Someone slides into the parking spot you had your eye on. A coworker takes credit for your work. Your spouse runs up $200 on the credit card without discussing it first. These are things that are apt to make you angry. And that’s okay.
Anger is a natural response to many life events. Like other emotions, anger helps us understand our world and how we feel about it. When managed well, anger can provide a healthy release and be a motivator for transformation. But when we experience too much anger, to the point of becoming out of control, it can have lasting ramifications.
Our Brain on Anger
When anger reaches a very high level, our pre-frontal cortex, that is the part of the brain responsible for cognitive thought and reasoning, becomes hijacked. The amygdala, our primal emotional/instinctual part of the brain that induces the “fight or flight” response, takes over and we are no longer capable of rational thought.
When aroused to anger, our brains can no longer take in new information. This means if our partner or loved one is trying to talk sense into us and explain something, we CANNOT hear them. All we are aware of is that we must defend ourselves as if our very life depends on it. We feel under extreme attack and are ready to fight back.
How to Control Your Anger
Now that you know how your brain responds, it’s time to learn some techniques to manage your extreme anger.
Take a Breather
You know that the hotter you get, the more your brain shuts down and becomes unable to process any information. There is no sense in you continuing to talk/argue with someone. Your best course of action is to put the fire out before it begins to rage by calling a time out and taking a breather.
The body’s “fight or flight” response releases powerful hormones that are intended to help us fight or run. Without this physical release, they can linger in the body and cause health problems. Going for a walk, run or lifting weights can be a great way to burn through these hormones and release soothing endorphins.
Seek Out Counseling
Managing extreme anger can be very challenging, especially in the beginning. A mental health professional will be able to share coping strategies and techniques to control outbursts.