Often clients will come to see me for managing their emotions, especially anger. Anger is one of our basic human emotions and is one of the most easily recognisable ones. It is our reaction to a perceived harmful event and is a part of our flight/fight/freeze response. When our mind senses that we are in danger of some kind, it needs to jump in and react - and quickly!
When this happens all of the body’s attention is moved to the extremities; in the case of anger the arms and the legs so that we can throw a good punch or kick, or be able to defend and protect ourselves (or those around us.) We need to puff ourselves up and be loud and intimidating to our predator/assailant. Cortisol and adrenaline and noradrenalin (stress hormones) start to course through our bodies, and we are ready for action!
Obviously, as rational human beings, we know that this is unlikely to be the best outcome for many situations in our modern-day lives, but our more primitive area of the mind doesn't understand this. It senses our stress levels starting to rise and jumps in to try and help us out. Often our minds can pattern-match to past events that have triggered the anger response and repeat it. Commonly, when we are under stress, feeling anxious, depressed, or sleep-deprived, we can notice that anger is more prevalent, whether that is anger towards others or anger turned inwards towards ourselves. Angry outbursts then can lead to feelings of guilt and/or remorse, especially if it has been directed towards a loved one.
It is rarely the situation itself that causes us to react in this way, rather the way we have interpreted these events and our thought patterns around them.
Our minds can’t understand the difference between imagination and reality, and just thinking about situations in a negative way can cause unwanted physiological responses in our bodies.
For example, if we are sat at home getting steadily more agitated by just thinking about someone that has wound us up, or treated us unfairly etc. we can notice the changes in our body and mind.
Anger is not a pleasant feeling and can take the body up to an hour to return to a normal state. Prolonged exposure to the stress hormones associated with anger can actually destroy neurons in the brain in the areas that affect judgement and rational thought, and can actually shrink the brain.
Higher cortisol levels also have an impact on:
• short term memory
• decrease your serotonin levels (one of your happy chemicals)
• the cardiovascular system in a negative way (blood pressure/stroke/arterial tension etc.)
• your digestive system
• your immune system
Sleep can also be impacted by high levels of stress, and often when we are less rested, we are less likely to be able to regulate our mood and emotions. According to National Sleep Federation the ‘walking tired’ are more likely to get in arguments and quarrel with others, and they are likely to be the ones seething as they sit in traffic jams.
When should you seek help?
If you find that anger is negatively affecting your relationships with your partner, children, relatives, friends, colleagues then it's time to address it.
Help can come in many forms from visiting your GP, peer support groups through mental health charities such as Mind or through the NHS, or even finding someone to talk with that is outside of the situation such as the Samaritans can be useful.
Other useful tools may be reading self-help books or by using apps such as mindfulness, meditation or anger management apps. (AIMS, Pacifica, Simple Habit, Calm, TemperTab, LifeArmor, Aura, Concussion Coach, Headspace, Breethe, Happify, Moodpath, Wysa, Youper, Self-help for Anxiety Management.)
You may also decide to go down the one-to-one therapy route and try something such as hypnotherapy which is extremely effective in helping to address anger.
A good hypnotherapist will help you to recognise the sources of anger in your life, and allow you to identify more useful ways of expressing your emotions. This may be by teaching and identifying some self-help tools that have worked in the past, or perhaps new ones that you can use if you can feel your anger rising.
Such tools will also encourage healthy communication, and perhaps work on boosting your confidence, self-esteem, improving sleep quality, and reducing stress amongst other things. This will allow calm responses and measured levels of assertiveness to be there when you need it, instead of reactive anger. The use of the trance state itself can be extremely useful to calm down the nervous system, and give you increased access and focus to the part of your mind that makes the good, balanced, decisions, assessments, and reactions to the world around you.