Threat (perceived or real danger) creates a neurochemical inflammatory reaction (anxiety)
And a need for control to escape the threat
When you can’t solve the problem (trapped)
Your body increases the stress response in an effort to regain control
Now you are angry
Anger = turbocharged anxiety
Both are unconscious, automatic, and not controllable
The biggest problem with anger is that since anger is your last-ditch effort to survive, your brain activity shifts from the neocortex (rational thinking area) to your midbrain (reflex survival center). You have lost awareness of others’ needs, it is only about you, and it’s destructive. It’s impossible to think clearly and while you are angry, you must just stop – somehow. Taking any action while you are angry rarely improves your life or relationships and is usually damaging. Here is a sequence of steps you can use to minimise its impact.
The numbers represent the number of words in each step.
- No action in a reaction
- Flip the switch
- Move on
5 – “No action in a reaction.” First recognize that you are upset. There are many ways to disguise anger. Then you must acknowledge that any action, physical or verbal, is not going to be helpful in the long run. Finally, don’t take any action while you are upset. Say nothing. Leave the room. Take a walk. The anger may lessen quickly or last for a while. Much of it depends how skilled you are at processing anger, and everyone is different.
3 – “Flip the switch” will be discussed in greater detail, but anger is so powerful that you will never be able to give it up nor will you want to. There is an addictive component to it. So, flipping the switch means that you let your anger drop enough that you are able to think more rationally, and then you make a decisive choice to come out of the victim mode. However, it is important not to “flip the switch” until you think you can actually do it. You may drop right back into anger, and you just keep making the choices to change direction.
2 – “Move on.” Once you have returned to a rational state of mind, you’ll be able to address the upsetting situation more clearly and constructively. What is interesting, is that often what seemed so important and intense just disappears. Since anger is a trigger within you, and the situation or a person is what set it off, the “problem” often ceases to exist. It is critical to keep moving forward into the life that you want or the solution you desire. If you spend your time trying to keep solving what makes you upset, the list is endless, it isn’t that enjoyable, and you’ll drag yourself back into The Abyss.
There are many facets to anger and ways to process it to minimize its impact on your life. This little “5-3-2” strategy will get you started, and you’ll find it useful many times a day. Don’t let anger run your life – starting now.