Click thumbnails to enlarge .. trying to start with a peaceful mosaic
Here’s the list:
- Mindfulness about anger: see what happens in your case, record and playback, or interrupt while it is happening
- Patience, Patience, Patience
- Don’t create Frustration
- Defuse Adrenaline levels: be aware of your adrenaline level
- Unlearn useless cursing, like on the road, or after any situation
- Get to know your triggers or buttons and slowly remove them
this series on anger:
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.
In part 3: anger scenarios, I saw that there is not one way to become angry. There are different scenarios.
This is part 4: anger avoiding strategies, in this series: I want to find out whether and how I can interrupt the arising anger.
I started with a summary, perhaps to attract your attention. Let ‘s have a closer look.
Be aware of what happens when you get angry. Observe: before, while it is happening, after. Usually the observation is done in playback mode. Playback mode is crappy to say the least. Full blown anger does something with our brain to make it impenetrable, stubborn, and perhaps even stupid. So the recording is faulty. But it is better than nothing. You could start with an anger week, and every time you notice your frustration, adrenaline or full blown anger, you write it down in your anger book. Perhaps you will need a big diary? A week is not that long. But during the holiday period, with many frustrations rising and being around the people we know best, you better keep a spare diary at hand. Yes this is humor, black humor, I only see what my anger has been doing in the past 10 years or so.
There is another type of mindfulness: you slow down, and then you slow down again, and you try to bring anything that’s going on in your life to your awareness. I’m not very good in this. During a retreat it works better. When in a car, there is no way to slow down. But if you slow down long enough, and bring your anger under your own awareness, you can slowly start to unlearn it. I’m sure it works. I didn’t have enough patience to make this work for me. Unfortunately.
They say that patience is a virtue. I don’t know about virtues, but I’m sure that patience reduces frustration to manageable levels. I’m even sure that with the right habit of deeply engraved patience, you will never get frustrated or angry in your life anymore.
Those who are patient, will not get frustrated. You will not create your own danger zone, there will be no ungrounded fear, you will avoid making your own adrenaline, and without any of those, your anger has nothing to feed on. Perhaps in this patience, there is also a space for sadness. But if there is, take the effort to change that sadness into patience. If you are sad because somebody got in line after you and is served first, examine that sadness, and notice that it is different from patience. If a sadness related to a frustrating situation comes before any adrenaline, you can transform it into patience. If it comes after the adrenaline, you are fooling yourself and, perhaps unknowingly, you give a beautiful name to repressed anger. Apathy, is another such form of repressed anger, and many passive aggressive treatments are exactly that: trying to get even in a polite way. Real sadness is an emotion, mental sadness is something different. If there is one useful habit in your life: let it be patience!
note: be aware for fake patience! What starts as genuine patience, at a given moment stops being ‘happy patience’ (I have no better word for it) and frustration lurks while I continue to pretend patience (probably unconsciously). At that moment, a building up of adrenaline might surprise me, and I pretend (unaware) that it isn’t the case. “I AM PATIENT”, look how politely patient I am 😦 You can click this link for the not so recent post about this subject: patience, the root of aggression
3. Don’t create frustration
A patient person will not make stories of how bad the situation is. She will not fear something her mind just made up. But if you have not made patience your first nature yet, becoming aware of the frustrating stories in your mind is the first step.
Notice when your mental mind is making a story. It tries to trick you into feeling bad, into an outcome that has to be feared. It is giving you something or someone to blame for it.
If you catch the mind playing this trick, you have prevented the conscious mental mind from creating an artificial danger. No danger means no fear. No frustration without initial fear, … and no adrenaline.
Frustration is mental. Think about the cooking/tinkering going bad. Do you really think frustration is going to get things right again? Just clean up and try again! What did we expect in the first place? That everything we do will go just fine? And if it doesn’t mind starts to make stories about the mishap. Any expectation, has in it the potential for frustration.
When interrupting any story, you avoid frustration and you avoid the rise of adrenaline levels. You cut the sequence of events leading to anger. You also come closer to seeing reality as it is, and not as it should be.
4. Defuse Adrenaline levels: be aware of your adrenaline level,
— devise your own ramsay meter and listen to it,
— next do something about your adrenaline
Even after creating a mental story of blame and disappointment, and even after your initial frustration, it’s still not too late. If you notice that your adrenaline is high, you can still defuse it. Such takes time, and some experience. Anger is close, but it is not there yet. It can still be avoided. You don’t have to snap to innocent bystanders, passengers or harass kitchen equipment.
Notice it when your adrenaline is high. Notice your frustration when it has not yet exploded. Adrenaline is high when things have gone bad during the day (or night), or in traffic, or under a nasty tyrant of a boss, or because of your neighbour, or an ‘in law’, or why not, your complaining father.
Adrenaline is contagious. Notice it when someone comes home or enters the room with a high level of adrenaline. Don’t bite that hook. Defuse your second hand adrenaline. Perhaps you can propose to do some jogging together, and while doing that also defuse the undercover adrenaline of person A.? (but never directly confront a rhinoceros – don’t try much / or don’t try anything at all: adrenaline blinds people for anything else but their own stories).
