Maybe you’ve had those times when something has ticked you off.
Perhaps you were a bit low on sleep or feeling “hangry”, but something set you off.
It could have been the person who said something they shouldn’t, or that crazy driver who decided to overtake you, only to cross in front of you and then slow down for no apparent reason… weirdo.
Anyway, whatever the reason we all have things that get on our nerves and under our skin, with some things that do it more than others.
It could simply be that you like things to be as they should be, and when someone does something or says something, it affects you and you’re not even sure why.
The Villain with a Thousand Faces
Anger can come in many forms… Sometimes it can be the red-faced explosive variety, but other times it can simmer away and show itself in various forms that you might never attach to anger, such as general frustration, anxiety, stress, and fear.
And in many cases, it legitimately serves a valuable purpose as the catalyst to act in a dangerous or harmful situation.
The problem is when the mind doesn’t know the difference between a physical threat, and an emotional one.
But make no mistake, anger can become chronic, yet so subtle in your life, that you may not even realise it’s operating in such a day-to-day manner without you being consciously aware of it.
Or the damage it may be causing you.
But What’s The Cost?
The NICABM (National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine)in an article on the subject, lists some of the negative physical effects of anger.
It’s been found to impact the immune system, causing thyroid functions which regulate hormones controlling functions throughout the body, not just for heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular), but also metabolic rate, digestive system (which I will cover in a moment), and brain development.
Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a neuroscientist with the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said until around a decade ago many scientists had "pretty much assumed that the human brain stopped developing in early childhood," but recent research has found that many regions of the brain continue to develop for a long time afterwards.
Prof Blakemore has even suggested that parts of the brain continue developing well into a person’s 30s or even late 40s.
Moving on from the brain, we rediscover that anger is pretty famous for causing problems with the digestive system, made famous by what I would call the “Hollywood Ulcer” shown in many movies, like 1994’s “Dumb and Dumber”, even though technically, you would need a bacterial infection or anti-inflammation medication, stress can still be a powerful catalyst in creating these painful stomach problems.
If that wasn’t enough, it’s also been found to severely hinder the cardiovascular system, causing chronically increased heart rate, blood pressure, arterial tension, blood glucose level, blood fatty acid levels, as well as causing further problems with eyesight, headaches, migraines and even bone density.
So What Can You Do About it?
There is a wealth of information available today on how to manage emotions, but since you’re here, I’ll run you through my very simple 3 phase solution to start making progress today.
Phase 1: Become aware
With any problem, our first instinct may be to fix it as soon as possible, but actually, that would be missing a step.
I would suggest you keep a notebook, or note-taking app on your phone, and any time you feel anger flaring up go through some simple questions.
Note: Don’t try to repress the anger, it will only make you sick… simply be with the emotion and know that for the moment, it’s ok to feel the way you do.
Q1. What actually happened?
Take a step back and see it from an outside perspective… as if you were a Police Officer investigating your own life, but that Police Officer can’t see into your head and know your feelings, so they must go on the facts alone… so, what are the facts?
Q2. What did I want to happen?
This could also be “How would I have liked it to happen?”
Emotions are caused very simply when our expectation or demand for a particular reality, doesn’t match the perceived reality we are being given…
Basically, when we wanted chocolate, but were given broccoli.
So, What was the chocolate you were hoping for compared to the broccoli (see question 1) you were given?
Phase 2: Is there a better way?
Now you have an understanding of why you are angry… that’s great, you’re closer to a solution just getting that far!
The next step is to think of alternative ways of framing what happened and coming up with alternatives to how you could respond.
You see, if I lined up 100 people of similar age, and I was to aggressively shout in the face of each one, I would most likely have 100 (or close to it) different responses.
Some would be upset, some would recoil, some would immediately want to know why, some would simply give me a slap…
Whatever your initial reaction… once the moment has passed, look back on your question notes and see, what other ways could I have thought of that?
And was the other person even under any obligation to act in a way that I wanted in the first place?
Phase 3: Practice makes almost perfect
This is the easy part… Just do Phase 1 and 2 so often that your more conscious and thought out approach becomes your most natural and instinctive.
But remember to give yourself a break if you don’t get it right all the time… let’s be honest, no one does.
But what you can do is make sure you are enjoying a quality of life that you have chosen, and not one that is chosen for you by a part of your mind that only knows to fight or flee.
It’s been my pleasure to provide you with this guidance and I hope you’ve found it both entertaining and educational.
No doubt there may even be the odd person who is made angry by it, thinking that a problem that they’ve held for so long couldn’t possibly be so simple to solve.
Well, although the steps I’ve highlighted above are simple, I’m not for a second saying they will be easy, so once again, be accepting of yourself if you don’t get it right the first time, second time or eighty-second time.
You’re only human.