Controlling Your Anger
17 September 2022 | Admin
When it comes to controlling your anger, as with most things the more we understand about a subject, the easier it is for us to do something about it.
Here’s a little question for you. Have you ever been in a restaurant with a great atmosphere? Everyone in there is chattering away, eating, drinking, laughing and having a good time, when suddenly the experience is interrupted by the sound of a waiter dropping a tray of glasses or dishes. The whole restaurant will suddenly go silent as everyone stops talking, people will look around for a few seconds, it will likely seem ages, but won’t be more than about half a minute. After a short while, once people realise it was just a few broken items and nothing to worry about the chatter will increase, the volume in the room will get back to how it was previously, and everyone will carry on enjoying themselves just as before. There may well even be a cheer for the poor embarrassed waiter as the chatter and laughter resume.
To understand why this happens we need to take a simple look at how our minds work.
We have the primitive part of our brain, which has many nicknames such as the primitive mind or the monkey brain. It is also known as the fight or flight part of our brain. This part of the brain works on past patterns of behaviour and will generally step in to protect us when it thinks we are in some sort of danger. For example, if you walk down the street tomorrow and are confronted by an angry crocodile snapping its jaws at you, you wouldn’t stop to think whether or not it had already eaten, or stop to marvel at the fascinating look of its skin.
No, instead your primitive mind would immediately kick-in. Your heartbeat would go up, your breathing would be deeper, you would get a surge of energy and you would be off like a shot. You would not think about it first. This is because the primitive mind works on instinct. It does not innovate or reason things out – it acts without thinking. In that particular situation it’s reaction would be correct.
So, back to the restaurant. Why did everyone not immediately jump up and run out?
Quite simply, the primitive mind didn’t know what to do. It knew something was happening, but it wasn’t quite sure what. So instead, it took a back-seat for a short time to give the intellectual part of your mind a chance to assess the situation. It was still in a heightened state of alert, but rather than immediately choosing the fight or flight option, it allowed the intellectual part of your brain a few seconds to check things out further. Once it had made certain there was no imminent danger, it allowed you to relax and carry on with your meal.
The above two scenarios are examples of how our mind works to protect us, by running away from imminent danger/staying to fight our enemy; or stopping to assess the situation when we are unsure.
Problems with controlling your anger arise when the two get confused, in other words when the primitive fight or flight side of our minds kicks in without giving the intellectual part of our mind a chance to think and assess things first.
How and why does this happen?
Quite simply, when we are under stress, when we have anxiety, the primitive side of our brain is more likely to be on red-alert. It will be expecting danger and ready to act accordingly in regular day to day situations when it really isn’t required. In other words when we are confronted with something that may be a minor irritation or something that makes us uncomfortable, such as a heated discussion, a stressful work meeting, or even a simple family gathering the primitive mind will overreact as if the danger were something far more serious.
Anger is a primitive defence mechanism, designed to make us appear fiercer to frighten off our enemies, again it is part of our fight or flight mechanism.
In order to help you control your anger so that you respond appropriately to the above type of situations then we need to take a look at the cause of stress and deal with it.
There are many reasons why someone is stressed, anxious or generally on red-alert. Some of the reasons include things going back to early childhood such as being abused or bullied. Another typical example is someone suffering with PTSD from a recent or not so recent trauma.
There could be many other causes not linked to one particular event. For example stress can build up over a period of time through day-to-day stressful events that all pile into the ‘stress-bucket’ we all have. It can creep up on us over weeks, months or even years, and before we know it we are constantly on edge, on red-alert, and ready to fly off the handle at the slightest annoyance.
Whatever the causes, and wherever you may be in terms of how stressed you are, if you want to learn how to control your anger, you need to get your stress levels down.
Count to ten!
There is a very old saying about ‘counting to ten’ before replying to someone when having a heated discussion or argument, so that you don’t say something you later regret. There is a great deal of truth to it. If you are suffering with lower levels of stress and have been finding yourself overreacting in a way you later regret, this may well be enough to get you to learn how to control your outbursts.
Other ways of bringing your stress levels down involve you taking some time for you. By learning some simple breathing techniques that you can perform regularly, you will lower your blood pressure and calm your mind. Getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis can really help too. Most people who are suffering with stress have disrupted sleep patterns. Never underestimate the immense benefits of getting a good night’s sleep. When we get the correct amount of REM sleep our minds are actually processing the events of the previous day and filing things away in our memories without the emotion attached to them. That’s why, when you are mentally healthy, you can have an argument with someone one day, and after a good night of sleep, you wake up the next morning, still remembering the event, but no longer allowing it to bother you. You still have the memory, but the emotion, the anger or whatever else you were feeling at the time is no longer attached to it.
What about the more serious cases of people who have trouble controlling their anger?
If you are suffering from the long-term effects of something that happened to you when you were younger and would like help with it, then the solution-focused approach, which I take, can be really helpful. The main point of it being that you do not need to revisit past traumatic events at all to detach to the emotional memory from them.
In some, more traditional forms of therapy, many clients spend many sessions going over and over events which have happened to them in the past, events which have traumatised them. Going over them time and again with a therapist simply means you are bringing them to the front of your mind repeatedly. The problem is, anything you concentrate on you will amplify, so if you keep discussing these previous events on a regular basis, you are constantly reminding your primitive mind of what happened. This means you will stay in that heightened state of anxiety; the problem will not be dealt with effectively.
The solution-focused approach is different.
It can help you free yourself from anxiety and anger by firstly getting your day-to-day stress and anxiety levels down. It will help you to become mentally healthier, happier and start to react rationally to situations which cause stress. It will enable you to sleep better and lower your alert levels so that you are not ready to fly off the handle at the least provocation.
If there are issues that stem from earlier years then I can help to detach all the emotion from these memories without having to actually revisit the events. I can help you to file these memories away so that they no longer play on your mind and upset you as they have been doing.
In short it can be incredibly beneficial when it comes to controlling your anger in day-to-day situations, and that is something we all benefit from.
If you would like to talk to me about controlling your anger then why not book a free personal consultation with me over zoom. I can explain things in far more detail, and you can ask me anything you like about how therapy can help you. I offer all new, potential clients a free no-obligation consultation.
I work over zoom so that you can talk to me from the comfort and privacy of your own home, office or even your car if that it what you want. All you need to do is contact me directly from here.
Look out for our new weekly podcast ‘Two Hypnotherapists Talking’
Available on YouTube and all good podcast platforms, new episode every Sunday.
My good friend and colleague in the USA, retired Doctor, Denise Billen-Mejia and I have an in-depth conversation every week talking all things hypnotherapy, health and well-being – we’d love you to join us so that you can learn more about this fascinating subject.
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