In part 1: anger and adrenaline, I looked at step one: danger, and step two, adrenaline. I came to the conclusion that adrenaline, nor danger causes anger, but adrenaline makes me edgy, and in consequence, possibly volatile.
In part 2: anger and sadness, I investigated my personal connection between anger and sadness. I came to the conclusion that my anger precedes my sadness, and that this sadness is my repressed translated anger. This doesn’t say anything about your sadness. The sadness we feel after physical, emotional or spiritual hurt has nothing to do with anger. Anger is about mental hurt and fear for the near future.
While writing this, part 3: anger scenarios, I saw that there is not one way to become angry. There are different scenarios. This post is about these scenarios.
In part 4: anger avoiding strategies I want to find out whether and how I can change the arising anger into something different.
the mental connection
The mental mind (the google-in-my-head) is the engine that saves us by providing a best solution to imminent danger. If you read this, your mind has already saved you many times from dangerous situations — otherwise, you wouldn’t be here anymore. This operation happens in the background. It is triggered by danger, and focussed by adrenaline. It goes nearly automatic. Your foot will hit the break of your car, before you consciously think: ‘What should I do now?’ There is no time.
But on the other hand, it really appears to me that the mental mind is the real engine behind full blown anger. It makes up a story where someone/something is to be blamed for your ‘misfortune’. It creates a reason for conflict. The person to be blamed might be attacked (internal cursing, verbal abuse or worse). The other person has no choice but to defend her-/himself, but that defense mechanism is equally steered by the mental mind, digging up stories from the past and creating a personal reality to react, or not.
scenario 1: right action
The google-in-my-head (my mental mind) is a smart machine. When danger comes from outside, like in wildlife or on the road, it will operate just after the the adrenaline levels have risen. It will check unconsciously for experiences in the past that look most like the present one, and then present the best strategy, usually circumventing conscious thought. There is no choice offered. Adrenaline is high, danger is there, we have to act fast. In this case, any predator will be dealt with either by running or by anything else, but not (yet) by anger. The anger might come handy (or not), once there is a fight for life, but not before. In this scenario, there is no anger. There is no time nor place for anger.
What do we have here:
1. danger (bear)
3. unconscious mental selection of right action
I repeat: In this scenario, there is no anger. There is no time nor place for anger.
This is the realm of the martial artist. Razor sharp mind, trained and ingrained skills, conscious acts will not be disturbed by time consuming anger.
A driver with 100000 kms or more behind the wheel of different cars and in different environments, will have ingrained skills to save herself without the conscious question: ‘what to do now?’
scenario 2: cursing afterwards
After correcting my steering, when cut off by a reckless driver, anger arises. Also a release of the energy concealed in the adrenaline.
So what do we have here:
1. dangerous manoeuvre
3. unconscious mental selection of right action
5. mental selection of angry reaction: cursing “I COULD HAVE BEEN KILLED YOU CRAZY ….”
Where does this anger come from? It is partially learned anger. We have seen this while a passenger. Later we have engraved the habit by doing it ourselves, time and time again. This anger can be unlearned the way it was learned. This anger is a release of the build up adrenaline. In my experiment, I have seen that it takes a while for my adrenaline levels to subside (about 1 hour), and it is not healthy to keep them high even this long. As long as there is no confrontation releasing the anger ,while cursing, this reaction might sound innocent, but it isn’t. Every time your habit is engraved, and the first time you carry a passenger while doing this, or worse, when you utter your cursing after a stupid accident with the ‘adversary’ present, the innocence is gone.
scenario 3: triggers — pushing my buttons
I have buttons. Certain actions that make me furious. Usually it is the buttons being pushed that start my anger. A verbal conflict has risen and voices are raised. The danger zone has already arrived, adrenaline is high. Then they will provoke me. But is it really them? I am the one who reacts. I am the one biting the hook of the provocation. I am the one deciding what is a provocation and what isn’t.
An example of a ‘strange’ provocation: I have been impatiently waiting to study till everyone goes to bed. Finally I’m working. I’m in the flow.
