Three Studies of Interest about Anger
1. Scientific researchers are catching up to Attitude Reconstruction. This report concludes that intense anger and fear are linked to increased risk of heart-attacks. It found that in the two hours after expressing anger destructively, subjects were 8.5 times more likely to have a heart-attack. But even more astonishing, they found people were 9.5 times more likely to have a heart-attack after an intense anxiety attack.
In the study, intense anger was classified as at 5 or above on a scale of 1 to 7 (ranging from 5 – “very angry, body tense, clenching fists or teeth, ready to burst,” to 7 – “enraged, out of control, throwing objects.”) And these outbursts were reportedly caused by arguments with family members (29 percent), arguments with others (42 percent), work anger (14 percent) and driving anger (14 percent).
We’ve got to handle our anger and fear constructively, otherwise we endanger our hearts!
2. For those of you that have been accused of being narcissistic, according to this article, the best way to determine if you are is by answering one simple question: “To what extent do you agree with this statement: ‘I am a narcissist.'”
Narcissism is associated with the emotion of anger — we are wrapped up in how cool we are and put ourselves before others. In line with this thinking and according to Attitude Reconstruction, “selfishness” is one of four attitudes associated with anger.
The article also states: “The widest gender gap in the study was around the concept of entitlement, the authors report. They suggest that men are more likely than women to exploit others and that they feel a greater entitlement to certain privileges.” Since women have just as much anger as men, I suggest that men feel more entitled to act on it.
3. Here’s an interesting article about some research that concludes that hungry people are cranky people. (FYI — “cranky” is a feeling associated with anger.)
By-the-by, one of the best ways to decrease the emotion of anger and increase love is by giving appreciations and looking for the good, rather than dwelling on what’s lacking or not working. Here’s a lively video and song called “3 Things” by Jason Mraz that captures the spirit.
How to get a Grip on Anger before it Does Damage
Everywhere you look in the media, you’ll find coverage and outrage about physical assault, analysis about why partners stay in abusive relationships, and why people feel justified to strike out. However, what you don’t see are viable solutions to this widespread problem.
Anger is an Emotion
Anger in itself is not a bad thing. It is the natural emotional response when we perceive injustices and violations, just as it’s natural to cry when we experience hurts and losses.
Anger is an emotion – Energy + motion — it is just a pure sensation in our bodies. According to Carol Tavris, author of Anger: The Misunderstood Emotion. Symptoms can “include teeth grinding, fist clenching, flushing, prickly sensations, numbness, sweating, muscle tension, and body temperature rises.” Anger is merely energy in our bodies; just as wind is energy, so are emotions.
On the physical level we experience increased heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of adrenaline. In terms of brain chemistry, anger stems from the amygdala, which responds to threats with alarm and an automatic reaction to protect ourselves.
Expressing anger doesn’t mean you’re a violent person. But when that heated energy remains bottled up, something’s going to give: and we’ll default to destructive ways of thinking, speaking, and acting.
When we don’t handle that energy physically, it gets directed outward onto other people, things, and situations. We don’t accept what we see, judge it negatively, and self-righteously feel convinced that if the world and/or other people would just conform to how we think they should, everything would be just fine.
Our unmet expectations, and our “shoulds,” also fuel more anger. Putting expectations on others is a habit that keeps us feeling angry. It creates feelings of separation and magnifies differences, thereby diminishing the amount of love we feel. Rather than continuing to stew in anger and then explode verbally, mentally, or physically, there is something simple we can do.
It’s Time to Take Personal Responsibility
Identify when you’re feeling that energy in your body – hot, aggressive, desire to strike out verbally or physically– and deal with the emotion constructively. Follow the lead of a toddler and have that temper tantrum rather than blast it onto others and destroy things of value.
Express the Anger Energy Physically
Find a safe place where you can release pent up emotion physically and naturally – that hot, surging, tightening sensation in your body – in a non-damaging way. (You’ll only feel embarrassed until the satisfaction and benefits become obvious.)
Take yourself to that place where you can let go and express the energy hard, fast, and with abandon. If you release anger energy physically and constructively, you’ll be too tired to fight! An easy way to do this is to lie on your back on a bed and flail your arms, legs, and head, while yelling and grunting.
Make sounds and noises because emotions are beyond the realm of words. No blaming or swearing. If you use words, yell something like, “I feel so angry. I feel so mad. I feel so pissed!” Swearing or saying negative things while expressing anger physically, just stokes the fire and reinforces thinking that the outside world is the problem. You’ll still be mad.
Pound clay or bread dough. Throw rocks. Yank out weeds with abandon. Stomp around. Push against a wall or doorjamb. Shout into a pillow. Move the energy out of your body. Do it hard, fast, and with abandon, until you’re exhausted. Catch your breath and do it again. Repeat until you can’t anymore!
Change your point of view
End your healthy meltdown by reminding yourself, you must accept the reality — what is, is.
The best way to do this is to remind yourself, over and over, that: “People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be,” “This is the way it is,” or “That’s the way they are.” When these phrases are repeated with focus and enthusiasm, your anger turns into amused acceptance. After repeating these words for a few minutes, it becomes a fact, instead of a big conflicting deal.
Acceptance does not mean passivity. First accept, and then speak up and act from a loving, centered place. Let go of your fantasy of how it should be, and accept what is, even though in your perfect world you’d do it differently.
Look within to Determine what is Constructive Action
Now you can look within your heart to decide what you need to say and/or do about the specific event in order to honor yourself and all involved. Once you put your mind on hold, pause and ask yourself, “What would be the highest / most loving thing to do?” “What will bring me more joy, love, and peace?” Listen from your heart to what really resonates for you.
Maybe it’s to remove yourself from the situation temporarily. Maybe it’s best to say nothing, take a stand, organize, or initiate a discussion. Only you know what will make you feel resolved. So you’ve got to ask yourself, not rely on what others might suggest.
Make a Tangible Plan
When you are clear about what you need to say and do, focus on making a plan and getting very concrete. Then you can reach your goal and truly align with your best self. The devil is in the details (whatever that means). Like painting a house, it’s all the prep that takes the time but is essential to having an outcome you are pleased with.
Speak up and Take Action
Now, if you know you need to speak up to feel like you can let it go, be sure you talk about what’s true for you. This means your communication is not laced with finger-pointing and global generalizations. You need to stick with addressing one specific situation at a time, saying what you need, want, believe, etc and doing so, in a kind way.
Follow through with what strategy will bring more love and more connection. Little steps. Execute your plan, with a willingness to be flexible, depending on what unfolds.
A Vision for the Future
Just think if we legitimized emotions and designated a safe zone in every school, prison, hospital, office, and home, where we can go when we’re on emotional overload. We spare ourselves and others so much damage, hurt, and craziness.