are completely at peace, and you have a ton of tolerance left before you blow up. When a conflict comes along, no problem. You have plenty of fuse left so you can deal with it easily. However, if you anger is at a 10, that means you have 0 units of fuse left. It’s all gone. And just like a bomb, when the fuse is gone, get ready for an explosion.

To understand short fuses, let’s start at the beginning. Everyone is born with a fuse that is roughly 10 units long. A lot of people think that short fuses are genetic and that there is nothing they can do about it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even if genetics is not on your side, there is still a lot that you can do.

That’s because fuses change. They don’t stay the way they were when you were born. So even though everyone starts out with a 10-unit fuse, over time some people burn their fuses up. If you burn up some of your fuse, then there is not as much left. You are working with a shorter fuse then you were before. And when that happens, you have used up some of your fuse before the problem ever happens. That means they have less fuse in reserve to deal with the situation when it comes. Say you were born with a fuse that was 10 units long, but you have done some things that have burned up 4 or 5 units of fuse. That means that before a problem ever happens, you are already starting on a 4 or 5 on the anger scale. You only have 5-6 units left. You are at a serious disadvantage here, because you are starting at a 4 or 5 before there is ever a problem.

How short is your fuse?

Excerpt from Michael Ballard’s book Taking Control of Your Anger: A Step-by-step Guide to Anger Management