Anger management: What it's really all about
Why do we get angry?
Have you ever found yourself flying into a rage and then later on in the day hating yourself and wondering where it came from and why you overreacted so dramatically?
Anger is a perfectly normal emotion and evolved thousands of years ago as a ‘helping’ mechanism that made us brave and strong so that we would be able to cope with danger: saber-toothed tigers and club-wielding cavemen. Anger is our brain’s primitive response to danger.
Of course, that doesn’t answer the question as to why you fly off the handle because the fridge door has been left open or someone’s nicked your parking spot. After all, these things aren’t dangerous! Or are they?
As a mechanism, anger is originated in the fight or flight part of the brain, and when it evolved if it was stressful it was trying to kill us. Of course, since then life has evolved and saber-toothed tigers have been replaced with irritating work colleagues and traffic jams. Sadly though our primitive brain hasn’t learnt to distinguish between non-threatening and threatening stress.
But that still doesn’t answer the question as to why some people seem to cope easily with life’s daily trails and tribulations, while others fly off the handle at the smallest provocation. And the answer to that lies in the total amount of stress/danger that your brain “thinks” is around you.
Stress can build up really slowly over a long period of time and often we cope and we cope and we cope until one day we reach a critical level, and then bam! The man in the car in front of you, taking 0.34 seconds longer to move back into the slow lane than you think he should, so you can get to that appointment for which you are already late, has you incandescent with rage!
Why anger is like a small child
Now anger does have some useful features. As well as making us brave and strong, it can also be motivating (“I am quitting this job where I am so undervalued and everyone treats me like their own personal slave!”), and it acts as a safety valve.
This means that having a temper tantrum can ease the pressure back to just below critical, but 20 minutes later when your trying to pay for your parking and the woman at the machine seems to be determined to pay in five pence pieces for a lifetimes worth of parking, you’re off again! Nothing is solved, you feel angry and upset with yourself, and sometimes you may find that it has just made everything worse.
So, on the whole, anger is about as helpful as a small child offering to help with the cooking. You know they mean well, but you also know that there is likely to be an awful lot of mess at the end of it!
The side effects of anger
As you fly off the handle, you may be thinking to yourself: “This is not good for me! I can feel my heart pounding. I just know I’m going to have a heart attack if this keeps up.”. Maybe your relationships or your work is suffering. You can’t sleep. You’re not eating properly, and maybe you are starting to develop other symptoms such as:
- high blood pressure
- acid indigestion
- skin complaints.
What to do about it
Well fortunately there is lots that you can do, and the attack is two pronged:
1. Reducing the brains perception of danger
This requires a change in thought and sleep patterns, with good quality sleep being particularly important in anger management.
This can be difficult to do on your own initially and that is where a hypnotherapist can help.
2. Raising your ‘critical’ level
This is also known as increasing resilience and is key. The three main ways to do this are:
- Positive activity
Ensuring that everyday includes activities that make you feel fulfilled and worthwhile.
- Positive interaction
Ensuring that everyday includes some kind of positive interaction with people that you enjoy, who make you feel good about yourself.
- Positive thoughts
Creating positive thought patterns around your life - both past and future.
These three don’t have to be big things, but they do have an impact. A good hypnotherapist can again help to create goals around these three things and then help you to make them happen.