Beware the Simmering State of Anger

Are you angry all the time? That’s anxiety, it’s a stress disorder issue that you can learn to understand and manage.

Image: Anger malfunction – by Ken Mahon

When stress is a disorder, it can heighten and dramatize our experiences, often causing us to live in anger mode as our default state. Low, moderate, or high. This can create unhelpful automatic neural circuitry – where your emotion is set to anger, and your lens is set to negative, where your body is set to ‘fight or flight mode’, and where you sometimes become the ‘tiger’.

What does this mean? Take a look at the following:

A person does something that upsets you, and your automatic response is:

“No! This is a very bad person doing a very bad thing, and I won’t stand for it!”

If we accept this thought and belief 100%, we’re probably going to be aggressive, (internally and/or externally), and our threat response is definitely going to pump up unhelpfully, and our choice of responding to the situation will likely be a bit over the top and unlikely to get you what you want. You may cause yourself and others unnecessary upset – and some things cannot be unsaid or unheard or undone, and will have consequences.

If you recognise this scenario, try the CBT exercise where you create a little inner buddha, or a little internal philosopher – activate the self-talk of this lovely cool rational creature, who is as much you as your little madser ape, whenever you feel rage and fury.

Suggested mantra:

“Ok, here’s aggressive anger – let’s dial it down a little and step back. When people behave badly, (and that includes me), they mostly don’t really know they’re doing it, they’re likely feeling justified based on how they explain the world to themselves. What would be a cool dignified calm way of dealing with this situation? Do I really have a clear nuanced view of what the situation is? Is there another way of looking at it that is calm and respects the other person and assumes the best of them, even if I disapprove of what they have done? What choice am I about to make here, and what outcome is it going to give me? What is it that I want? Are my expectations and boundaries healthy and realistic?”

Design a response to tricky negative situations, and take your time. Postpone drama. Sometimes, when a little time passes, we adapt and cool down, and can roll our eyes and sigh, and let it go and move on with our lives. Other times, if we decide it is necessary, we can design a way of communicating that is considered and thoughtful, and likely to get a better outcome than an aggressive anger response. You don’t have to fly by the seat of your pants, especially if it gets you into trouble.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! ~ Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

Imagery and visualisation to consider:

  • I once heard the renowned movie director Guillermo Del Toro say in an interview: “Monsters don’t know they are monsters, they think they are fighting monsters”. (He literally loves misunderstood ‘monsters’, and has made a career of bringing them to the screen.).
  • If you watched the TV series Breaking Bad, you’ll know that your view of goodies and baddies can be challenged all the time. In one scene, where the wife finally finds out that they are in a bad situation, she’s upset and afraid, and asks the husband “Are we in danger here? Is somebody going to knock on the door?” – and he pulls himself up to full height, and bellows “I’m the one who knocks on the door!”. He is the danger. Oof.
  • In the 90s Slasher movies, a trope is the victim being told on the phone that the scary calls she reported ‘are coming from inside the house!’. Eek.

So, top tip: consider the possibility that sometimes we are the tiger, we’re the little monster, we’re the ones who knock on the door, and the call is coming from inside ourselves. We are human. And so are the others who populate your world. Navigate situations with your little inner buddha, make it part of your self-management tools. Imagery works, your brain loves it.

What did you learn? (key ideas and notes – or maybe draw your little monster and your little buddha, happily helping each other, after all, sometimes Buddha might need a little push and passion. You are the boss of you)

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