What is anger?
Is an emotion – a strong emotion. Emotions are Energy in Motion – moves in our body And because its strong, you will feel it in your body (tightness in your shoulders..) Uncomfortable feeling. IDK anyone who likes angry people
The brain sees anger as a threat, That’s the reason why we run from what seem to be a difficult conversation. We even ran from our own anger. We teach our children versions of anger earlier in life. Be nice, don’t hit, go to your room until you know how to behave
We shame our children for expressing themselves without trying to understand
Anger can be constructive or destructive. Many of us do unhealthy things with our anger.
I want to share an easy way to think about it – I learned this from an intuition coach, her name is Juna Mustad. She said “Anger is like a child – you don’t want it to drive the car And you certainly don’t want to stuff it in the trunk either.”
Because anger is such an uncomfortable emotion, and highly stigmatized as a bad emption we haven’t developed a tool to properly relate to, and respond from this fiery emotion, So, most of us, channel our anger into one of the 2 main strategies. We get hijacked by our anger and we end up ERRUPTING (ex: you stub your toe and suddenly cursing “stupid table!” – baby sleeping and the dog barked waking baby up. When we let anger drive the car, we become aggressive, namecalling, blaming or even violent
Let’s call this group the ERRUPTERS. And then, there are the STUFFERS. We deny our anger bypassing it, rising above and stuffing it – sometimes we can’t even name it. We play it down - “I’m not angry, I'm just sad”
When we stuff anger in the trunk, we collapse our boundaries, stifle our voice, and shove anger deep in our bodies. Research shows that suppressing our anger creates a whole host of physiological issues.
Neuro Science of Anger
So, ask yourselves "How can I make anger my ally?"
For a start, we need to understand the neuro science of anger and to explain it, lets use the hand model of the brain which was developed by neuro psychiatrist Dr Dan Siegel. Your wrist represent your brain stem which controls basic bodily functions (lift up your fingers).
Your thumb represents your amygdala, and this region is the most emotional and reactive part of the brain (then close your hand). The front of your fingers represent the pre frontal cortex of your brain, and this is the wise and rational part of your brain. So when you feel angry Its because the brain’s hardwired threat response has been triggered by a perceive threat. With lightning speed, all physiological response are activated in your body, preparing you for fight
· If you are an anger eruptor
· Or flea or freeze
· If you are an anger stuffer
However, inside your brain, when the threat response is triggered, it flips your lid instantly, you lose contact with the rational pre frontal cortex and instead, the reactive emotional amygdala hijacks your brain (lets put your hands down). In essence, its like you put your 4 year old self in the driver seat. Dangerous! So how do we get the adult back in the driver seat? How do we support the wise pre frontal cortex in reclaiming the steering wheel but still allow anger to sit safely inside the car
Have you done or said something out of anger and regreted it?
And are you an anger erruptor or a stuffer?
Well, this is where mindfulness comes in. According to Dr, Shauna Shapiro - “Mindfulness is paying attention with kindness and curiosity”. When you are mindful, you can notice when anger is present, then you can look at it and curiously explore – you will get to know your anger. You will be able to catch your anger, the moment it gets triggered and you can decide what to do. If you don’t claim your anger the moment it gets triggered, it quickly hides under other emotions. Also, research has shown that mindfulness practices support the growth of regulatory fibers from the pre frontal cortex to the lower regions of our brain, helping our wiser brain to come back online when anger is present.
Four (4) Mindfulness Tools
In my work, I have shared mindfulness practices and emotional intelligence with individual clients, and some groups of parents and the following mindfulness tools are keys to growing a healthy relationship with anger
So, lets all take a deep breath right now
This one is so obvious right? But it’s the first thing we forget. Taking deep breaths engages the parasympathetic nervous system and sends a signal to our body that soothes threat response. Taking us back to a more relaxed state. When you notice some tension or anger in your body, the first practice is slowing things down by taking deep breaths
· NAME IT
· A well known study conducted in UCLA found that when you name your emotion, it puts a break on your physiological dysregulation, and calms the amygdala hijacked. So when you notice anger, without judgement say, “I feel angry” or “I feel tension on my shoulders”. It will help your vocabulary of feelings – a step to emotional intelligence.
ACCESS A CALMING ARMOUR
You need to discover what is your personal anger antidote – this is not one size fits all, but I want to share what some of my clients use. Lets use something that everyone has an access to. When you feel rage and resentment bubble up,– you can take out your phone and look at your favorite picture. Its impossible to be angry when youre laughing or feel loved. Can you use humor and love to dissolve your irritation? When you find yourself erupting in anger, try feeling compassion. Research shows that compassion decrease the cortisol level – stress hormone, and increase the good hormone oxytocin
Your anger has been trying to tell you something. So its time to listen, have a conversation with your anger. With genuine curiosity, ask your anger, “what do I need to see right now that I’ve been unwilling to face?”
“what needs to be protected or supported?”
· “what actions do I need to take right now?”
Anger erupts when what you believe should’ve happen, didn’t. Go back to the starting point, what was it that you didn’t get?
Approval? Understanding? Respect?
Was a promise broken? Did you feel betrayed?
An easy way to remember these tools. When you flip your lid because of anger, there are four (4) fingers on your pre frontal cortex that needs to come back online:
· BREATHE, NAME IT, ACCESS A CALMING ARMOUR, GET CURIOUS
Anger as an Ally
When we see anger as an ally instead of foe, we open to the many gifts that this emotion offer. When anger is our ally, we see this emotion as a red flashing warning light for the things that we, or others are trespassing.
Anger reveals our boundaries
Anger urges us to come out of denial, and see clearly. Hiding out from anger will squeeze you into silence or poison you with cynicism. Anger hangs around until we take action on what we see.
Anger Inspires Action
Anger is a strong emotional launch that puts our desire to change, in motion. When we learn to channel anger, it’s the most powerful ally we have. But you can’t use your anger if you believe it to be bad or scary.
Anger Fuels the Courage to Change
So next time when you get angry, pause and get to know this potent ally