When my son was little and I could see him getting angry I always said to him
Brains not Brawn…
In other words, use your head to solve the problem, not your fists right? Little boys have a lot of testosterone. Age 4 when the first huge surge hits plus immaturity you have your hands full!
So years later, probably in the early teenager years, I must have used it again, because he announced:
“You know I always wondered why you wanted me to use my prawns when I was mad!
Hilarious! And I thought I was really getting through to him….
We all have anger, we get mad. It’s a natural human emotion. It doesn’t mean we have issues. We just get mad sometimes. Society teaches that it’s ugly, that we must not get angry! Yep it is unattractive, but so what?
Clearly the so-what our parents are trying to teach us would be better served teaching us to control it, not suppress it. We need to find a way to use our prawns, right? The question is how?
In neuroscience, when we feel anxiety or fear, the natural reaction is to RECEDE. We are scared and don’t know what to do about it. When we get angry the brain says APPROACH. Reason – we think we can do something about it.
I put it out there that anger might be appropriate at certain times in our lives, in particular situations. For example, when our lives get turned upside down, or major changes occur that we didn’t ask for. It’s natural to feel anger mixed in with e very other emotion flying around in your head. Everyone seems to be most concerned with your sadness of course, but what about that other hidden emotion? It will most definitely be there.
We may also be a little scared or anxious, and want to recede.
It’s a new world for us so being fearful of our new situation and it’s challenges comes with it.
The good news is we have a choice. If we decide to live in the fear, we can literally come to a standstill.
If we allow ourselves to get angry and approach it, different story.
You move towards the problem and can get on with dealing with it.
The trick is to do it with control. Many say to do it with mindfulness, mantras and humour. If these alone work for you, great. To me these practices are incredibly valuable, but they come later.
I am talking about slowing and consistently releasing a deep seeded anger about something that happened to you. This is going to take some time and requires outwardness.
There are three levels of awareness with anger. The unconscious, conscious and fully aware.
If it lives in the unconscious mind you may lash out or ignore it; therefore anger spills out in ways it shouldn’t, and at the wrong things.
In the conscious mind, you are alert to it being there; but you probably hope it will go away or simply suppress it.
When you are fully aware it’s there, and realise it needs addressing, you start to manage it properly. This requires letting it go, consistently. It’s like a slow release from, a pressure cooker. Not removing the lid full boil right?
In this phase you can start to use your anger for good. You move toward the problem and want to fix it. You believe and know you can fix it.
This can be done mentally and physically. In a state of grief physically works the best because getting out of your head is brilliant! You can come back to thinking it through later, just get it out.
The absolute best solution for managing this slow release is physical activity of some sort. In the short term, you get it out with the added benefit of raising your dopamine and endorphins levels (so you feel better).
Practicing this over time, you continue to let things go. You now have a mechanism in place, for when it happens again. We don’t; just get mad once and that’s it. Things keep creeping in, that’s life.
You have a unique opportunity to learn now how to deal with anger ongoing. When life throws adversity at you, it’s a greenfield of learning opportunity.
Why do we think sport is so good for young men? Done consistently they can release emotions, and use all that testosterone in a positive way. Simple and painfully obvious!
In adults it’s the same. Get it out of your head, and into the body. For me when things were at their worst I found lifting weights, and boxing really, really helped. And so I started doing it several times a week. Maybe I was exhausting myself but who cares? It worked. I still do this 3 times a week, and have never felt more calm. Yoga once a week as well to balance things.
Another mechanism is to just get pissed off. Preferably alone and at the right thing. I was so angry at what I had been left with, and was involved in this insanely unfair legal battle on top of it. I needed to lash out.
So one day I sat looking at this stupid old laptop where so much unhappiness seemed to reside, that I got a hammer. I placed it on the ground and proceeded to smash it to bits!!! It was so out of character that I ended up laughing afterward, but man if felt good. Then I drove to the tip and threw it as hard as I could over the edge. What a relief.
In time, I also learned the art of breathing. When you’re angry you go into fight or flight breath, short and fast. It only takes a few minutes to calm yourself if you breathe deeply though the nose and out with the mouth.
Watch Djokovic next time you see him play. He controls himself very clearly with this method. Whether he’s controlling anger, frustration or just keeping calm it doesn’t matter. The process works.
Releasing through controlled anger, physical activity or breathing all play a part. The important thing is to release it, not bottle it up.
The use your anger for good.
Are we therefore using brains or brawn? In reality, it may be both.
I have learned the hard way how to use my prawns…