THE BRAIN AND ANGER
The cerebral cortex is the thinking part of the brain where logic and judgment reside. It is the outer portion of the brain and divides the lobes. It is the strategy center of the brain.
Limbic system is the emotional center of the brain and is located in the brains lower portion. It is more primitive than the cortex. When one is “in” anger they are not using the thinking or cortex part of the brain, but the limbic center. The amygdala lies within the limbic system and it stores emotional memories. It is also over our flight and fright reactions. Data comes into and passes thru the amygdala where the decision is made to send the data to the limbic system or cerebral cortex. If the incoming data triggers enough of an emotional charge, the amygdala can override the cortex, which means the data will be sent to the limbic system causing the person to react using the lower brain.
During the overriding event, the amygdala goes into action without much regard for consequences since this area of the brain is not involved in judging, thinking or evaluating. When the amygdala does this, it floods the brain with hormones that cause physical and emotional alarm. A surge of energy follows preparing for flight or fright response. The impact of this emotional flush lasts for several minutes during which time a person is usually out of control and may say and do things that they will later regret when the brain re-engages. Further, an additional longer lasting hormone is released and its impact can last for several hours up to several days.
Having a long lasting hormone in the body can explain why someone has an initial, powerful angry reaction, and then seems to calm down, but later flairs up disproportionately to the situation.
On average it can take 20 minutes for a person who has experienced an angry state of arousal to calm – to move functioning from the emotional area of the brain to the thinking area of the brain.
It is important to know that anger involves a trigger to the emotions, charging us up to “lose it” and it will take approximately 20 minutes before we can become more logical.
Our triggers often result from:
- core beliefs and values
- anger exists on a continuum
- anger ranges from frustration to outright rage
The University of New York research project used MEG (Magneto-Encephalo Graphic) scanners to test responses in the brain to facial expressions and sounds. Outcomes showed that the brain showed a supra addictive response to fearful angry sounds and facial expressions. The hemispherical laterization (functional specialization of the brain, with some skills, as language, occurring primarily in the lefthemisphere and others, as the perception of visual and spatial relationships, occurring primarily in the right hemisphere) of neural responses to facial expressions develops by the age of 6 months. (National Institute of Physiological Sciences, 2010).
So some tips to help you with your Anger management
10 tips to Keeping your temper in check can be challenging. Use simple anger management tips — from taking a timeout to using “I” statements — to stay in control.
Do you get upset when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure escalate when your child refuses to cooperate? Anger is a common and even healthy emotion. But it’s important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships.
Ready to get your anger under control? Start by being a STAR
S- Stop : Take time to deep breath (5 seconds inhale through your nose and 7 seconds exhaling through your mouth)
T – Think : Is this worth dealing with calmly and/or can I let it go (not everything is about you)
A –Assess : what are my losses and what are my gains by the way I respond
R – Respond : always make your response one where there is a win win or you walk away
- Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything. Also allow others involved in the situation to do the same.
- Once you’re calm, express your concerns
As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.
- Get some exercise
Physical activity can help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run. Or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.
- Take a timeout
Timeouts aren’t just for kids. Give yourself short breaks during times of the day that tend to be stressful. A few moments of quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what’s ahead without getting irritated or angry.
- Identify possible solutions
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room make you upset? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening. Or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Also, understand that some things are simply out of your control. Try to be realistic about what you can and cannot change. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything and might only make it worse.
- Stick with ‘I’ statements
Criticizing or placing blame might only increase tension. Instead, use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes” instead of “You never do any housework.”
- Don’t hold a grudge
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. Forgiving someone who angered you might help you both learn from the situation and strengthen your relationship.
- Use humor to release tension
Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Use humor to help you face what’s making you angry and, possibly, any unrealistic expectations you have for how things should go. Avoid sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.
- Practice relaxation skills
When your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.
- Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger can be a challenge at times. Seek help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you