ANGER. Similarly to many other emotions, it develops automatically in our bodies. It is a consequence of something we disagree with and we perceive as a threat. It is a reaction that serves to protect what is important to us, for example the feeling of emotional or physical safety, dignity, value, relationship or prospects for the future. Often it is connected with the assessment of being treated unfairly.
The first phase of this reaction is automatic. We can’t influence it. The triggered sympathetic nervous system increases the hearth beat rate and blood pressure, decreases blood flow through the skin and increases through specific muscle groups, causes hands to sweat, etc. We can easily feel all these effects in our body: the quickened heart beat, increased blood pressure, contracted muscles ,sweating hands.
The second phase is the way we express the anger. We can influence it, however, it mostly depends on how we have intentionally or unconsciously learnt and practiced during our lifetime. We can be more or less skillful in its control or we can even not to show it at all.
Is anger anything bad? Absolutely NOT.
The anger is an automatic reaction of our body similar to the joy or disgust. Every human being has reactions of anger sometimes, even if he/she doesn’t want it. The feeling of anger is a perfect signal of what is really important to us and prepares us to protect it.
The social environment impacts a lot our ways of anger expression. Very often it is perceived as intrusive and sometimes even strongly opposed. The expression of anger is usually perceived more negatively in women.
So, step by step we learn how to control anger expression. Everyone develops his/her own way. There are people who poorly control it and there are some other who don’t express it almost at all. How does it happen?
The reaction itself develops without our wish and we can’t stop it. Moreover we become aware of it only once it already occurred. This is why we can’t fully control it, but
we can influence its expression. How do we do it physically?
We can’t influence the heart beat or blood pressure. We can influence, however, the contraction of the muscles. Usually we don’t relax them but we contract other muscles that react is opposite way. As an example: we contract muscles of the back to stop arms muscles, we tighten our jaw or we immobilize the diaphragm. It requires a lot of energy. This is why when we are tired or in the situation when our cortex is weakened, the blow of anger can happen. Typically it occurs at the end of a difficult day, after a few drinks or when the social perception is not so important to us ( for example at home).
The other way to control the anger is a kind of numbing it. There are people who stopped to feel the anger at all. Often in the situations of unfair treatment they automatically develop an internal narrative that it is not so important or that this can be more important for the other person or at some extreme that it is deserved.
The anger differs from many other reactions in its rhythm. It develops quickly and quite quickly disappears, if we are able to evacuate it. We can see that people who often blow up, quite quickly get cool. The anger can also stay in our bodies for a long time if we are not able to evacuate it or express it.
The lack of skills enabling us to express the anger in a socially acceptable way, can lead to many consequences. My professor of allergology , many years ago said when talking about the anger: “people either harm something external or they harm themselves”. The non expressed anger stays in our bodies as increased levels of certain hormones, impaired organs functioning, increased blood pressure etc. This can lead to many severe diseases.
The effects of persistent anger occur on an emotional level as well. It can happen that anger as an emotion transforms into a long-term mood: one can feel angry almost all the time, have a feeling of injustice, or feel resentful. The opposite happens as well. As a consequence of the numbing – one can’t feel anymore the taste of the life, doesn’t know what is really important, is not able to protect his/her boundaries. It can gradually ruin one’s life.
So, how we can learn to express the anger in a healthy way?
As usually- in all so deeply embodied reactions- knowing is not enough- it needs to be practiced. One of the most effective approach is a 3 phases process.
The first step – allows us to get familiar with our own anger: its rhythm, intensity, speed of its growth and the signals of its ending. The aim is to learn how to quicker recognize the signals of anger increase. This can allow to react quicker and thus with less effort.
In the second phase – the ways of evacuation of the anger are learnt. The effect can be multiple: you can evacuate the long-term anger from your body, stretch your muscles keeping it under control and diminish the fear of not being able to control it at all.
The third phase– it is a learning of how in different way manage the anger: how to balance it instead of fighting against it. If you are able to do it- you will need much less energy and will get access to a wider choice of potential reactions. Depending on the situation you can be able to clearly formulate what to expect, what you can’t accept or you can decide not to react or even to quit. In this centered/ balanced posture, you can fully rationally decide and shape your own reaction without being highjacked either by anger nor by controlling reaction.
The best would be to go through this process with the support of an experienced coach. The anger has different forms and sometimes it is difficult to go through the process alone.
Below you can still find some hints, that can be helpful if you decide to try yourself.
Learn your own anger reaction. Chose a safe and intimate place. Remind yourself a situation that triggered your anger. Stay with your own reaction without controlling it. Observe carefully what happens n your body, even the slight sensations: warmth, cold, contractions, breath changes, etc
Evacuation. Have you seen and angry child? Yes- that’s right: it stamps, punches and screams. Learn from the child. Have a big cushion with you to avoid to harm yourself against furniture. And observe what happens in your body: the energy flows, the breath, how the anger grows and diminishes.
I wrote about the centering/ balance already before. Have a look at the “third method” here https://lafol-institute.com/en/3-3-steps-to-change-your-mood/
The mastery is build through the practice. It is not enough to know or to try. You need to practice it.