By Ron Huxley, LMFT
Anger Makes You Stupid:
I know this sounds rude but it is a fact of science. When we get angry our “thinking brain” is literally hijacked by our “emotional brain.” This is nature’s way of forcing us to react instantly to a danger or threat. You don’t want to stop and contemplate the dynamics of your situation when a car is speeding right at you! You need to move NOW! That is what the emotional brain does to protect you.
Unfortunately, the “emotional brain” doesn’t worry if the danger is real or not. It just acts. In our hectic, high tech, modern society many things can trigger our “emotional brain” into action. For some of us, we are being hijacked continually throughout the day due to repeat stressors as the “emotional brain” considers any stress to be a danger.
To illustrate how anger makes us stupid (suspends reasoning), remember a time when you got really angry. Did you say things you wish you hadn’t said or do things you wish you hadn’t done? That is the “emotional brain” at work. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a victim to your own emotions. You can learn to manage them instead of letting them manage (or mismanage) you!
You are already an expert on your problems. You know what anger and aggression has done to you and your family. Has this knowledge helped you control it? I didn’t think so. Focusing on your problems will only help you understand where you’ve been. It can never tell you where you need to go or how to change it. What you need are solutions to your problems!
Now I don’t want to invalidate the painful experiences you might have suffered in your life that have led you to be angry. Those were very real experiences. I also don’t want to pretend you haven’t hurt other people in your life with your anger. We have to take responsibility for our actions. I simply want to help you focus on what works, instead of doesn’t work, when it comes to anger.
One way to help you focus on solutions instead of problems is to think of a time when anger did not control your life! Remember a time when anger was not the main character in your life story. What was different about this time versus times when anger was present? How were you different? How do other people in your life act? Be specific. If someone walked in and observed you without anger what would he or she see you saying or doing?
More of the same:
When you don’t have the right solution-focused tools to control anger and aggression, you end up doing “more of the same.” What you have been doing hasn’t worked but since you don’t know what else to do, you just keep on doing it. Out of desperation, you try variations of what hasn’t worked hoping that this time it might. IT WON’T! Instead of doing “more of the same,” try something new — anything new!
Science calls this the Habituation Response. It simply means that you get stuck in your old ways of doing things. Without new ideas or insights you can’t get unstuck. Husbands and wives fight constantly on the same old issues. Parents and children power struggle about the same subjects. Employers and employees cycle around the same problems. Are you seeing repeat patterns in your life! Getting more and more frustrated because nothing changes for long? You are doing more of the same. Do something different!
Myths of Anger Management:
There are lot of myths in our society about how to control anger and aggression. The biggest myth is that “if you let it out, it goes away!” This is called the “volcano myth” because on the venting that occurs and the destruction that results from just letting it all out.
It is true that when you let off a little steam you feel a little better. But where did the problem go? Is it gone? NO. In fact, letting it out may have caused a bigger problem to develop. If you got mad and stormed off in your car you may have gotten into an accident or received a ticket. Now you have something else to be mad about. If you punched a hole in the wall you will have to repair the wall…and maybe your hand. How did that help you? If you threw a tantrum and yelled at a loved one, friend, or boss what did that do to your relationship? Now both of you are angry and looking for revenge! “Letting it out” may feel good in the short-term but it doesn’t help you in the long-term.
Anger is Power:
Ben Franklin once said: “Anger has a purpose, but seldom a good one!” What he meant is that anger is not inherently a bad thing but people have LEARNED that anger and aggression give them power over others. A child learns that a tantrum will get them a toy even when mom said no. Parents learn that yelling gets their child’s attention even though no one is happy afterwards. Employers know that they can get results, in the short-term, by intimidating or harassing others. Spouses use anger to control one another. And so the sad story goes…
With power comes responsibility. What is the negative result of your anger? Is it really worth it in the long run? How have anger and aggression affected your relationships, health, and career? It is time to take responsibility for yourself before you lose/hurt all the important people and things in your life.
Stop YELLING at your kids to get them to cooperate!
Stop NAGGING your spouse to help a little!
Stop FRUSTRATION from ruining your work day!
Contact Ron Huxley today for more information on how to get the right anger tools to better manage your anger. Online coaching and consultations are available for court-ordered anger management requirements. Email Ron now at firstname.lastname@example.org