All right so following-up on my previous article let's focus on Anger. This lil Red Head is the perfect companion to tell you when things are going too far and when people are stepping onto your boundaries! Even if they do it with a big smile and they say they don't mean it, still you have the right to politely emphasize the fact that this is not all right.
OK so first let's give a name to Anger... Sorry, I just love doing this: Giving names! Even more so when someone has such a fiery personality! They need a name! So, I looked for gender neutral names because I don't want to impose anything on anyone and I found the perfect name: Alex!
Alex means "To Defend" and this is precisely what Anger does! Anger defends our values, boundaries, feelings, security, you name it! Anger has a cape just like a standard Super hero!
In order to understand Alex/Anger a bit better let's look at what makes them Angry and how we can help them chill out.
What is Anger defending?
Well Alex is like the eldest siblings of all the emotions. Consequently, Alex looks after all the youngsters and... well, I am a big sister and trust me no one touches my brother. So you get the gist.
I already described that Alex would defend my boundaries. We all have different definitions of boundaries but I like asking professional's opinion and I've found the thought of Dr Chester McNaughton quite comprehensive and substantial. Let me give you a quick overview here of how one can disrespect someone's boundaries:
Aggressive behavior - Voluntary physical or mental violence (hitting, harassment, threats, insulting, etc)
Passive-aggressive behavior - Silence treatment, sullen behavior, gossip, assuming one knows what someone else wants/needs
Accidental behavior - Bumping into someone, saying something and then realising it hurt someone's feelings, etc.
Here, let's bear in mind that all 3 categories can also create Sadness and Fear. Sometimes, as I said, Alex is acting like the oldest sibling and aim to protect the other ones (Sadness and Fear). Therefore, Alex will stand up first. Anger is like "Fight or Flight" reaction I would say.
"C'est souvent quand on a eu un enfer, qu'on en parle et on en parle, comme s'il fallait le tuer tous les jours."
What effects does Anger has on my body ?
Now that we have clarified what generally could trigger Alex, let's understand how to ensure we do not stay Angry.
Indeed, as much as we love Alex for protecting us and being so reliable when we need him, we also have to bear in mind that the more Angry we stay the more neurons we destroy... Indeed, as Horacio Cain once said, everything could be a poison when taken in heavy doses... (I don't remember the exact quote but it was something around those lines).
So basically that's how it goes:
Anger creates Cortisol. Too much Cortisol in the body has a negative impact on one's neurons.
For 1 minute of being Angry, your immune system will need an hour to evacuate the Cortisol... 1 min = 1 hour... Crazy right?
Consequently and in order to preserve our neurons we shall let Alex express its feelings in a quick and efficient way and then move one to focus on "What just happened? How can I prevent this from happening again?"
Also let's be honest being Angry is not the best feeling in the world. Therefore, the sooner we shake it off the better.
Indeed, Anger can come with frustration, confusion, guilt, bitterness, resentment, etc. Therefore it is not just about managing Alex in the moment it is also more about making sure Alex will grow up, get mature, pick its battles with better care and do not bring unwanted friends back home for a sleepover.
How to manage Anger?
All right so here I can only share one of the method that I use. I am sure they are many ways of managing Alex. I can only talk about what works for me.
I write down everything Alex feels: hate, frustration, revenge plans, etc. I give myself time to let everything out because I respect Alex and I think each emotions has a purpose that I shall respect and not judge.
I have a rule: I can only think about revenge for 15 minutes maximum. This is to prevent self-sabotage which would lead me to just keep on doing it and therefore nurturing the Anger when I should just let go (Remember: Cortisol...1 min = 1 hour ... Neurons get destroyed. I mean I don't know about you, but I like my neurons, I honestly don't know how many I have to start with so I can't really risk losing them).
Once I am done writing I read my notes to understand what is at the origin of my Anger. Here let me give you an example:
I was in a club with my brother and his friends for his birthday party. It was quite a cosy place, not much space to dance and we were stuck in next to the DJ, so like in a corner. Two girls clearly wanted to be dancing next to the DJ so they squizzed in and also squizzed their drinks where we had ours. Almost pushing them on the floor. Nevertheless, we made space. Thinking let's be "the grown up".
