de-escalation post asked for a post on de-escalating yourself. I'll say up front: I'm on shakier ground here. I have professional training and personal experience in de-escalating others, and I can't say the same for self-de-escalation. I'm a naturally meek person (offline); I'm more likely to apologize and back off than to press a confrontation, and the last time I struck someone in anger, a camp counselor put me in time-out. But I'll try and bring my Armchair Psychology A-Game here.
Let your body relax.
A fun fact I learned from mental health workers: your hands know that you're losing control before you do. They'll make fists before you realize that you're about to explode. Catch them and undo it. Close your eyes, take a big deep breath, and as you slowly let it out, unclench your hands and let them hang. You can only get so angry if you have relaxed hands.
Do all the cliche touchy-feely yoga things. They're cliche because they actually work. Deep breaths. Relaxed muscles. Count numbers in your head. Imagine peaceful things. It'll slow down your bodily response--the pounding heart and pumping adrenaline--and it's a lot easier to think clearly when your body isn't screaming "RUN IT'S A BEAR!" at your brain.
Figure out what you want.
If you're upset, it's because something in the world is different than you want it to be. Ask yourself what that thing is, and how you realistically want the other person to change it. This isn't Occupy Wall Street; there's no point in having an argument if you don't have a demand. It may not be tangible--it may be "I want you to promise to be more considerate" or "I want you to express appreciation for my work"--but it has to be something. If all you can express is "I have angry feelings," there's nothing they can do about that unless you can lay out a plan that would make you less angry.
If there's nothing they can do, if they've firmly established there's nothing they will do, or if they've given you what you asked for and you're still angry: stop arguing with them. There's literally nothing you can accomplish. Remove yourself and calm yourself, because there's nothing left to argue about.
It's okay to have a heated discussion to convince someone to behave differently. It's not okay to have a heated discussion to convince them that they're bad. That's not a decent thing to do to a person and it cannot possibly produce a useful result. If you find yourself arguing the thesis "you are bad and you should feel bad," stop. There is absolutely nowhere good that can go. If you want them to apologize, change their ways, or make amends to you, say so directly. A litany of why they're so bad--even if every bit of it is true--will only make both of you feel terrible.
Don't poke your own sore spots.
In my case, this means "Don't read YouTube comments." Here's the Chrome plugin that lets you hide them, and it's saved me gallons of wasted adrenaline. (The tipping point was looking at videos of astronauts, and seeing pages upon pages of "hilarious" comments that the female astronauts should get back in the space kitchen. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE.) I also shouldn't read MRA websites, news articles about "the latest disturbing teen trend," or letters from my mother that start with "I'm very concerned."
If there's a particular situation or topic that sets you off every time--just stay away from it. It can be very tempting to seek out these things because they grab your attention and set your mind going, but you always feel worse after exposing yourself to them. Go look at puppies instead. Unless puppies make you angry; then you have to know your limits and stop yourself before you start getting sucked down into the puppy-hatred-spiral.
I wasn't kidding about the puppies. When you're cooling down from something enraging, go do something you enjoy, something totally unrelated. Play your favorite videogame, go for a run, knit a few more rows on your project, something that keeps your mind and body busy. Give yourself permission to have fun with it and totally lose yourself in it for a little while. Even if the angry thing still bothers you afterwards, it won't have the same heat and bite it did before.
Hurting yourself, damaging your possessions, or "letting it out" by pounding pillows or screaming are not helpful distractions. Do something nice for yourself.
When all else fails, physically remove yourself.
If you feel like you truly can't handle yourself--if you feel certain that the next thing out of your mouth is going to end your relationship or your job or reduce the other person to tears or make them afraid for their safety--just leave. Walk away. Put a closed door between yourself and the person you might attack. Is it weird and rude to walk out of the room mid-argument? Yes. It's just not nearly as weird and rude as what you were about to say. It'll be easier to apologize later for walking out than it would be to apologize for acting like a complete shithead.
And if you feel like you're at risk of physically lashing out at the other person in any way, you have a moral obligation to stop yourself by getting far enough away that you can't reach them. You're not going to slap your lover or shake your kid if you're in a different room, not unless you have advanced tele-slapping technology installed in your house, and avoiding that is worth any amount of weirdness.
Get real help if you need it.
As with the other de-escalation article, these tips (and especially the last one) are Sometimes Foods. If you find that you need them frequently, that you're always easing yourself down from an explosion, you need more help than a sex blog with pop-psych pretensions can give you. A professional counselor can give you a whole lot more help than I can if you have a serious anger problem. Here's a guide to finding low-cost mental health care in the US and Canada.
Phew. I really want to write about sex again. Next post is a Cosmocking.