“Please , come to bed!” says a nice voice. I hear myself snap: ‘Arrgh, .. I STILL HAVE A LOT OF WORK TO DO, LEAVE ME ALONE’
There is no one to blame except myself, and my expectation of being left alone in peace. And the nice question was peaceful. Why did I snap? Why in anger! Am I afraid they will take my precious time. So I pro-actively protect my mental food, like a hungry dog. ANGER.
My impatience has already before unconsciously changed to frustration. My frustration has unconsciously triggered danger = a story in my mental mind: ‘If they wait too long, then I will also feel sleepy and will not have time enough’. The nature of this story is fear. This has led to the rise of adrenaline. Unconsciously. As always.
I realize that for some this snapping is not anger, but it really is. The anger controls me. And if the other person bites the hook, a verbal fight will ensue. It’s not that I want to control the anger — that is difficult, and harm has already been done. I’d like to break the chain of events before the anger is there. In this case the chain of events is rather short.
I must have been quite edgy in this example. Nobody could foresee I’d react like an angry dog. My impatience to study must have raised my adrenaline levels minutes before. I have wound up my own Ramsay-Meter. I must have been under the influence of adrenaline already because of this impatience.
When the cooking goes slightly wrong, mind starts creating disaster scenarios.
This creation of disaster scenarios is not necessary, and really disturbing the focus.
I have myself created a frustration — any frustration is always a story that things will not turn out right. Things not turning out right is danger. In consequence I am raising my own adrenaline levels. So I mentally chose to be provoked very easily. Choosing to be frustrated (allowing the stories in my head) is the source of a possibility of anger.
sequence of events:
1. impatience = frustration -> possible danger
2. adrenaline goes up
3. trigger (anything that might confirm my disaster scenario = my buttons)
4. angry action
5. cascade … ?
A trigger is a button. A trigger can be hiding for a very long time, as we will see in the next example, and can be something that violates my cultural or personal laws of existence. Many of these buttons are cultural heritage, and there is no other way to get rid of them but to unlearn them.
But it can be a button that I just created because of an impatient story.
In this example, patience could have prevented the anger.
The other person’s button: “nobody shouts at me like that” (if it exists at all) was not pushed far enough to make it into a full blown conflict between two angry people.
A different example of a provocation: She raises her voice and I get to hear ‘I don’t know what’. (I tend to easily forget everything said to me and by me in anger — call me lucky). She’s really angry about something and I have no clue why. She wants to provoke me. So she lifts the laptop and slams it onto the desk. But I see that she tries to push my buttons. Seeing that, and nothing reacts. I only try to calm her down in a soft voice, and give her the space she needs (half an hour) to digest that anger-without-a-reason.
My button in this case is that laptops are important sources of income and nice toys to play with. They have become something like a limb of my body.
In this case the button didn’t trigger. Somehow my adrenaline level was still low and interrupted by my awareness of the button being pushed.
Somebody enters with a frustrated mood. It might be that she has been stuck in a traffic jam for one hour, or he was perhaps belittled at work. Unconsciously we pick up this mood of the other, and consequently unconsciously the adrenaline is rising. The mood of the other might give us a feeling of being intimidated. And/Or we make a story: ‘why does it have to be like this … and so on’. The story is subjectively confirmed by one or the other reaction while wearing the sad glasses. An argument starts.
1. feeling the mood (danger)
3. story or trigger
4. angry action of B
5. angry reaction of A
I am aware that there are possibly a lot more of scenarios. I hope that I covered at least 75% of the most common occurring. This is not a scientific study — I will try to summarize what I have learned so far:
- there is a google-in-my-head that proposes right action while under danger
- there is often a learned reaction after right action to blame and curse, this reaction is recalled by the google-in-my-head from past experience. It is a learned reaction
- angry reactions are often a habit
- there is a google-in-my-head that makes up disaster scenarios
- impatience can be a cause of anger
- two types of anger-triggers exist: temporary disaster scenarios, and learned personal, familial and cultural triggers.
- adrenaline might creep on you unconsciously
In part4 I will propose (if you don’t see them yourself yet) ways to intercept the sequence of events, and defuse the anger bomb.