I’ve just been writing about my own recent experience of anger (on my blog www.maxineharley.com) and this brought home to me just how important it is to understand anger – both in ourselves and others – and to take control of it, and diminish its power. That particular episode I wrote about today I have attributed to my menopausal hormonal imbalance – which is a new source of anger for me. I’m used to expecting my anger to arise only in predicatable situations such as slow queues, laptop malfunctions, smarmy sales staff, and the ‘big stuff’ of cruelty, exploitation, oppression and discrimination.
An ability to feel and express the early levels of anger is beneficial and necessary – your safety and personal boundaries depend upon it. However if allowed to build anger can grow into a grotesque monster that causes damage and destruction. It’s all very well receiving well-intentioned advice to stay calm, get things into perspective, take a few deep breaths, and recite a mantra or self-help affirmation….or even to bash your anger out onto pillows and cushions; but these won’t help you to control it. You can’t think, plan and take action when your brain has been hijacked and you are an emotional hostage. You have to learn how to become aware of what anger feels like as it grows inside you; you have to be ready to divert and soothe it in its early stages.
Unless your anger stems from chemical/hormonal imbalances, or brain damage, you will probably notice – if you allow yourself to become aware – changes in your bodily sensations and facial expressions, and non-verbal communications as you move from mild irritation to annoyance, to anger, and then to fury and rage. All have their own ‘feel’ about them. If you don’t diffuse the early stages they can accumulate and become stored – which is unhealthy for the mind and body – until they explode like a dam bursting; or equally bad implode into a collapse!
Have a think – whilst you are in your calm, adult, rational, sensible brain state – of the incidents that are likely to generate these different levels of anger in your mind and body. Notice how each level affects you and how you want to react. When you get up to the furious and raging levels it may not be possible to ‘think’ about it or give yourself an overview – because when these stages have taken hold in the past you would have been totally immersed in your emotional/limbic brain state of activity – and not have access to your thinking brain.
Our children, grandchildren, foster-children, step-children – in fact all children – need to see us model to them the ability to calm and soothe our own emotional state. That’s how they learn to do it for themselves, particularly if we can talk with them and help them to acess, name and understand their own emotional triggers and reactions. Society then benefits, and it starts with you and me…..hormones permitting in my case!