“You will not be punished for your anger,
you will be punished by your anger.”
Anger is a part of the sympathetic nervous system which is in charge of our flight fight reactions. In a primal way we needed it to save ourselves from danger, to boost our energy levels, to help us fight or run, but in a suffocated way we now use it to gauge when our values have been violated, or to control our self-respecting boundaries. We also use it to vent our frustration or when we feel overwhelmed due to stressors in our environment. The reason why so many people have problems controlling it is because they allow their body to take control and immediately react to a perceived threat. So, anger is a safety mechanism from our caveman days which no longer serves us.
When you become extremely angry you are no longer able to think clearly and process your thoughts logically. Your thoughts and feelings start at the brain stem enter the emotional brain and there you react. The thoughts and feeling do not even make it through the prefrontal cortex or logical brain. So there is no reasoning of the reactions.
Let’s take for example whilst driving another driver cuts you off and you become angry. It’s not the act of the other person which makes you angry. It’s the way your mind is processing the act. You are actually giving somebody else control over your thinking and emotions at this point.
Anger is a choice. Let’s say your child has been gigging or skipping school for 3 months, you find out about it and you are suddenly angry. It wasn’t the gigging which caused you to be angry because if it was, you would be angry 3 months ago. It’s the knowing of the act and the way your mind has processed that act which made you angry. If you didn’t know about it then you could not be angry, right?
Anger is damaging to your health. The Mental Health foundation stated that long term and intense anger has been linked with mental health problems including depression, anxiety and self-harm. It is also linked to poor physical health as well.
Here at Adrian Spear - Mindfulness Training & Counselling we look at the reasons behind the anger, the triggers, look at the thought processes that influence the body, then design solution based techniques to manage the anger and bring about a calmer emotionally stable future for the client. Anger management is our forte. There are many ways to deal with anger. Here are just a couple of ways to deal with this negative emotion:
1. Notice the physiological cues which bring about anger in you. For example: Increased heart rate and breathing, jaw or fist clenching, sweaty palms, immobility, irrational thoughts etc.
2. When you notice these physiological cues arising then say to yourself or say out loud “STOP!” This is known as thought stopping.
3. When you feel that you are going to explode with anger then count to ten first, allowing time for the logical brain to catch up. You will then realise that you don’t need to explode.
4. Distance yourself from the situation. Take a long mindfulness walk or go to another room.
5. Participate in strenuous exercise.
6. Punch a bean bag or pillow or punching bag (for non-violent persons only).
7. Start an activity which will require all your attention.
8. Use a relaxation technique.
10. Take long slow deep breaths.
11. Think about how to respond to someone which has provoked anger in you. Use "I feel angry when you....."
12. Keep a journal of your anger, what caused it & what physiological cues are present.
13. Find a support person to help (Friend, Family Member, Mindfulness Trainer, Meditation Teacher or Counsellor, etc)
An old Chinese proverb:
“If you are patient in one moment of anger,
you will escape 100 days of sorrow”
Anger is also damaging to relationships and society. I’d like to mention a story from the book called “Fathers who dare, win” by Ian Grant.
There was once a very upset boy who was constantly angry. His father gave him a hammer, a bag of nails and took him over to the backyard wooden fence. The father said that every time the boy got angry, he was to hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the boy hammered 37 nails into the fence, then next day 20 and the next 10.
One day the boy went to his dad and said that he didn’t get angry that day. The father took him outside to the fence and said that each day he didn’t get angry he was to remove one nail. Gradually the boy pulled out all the nails from the fence even though there were a couple of angry days in between.
When the boy had removed all the nails from the fence, he went back to his father telling him of his success. The proud father took his boy back to the fence and showed him all the scares from where the nails were. The father then said: “Each time we react with anger we leave scares like these nails did, that may never ever heal.”
Through meditation you will be able to increase the distance in between an event (stimulus) which you would normally react to with anger and choose to respond in a calmer way or just accept what is. Your first job is to notice the physiological cues which lead to Anger. Your next job is not to react but allow yourself time to manage the emotion positively without erupting.