If you go jogging alone, person A will probably have some peaceful time and relax long enough to unconsciously defuse her/his own adrenaline.
There are factors that make adrenaline act faster and more powerful:
- Be aware of your intake of coffee, (asthma) medication, even tea, … Some medicine, caffeine, and components in tea have a similar effect as adrenaline. The eventual sequence of events leading to anger will happen faster when those chemicals are already inside your body.
- Be aware of your health, your level of fatigue, your level of boredom. You get weaker and more irritable when ill or tired or bored. It seems that in those cases adrenaline gets more powerful.
- Do you feel edgy? Do you feel anxious or anxious-like? This feeling might be caused by adrenaline that is already present.
- Try to find out whether you are under stress. (there are many websites that will help you – this lifehacker site is just one of them)
All these factors should be mentally checked a couple of times during the day, or whenever you feel that an angry/stressy/anxious mood is looming. If you do that, you have devised your own Ramsay-Meter. Now use it, and listen to it.
My first ever Ramsay-Meter was a twitch in my left eyelid. The twitch showed up whenever I was under stress. (stress caused by periods in my life where the adrenaline levels were/are constantly too high) But of course, this thing was only blinking when it was already much too late. Still, I started listening to it, better too late than not at all.
Once you notice your adrenaline, you have to get rid of it.
Even after your anger has come out, you still need to get rid of the adrenaline.
Physical exercise seems to work best to get rid of adrenaline. Work out, go for a longer walk (without self talking you into more frustration), try to walk around the house on your hands, go cycling, do some dancing in your living room if it rains outside, .. (don’t chop wood – you could turn into the hulk 🙂 )
You get the picture: do something with your body and two things happen: you get rid of the adrenaline and if possible, you create endorphins that really calm you down.
Wait one hour in silent meditation. It could be a walking meditation where you try to intercept the frustrating story. This is not so easy, and often does not work for me. However, while walking I often get distracted and this makes me forget whatever happened or was barely avoided.
Talking to or phoning an understanding friend helps a lot too.
Divert the attention is the best way to calm down a toddler
I have also seen it happen that my mood is bad from something that happened during breakfast. I remain in this bad mood while going to work, but five minutes after having started my job, the entire story and its virtual environment is gone.
If you find the space for creative activities, do it!
I have heard people telling me ‘I ride the energy of the anger’, but they don’t ride the anger, they ride the adrenaline. They are perhaps not angry yet, and channel the focussing qualities of adrenaline into creativity (i hope they do – that’s what they tell me – perhaps they are also fooling themselves).
Perhaps you know even better ways to get rid of your excess adrenaline …
5. Unlearn useless cursing, like on the road, or after any situation
This is the same thing as 4: you have to defuse your adrenaline, and learn to do this, in stead of cursing. You have avoided a dangerous situation. Be happy about it and thank the Universe or God! Then, defuse your adrenaline. It is still high, that’s why your mouth wants to shout! It is never a bad thing to unlearn bad habits. It might not seem obvious to get rid of your adrenaline after a near accident. Calmly drive to a parking space, have a walk, or count to 1000.
6. Get to know your triggers or buttons and slowly remove them
This can be very difficult. We have to become aware that we have them. Then we should identify everything that says: ‘If you do this I will explode’. (of course we are not referring to touching your physical integrity — although in such cases, we usually get only angry afterwards). Most buttons are learned from home and/or culture. Many more are learned by your personal life up till now, and they are wired in the ‘google-in-your-head’
Identify your own ‘holy houses’ — learn to recognize them, and later to identify them when they are under attack. There are not many things that deserve your anger. If you keep your balance, when whatever happens, you are in a better focussed situation than if you get angry. After some time you might succeed in unlearning all your buttons. Your family is your best friend in teaching you which buttons you have. They know all of them, and siblings will not hesitate to push them. Some people consciously try to provoke. The logic behind is that those who lose their temper will appear not better or even worse than the provoker. So in crescendo pushing always more and more buttons can be a strategy of a nasty attacker.
conclusion(s) … ?
I have written down 6 things I can do about my anger. The list is not complete. But it is the first time I compiled it. I’m open to suggestions. I will test them if possible 🙂 Some strategies might work better than others. Perhaps some strategies cannot be used by you. Perhaps some strategies will always fail. I’m in the testing phase right now.
Knowing the anger sequence is important.
danger (real or mental frustration) –> adrenaline –> anger
The earlier we can interrupt the anger sequence, the higher our chances of success.
We don’t get angry without a reason. We most often make up a reason to get frustrated, to blame and to complain. We get frustrated and raise our own adrenaline levels. Only after that we can get really angry, or worse: enraged.
Chronic anger leads to hate. Hate is nothing more but being angry about something you loved (and maybe still do) that got taken out of your ‘hands’. Jealousy is the fear that this might happen.
If there is one habit you really should make your own: let it be patience!