Let’s Talk About Anger…
Someone slides into the parking spot you had your eye on. A coworker takes credit for your work. Your spouse runs up $500 on the credit card without discussing it first. These are things that are apt to make you angry.
And that’s okay.
Anger is a natural response to many life events. Like other emotions, anger helps us understand our world and how we feel about it. When managed well, anger can provide a healthy release and be a motivator for change and transformation. But when we experience anger to the point of becoming out of control, it can have lasting ramifications on our loved ones and our own health.
Our Brain on Anger
When anger reaches a very high level, our pre-frontal cortex, that is the part of the brain responsible for cognitive thought and reasoning, becomes hijacked. The amygdala, our primal emotional/instinctual part of the brain that induces the “fight or flight” response, takes over and we are no longer capable of rational thought.
When aroused to intense anger, our brains can no longer take in new information. This means if our partner or loved one is trying to talk to us and explain something, we literally CANNOT hear them. All we are aware of is that we must defend ourselves as if our very life depends on it. We feel under extreme attack and are ready to fight back.
How to Control Your Anger
Now that you know how your brain responds, it’s time to learn some techniques to manage intense anger to preserve the health of your relationship.
Take a Break
You know that the hotter you get, the more your brain shuts down and becomes unable to process any information. There is no sense in you continuing to talk/argue with someone. Your best course of action is to put the fire out before it begins to rage by calling a time out and taking a breather. Let your partner know you need to take a break and you’ll be back in 30-60 minutes when calmer.
In order to begin to calm yourself and think more clearly take a few deep belly breaths. Do this by breathing in for the count of 5, holding your breath for the count of 5 and exhaling for the count of 8. This will help bring your brain (pre-frontal cortex) back online sooner.
The body’s “fight or flight” response releases powerful hormones that are intended to help us fight or run. Without this physical release, they can linger in the body and cause health problems. Going for a walk, run or lifting weights can be a great way to burn through these hormones and release soothing endorphins.
Seek Out Counseling
Managing extreme anger can be very challenging, especially in the beginning. Practice these strategies or reach out to me if anger problems are hurting your marriage.