They started pushing and pushing for more dancing space, so we made space as much as we could. Obviously our group was like 9 people. So clearly 9 people need more space than 2.
The pushing kept on going, so I said to them smiling:
" As much as we would like to, there is no more space. The club is just really full and we will have to share the space we have at the moment really!" To what, one of them smiled back and said something like:
"Indeed it is full tonight and you guys are taking a lot of space. We are just trying to fit here".
"Well we'll do our best. Just join us and dance with us!"
At that stage, Alex is already wind up. I honestly don't get many chances to see my brother, we were having a chilled out time. We made efforts by making space for those girls and their drinks. My patience was running out of power and Anger was taking the lead. They left for about an hour and then one of them came back, pushing us basically and expecting her Royal space to be available to her again. This time all of us were more or less fed up with that non-sense. She was pretty drunk and my brother tried talking to her. But she would not come to her senses.
I had a water bottle that was in my bag. I got thirsty so I took it out. She was behind me and she was giving me elbow kicks to push me away, while I was drinking water. I ended up emptying my bottle on her head and pretending it was an accident due to her kicking/pushing me while I was drinking.
So let's analyse this situation:
Triggers: Aggressive and passive-aggressive behavior
Answers: Self-control, then Anger
Let's focus on how I felt at the time of the events:
In this case I felt like what their were doing was completely unfair. My opinion was and still is: we were a group of people dancing in a club having absolutely no issues with anyone else. Those 2 girls came over and showed aggressive behaviors towards us for no reasons whatsoever.
I felt like they were stealing my moments with my brother. That brought frustration and sadness.
This combination made me want to put an end to this aggression.
Why did feel like I did?
First, I can't stand unfairness. It is just something that boils my blood.
Second, I live quiet far away from my family. Therefore, family moments for me are extremely precious. It makes me sad to be with my family and not enjoy it to the fullest.
Doing this work on those events helped me understand why I had such an extreme reaction. When I emptied this bottle on this poor woman, I literally lost control. I was the most surprised by this reaction because I never thought I could do this to anyone. Also this could have end up as a fight and I am not a violent person. I simply flipped.
Understanding that it was an accumulation of sadness (i.e. me missing my brother) and my abhorrence for unfairness helped me accept my behavior and set-up a method to prevent it from happening again:
- Making sure I see my brother enough,
- Complaining to the bouncer or someone from the staff of the club if a similar situation happens
- Accepting that in life there is no unfairness, just situations with positive and negative aspects.
ATTENTION PLEASE: Here I am not stating that it is easy to establish those changes and that those changes will surely result in a different outcome when face with a similar situation. I don't know that because I don't have a crystal bowl allowing me to see in the future. But I am doing my best to prevent a repeat of the situation. I am doing my best to accept unfairness by catching my Anger when it shows up (and it always does) when I am faced with a situation that I see as unfair and having a pep talk with myself. Because I will only change with a combination of discipline and compassion for the moments where I lack discipline.
So, what I am trying to say is that Anger has positive and negative sides. On one hand, it is a protection mechanism and on the other hand, a neurons destroyer.
The first times you will try to identify why something makes you angry, it will be hard, because the ultimate aim of the exercise if to reduce Anger, take control over it and it's consequences on your body which are not limited to neurons destruction: anxiety, overthinking, stress, guilt, bitterness, etc. All those feelings are preventing Joy to come out and the more they stay in the light, the more Joy stays in the dark. If you have never done any exercise of the sort before, Anger will fight back...
Habits die hard
But remember, emotions are passengers, there are not the Captain. You are the Captain, so you decide who stays in the spotlight!
I hope this will help you understand and domesticate your anger. I know it is cliché what I am about to say but it is also very true:
Remember it's not about controlling every single situation, it's just about understanding.
Click here to read the article where I talk about the difference between "fault" and "responsibility".
Final tip: with Attention, Patience and Practice you will get a better understanding of your Anger and consequently learn to manage it better.
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 It's often when we've had a hell, we talk about it and we talk about it, as if we had to kill it every day.