The only way to stop the anger connected with chronic pain from dominating your life is to look at it with an unflinching eye and separately examine its three aspects: 1) output–final reaction 2) the nervous system–processing mechanism 3) input–the fuel.
Defining the parameters
It is most desirable on a given day or moment to have your “output” or your body’s neurochemical state in a range that is neutral or relaxed. The more time you can spend in this state the better. But, anger is inevitable, and it is important to use it only when necessary and be careful not to cause damage–especially to those who are close to you. The final response is affected by 1) the reactivity of your nervous system and 2) the content of your input. It is a dynamic process that varies from minute to minute.
The state of your nervous system is influenced by your prior programming, current circumstances, and how you are caring for your body. For example, lack of sleep and exercise along with a highly inflammatory diet will elevate your levels of inflammation and compromise your coping skills. Daily stresses are often overwhelming. If you come from a challenging and chaotic childhood, it is hard to feel safe because maybe you really never knew what that was like. Consider the hypervigilance of a feral cat compared to a pampered domestic one. It is difficult to truly tame a cat who had to fend for itself from birth.
The output is clearly affected by your “input.” What are you choosing to put into your nervous system? There are many ways to understand and process it, that are deeply personal. The first step is becoming aware of the nature and effects of your ongoing input. Once you have some clarity, there are multiple strategies to alter it.
Attaining your master’s degree
Visualize a walking onto a university campus and seeing the main building bordered by two departmental ones. There is an entry gate with a security guard, and you must be carefully screened before you are allowed be on the grounds. The three buildings represent:
- Output – the student center/ workout area/ spa
- Your nervous system – engineering and design center
- Input – educational/ training center
The security area represents the current state of your body’s chemistry, and it can vary from a profile of being content and safe to upset and inflamed. Of course, the reason you are coming to this institution is that you are trapped in pain and the levels of frustration often reach a level of rage. The sensations are intense and powerful. Your whole body, including your brain, is full of inflammatory markers. Your brain’s blood supply is diverted from your neocortex (thinking centers) to the lower centers that are meant more for basic survival. In this state it is not possible to think clearly or absorb new information. So, before you can enter the university to master anger processing skills, you must first normalize this inflammatory state. Your “output” is hypervigilant, which is the outcome of being trapped for any reason.
The “security guard” will take your temperature, vital signs, and see if you are calm enough to engage in the learning the skills to process anger. This is not a small step, in that anger is the greatest block to healing. There are many facets to it; it is powerful, and most people don’t want to give it up because it keeps you safe – whether the sense of safety is real or perceived.
If you are fired up, you can leave and return another day, or you can hang out in the spa just outside of the campus intended for your use to calm down. It has a pool, hot tub, massage, sauna, gym, and soft music. It is a beautiful modern building and could not be a more relaxing place to be. You can stay as long as you would like and return anytime.
If you choose to turn around and return to your prior situation without taking action to calm down, it is unlikely that you will be able to meet the criteria to enter the campus. Regardless, whether you calm down on your own or with some help from your time in the spa, it is the first step in being able to engage in learning the strategies to understand and deal with anger.
On the grounds
Once you are through security, you have a choice of which building you want to enter. Each one has multiple resources to help you acquire anger processing expertise.
The center main building is a deluxe student center that has wonderful ways to relax and socialize. There is coffee shop, lounge, workout area, pool, and a full-service spa. It even includes concierge services. There is no limit as to how well you are treated. There are additional resources to teach you to self-soothe and nurture yourself. You may just want to spend some more time there to re-energize before you start to work on the other aspects of anger.
The building on the left represents where you will be working on your nervous system. It consists of your prior life programming, the state of your general health, and how you already may be using tools to improve it. In essence, it is the sum total of your coping skills and resilience. Both can be improved and strengthened with specific methods.
The building on your right is where you will learn strategies to process the input from your life – all of it. What is being entered into your nervous system that will create the composition of final output? The two basic categories of input include 1) what you choose to download into it and 2) what you choose to hold onto.
Choices of input
Examples of what you might be downloading into your nervous system are criticisms of others, endlessly focusing on your pain, complaining, negative world view, watching violent TV, etc. These types of activities keep your nervous system fired up with many direct effects on your body and peace of mind.
What parts of your past are you holding onto that continue to agitate you? Why would you do that? The past has little or anything to do with your day. You have given your quality of life over to someone or some entity that you despise. Forgiveness is an advanced set of techniques that dramatically alters the input into your nervous system. It is an ongoing daily learned skill that can be refined with repetition.
A master’s degree in processing anger will allow you to develop a “working relationship” with it and is one of the more practical degrees you can attain. Acquiring these skills is one of the most powerful and definitive moves you can make to take back control of your life.
But remember, the first step is getting past security.