Tag Archives: adrenaline

angry … out of control … what do you do?

Anger is a method of control.   When people feel powerless to achieve a desired outcome they can become angry.

Anger is a habit.  It is addictive in the sense that the body produces stress hormones.    The body overtime craves the additional stress hormones, even though they are destructive.   Adrenaline is a hormone with very powerful effects on the body.   Adrenaline can last for days or weeks in the system.   There are others like cortisol which are released quickly and tend to dissipate more quickly in the body.  

     – Hormonal anger creates negative behaviors.   

     – Hormonal anger reduces the body’s ability to resist illness.

     –  Anger can result in significant blood pressure change, bone loss, severe headaches, and other stress induced illness.

 Anger is a method of control.   People use anger because they learned it as a way to deal with issues.  In some cases that anger has been destructive (physical force) and in others it is destructive in “emotional” force.  In either case anger is used as a weapon to gain control when control feels like it is being lost.

 Anger becomes addictive.  People once they are flooded with stress hormones find they want more, not intentionally but subconsciously more of the physiological tricks the body plays.   That is anger persists as a method for dealing with any issue.   Anger can take control of a person’s life.  

 What does it take to get back to “normal”?

 1.  Realization – there comes a point that the anger victim realizes that anger is not supporting them or others.  

2.  Understanding – after you know that anger is destructive is creating a plan to manage anger or change the “habit”.

3.  Action plan – interrupting anger before it controls the situation (becomes destructive for everyone)

4.  Management – anger just doesn’t go away it needs constant attention – practice to create long term desired results.

What do you do?

1.  Stop:  recognize the event, the stress.    Write it down.   What is triggering the event.

2.  Shift: move the thought from the subconscious region to the conscious region of the brain – make yourself aware.  Respond, is it a “threat”?  What is it then?    What choice do I want to make?  

3.  Reframe – Find a neutral territory for your thoughts by creating a positive thought – return to a positive experience.

4.  Respond – give yourself time to defuse the emotions and respond

Notice what happens when you take time to rehearse the steps above.

  1. Bring back a painful event (anger induced)

  2. Notice your thoughts, feel the sensations the body is producing

  3. Shift back to calmness, what did you tell yourself?   What returned you to calmness?

  4. Emotion check, which feeling is more supportive and desirable for you?

When people get angry they are trying to get control of something they believe they don’t have control over.   Anger provides the illusion of control but repeated time after time becomes ineffective (may cause rage) or becomes destructive (the result becomes too negative – relationships undergo too much stress and fail).

Facing chronic anger

When you come face-to-face with chronic anger what do you do?

1. Stay calm in the midst of the storm (easier said than done).

2. It is not about you, it is about the other persons need for control.  

3. Reframe and respond (calm response … may diffuse, but also may provoke – the anger is intended to provoke the “see I am right … I am right”.  
    Here you are dealing with issues of negative self-esteem and anger as a method to control others. The thought is “How else can I get my way, compromise no way that would make me feel even worse.”

4. Acknowledge the feelings, “it is understandable that you’d be angry … this issue is important to you.”

5. Move to neutral ground.  What would take the emotion out?  
    How can this argument be moved to neutral ground?    Where is neutral ground?  

    Intervene by saying, “I would like to take this to neutral ground.  What would neutral ground look like to you?” Neutral ground is the place where there is no right or wrong, and no judgment.   What is neutral ground should be agreed upon prior to getting provoked in an argument.

What can you do to manage your anger?

Think about it first …

What about consciousness, what is it? It is the electrical impulses that travel the nervous system that create ephemeral bursts of energy we call thought? Where does it go when we go to sleep? Why does it need to sleep?

What do we call this consciousness? A soul? The inside person? The self?

Let’s dig a bit deeper. Let’s separate out the function of the self into three components, the background, midground and foreground as places where conscious or unconscious thought takes place. In the background is the primitive brain (limbic system, amygdala) or as some would call it the “pea brain”, “the lizard brain” which takes care of our immediate responses of fight or flight. In the midground is the prefrontal cortex and this is where cognitive thought arises, this is thinking and probably the location of the “self”, if the self is going to inhabit any part of the brain. Finally, there is the foreground which is our connection to the outside world, our sensors, smell, taste, sight, and hearing take place here and are sent to the background or midground for processing.

Let’s say you are driving in traffic and suddenly the car in front of you slams on the brakes and you have to react immediately – in that moment no conscious thought is taking place, the immediate reaction is to put on your brakes. If the car safely misses that car in front of you all that emotion froths forward in invectives, strange taste in the mouth, involuntary motions indicating anger and an increased pulse rate. All of that happened without thinking about it, it was a reaction. This is a normal response to something that could have caused you harm. In time the adrenaline that was pumped into the system dissipates and you regain a sense of normalcy.

There are many situations that cause us to react rather than think first react second. The ideal would be to train the brain to identify the issue as a threat or not and process it with the right response. Anger in many instances is not a response to a valid threat, but an automated response to an external stimulus, and that anger can be controlled with training.

Anger is in general not processed cognitively, it is a response. Now, anger can be managed by understanding if the threat is valid or not and by taking a few simple steps the threat can be subdued.

The first step is recognition of the threat. Is it a real threat or a perceived threat? To answer the question is it real or perceived some type of midground processing has to take place. The act of consciously thinking about the treat and treating it as an emergency or as an event takes a bit of time and practice. One way is to identify things that make you angry. What things make you angry, where they real threats or just perceived threats? Write down what those events were. The next time something happens see if you can quickly identify that threat. Write it down so that you have a catalog of things that cause sudden unexpected bursts of emotion.

The second step is analysis, what is the threat and what needs to be done? Some things are going to get processed in the amygdala without any thought but those are probably important things to have happen in the background. It is those things that aren’t a threat that need to be brought forward to the midground for analysis. Things that might make you angry (that you know about), like being late for work. You woke up late and because of that you have to do everything faster and that introduces errors which begin to pump adrenaline into the system which ends up fueling anger, impatience, sharp words to others, etc. Are those things threats, no, they are manifestations of being late in the first place. Identify and then analyze the response, did it make sense to respond that way, why?

The third step is to accept the event rather than react to it. Take a deep breath and accept the event not as a threat but as an outcome of something that you are in control of. Try to slow down, take a deep breath and regain focus. Let go of the buildup of the adrenaline and let the tension be released in your body. Smile! Breathe! Relax!

All that to say we have parts of the mind that process things automatically and others that we think about and we call the thinking part consciousness. The goal is to neutralize the negative thinking, the angry response, or things that generate negative energy in our body and it can be done with practice. There are a number of methods to help bring the conscious and unconscious to a state of peace or balance.