You’ve probably noticed anger is one of the most dominant emotions in today’s society. You may be prone to the odd outburst yourself or even feel anger and frustration every day.
I think we can probably all hold our hands up and say, it’s easy to get angry but it’s difficult to snap out of it.
Things that trigger negative emotions vary, but there are underlying patterns that cause anger and frustration to surface:
- Feeling unappreciated
- Not being respected
- Someone disagrees with your opinion
- Annoyance with sounds or actions
- Unable to accept situations
- Unmet emotional needs
- Feeling betrayed or hurt
The single underlying source of anger and frustration, however, is attachment.
Is Anger Making You Ill?
Anger is a powerful emotion that can be a double-edged sword. When transmuted positively, this energy drives motivation.
On the flip side, when you have little or no control over your emotions, anger and frustration can be destructive to your mental and physical health, and your relationships.
The American Psychological Association (APA) note:
“Whatever shape it takes, uncontrolled anger can negatively affect physical health and emotional wellbeing. Research shows that anger and hostility can increase people’s chances of developing coronary heart disease, and lead to worse outcomes in people who already have heart disease. Anger can also lead to stress-related problems including insomnia, digestive problems and headaches.”
This is going to sound holier-than-thou, but I’ll say it anyway…
…if established medical institutions are aware of the devastation anger and frustration has on people’s health, why are they not doing more to treat it?
I say that, because, as far as I can see, medical professionals only teach people how to manage anger issues. They are not providing solutions that enable you to cure anger.
As far as I can tell, anger management is a long-term strategy at best. In the meantime, you’re making yourself ill and wrecking your relationships and reputation along the way.
There has to be a better solution for dealing with anger and frustration than anger management.
Does Anger Management Work?
Society seems at odds with how we should control or manage anger. Some people will say, “express your anger, don’t hold it in”, whilst others are taught that anger is not an acceptable way to behave. So they suppress it.
I think we can all agree that suppressing anger is not good for your health. But expressing explosive emotions is not good for your relationships, your reputation or your self-esteem.
Yet the two solutions that are most prevalent in society has transferred across into medical institutes.
Whilst researching the causes of anger and frustration for this article, I was surprised to find that established medical professionals only provide anger management strategies.
Typical suggestions include:
- Think before you speak (suppresses)
- Exercise (suppresses)
- Punch a pillow (releases momentarily)
- Take timeout (suppresses)
- Don’t hold a grudge (suppresses)
- Write down your feelings (relives your frustration)
- Use humour to release tension (suppresses)
- Practice relaxation skills (suppresses)
- Recognise the warning signs (it’s a start)
- Don’t ruminate ((suppresses)
- Leave the situation and calm down (suppresses)
Anger management techniques are all well and good, but they rarely enable you to escape from the cycles of negative emotion. Unless you deal with the root cause, you will continue to be triggered.
If your anger is instinctive, anger management strategies do not work at all because you have no control over your emotions.
“One of the difficulties that some people have with anger is that they suddenly become enraged. Whether they have an explosive anger disorder or some other mood regulation difficulty when they explode they are not helping themselves or others. Part of the problem for these people is to allow themselves time to leave the premises so that they can calm down.” ~ mental help.net
When you’re in an “explosive state of anger”, it is difficult to step out of that emotion. You’re probably not going to be in a frame of mind where you say ‘excuse me’ and run away to calm down or go and punch a pillow.
Once you’re in the zone, it’s difficult to get out of the zone. And if your subconscious programs are coded for arguments, you’re going to have an argument.
Even if you can control your anger and switch from fight to flight, the likelihood is you play your ordeal over and over in your head until the feeling subsides and you calm down.
Whilst you’re ruminating, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are being pumped into your body.
What’s more, ruminating reinforces your belief and confirms your world view is right. You may try and see the other person’s point of view, but that’s not always possible even for rational thinkers.
With your world view reinforced, the next time you encounter resistance to whatever it is you are attached to, you’ll be triggered again.
And again – all the while damaging your health, reputation and relationships.
Is it time we ditched anger management strategies and addressed the real problem?
The Emotional Brain
Thanks to fMRI scans and EEG, neuroscience is able to explain what happens in the brain-body connection when a negative emotion is triggered.
Anger and frustration surfaces from the amygdala, an almond-shaped gland that is responsible for evaluating the emotional response to situations and objects; your brain assesses whether the situation or object is good or bad.
The amygdala essentially identifies threats to your physical and emotional well-being. When a threat is detected, for example, when your world view is challenged, the fight or flight survival mechanism flares up.
The amygdala is also responsible for executing rewards and punishments which are correlated with memories – particularly emotionally-laden memories.
Emotional arousal influences the strength of past experiences stored in your memory bank and prompts actions in the present. Each time you have a similar experience, the memory is charged with more energy and enhances the retention of that memory.
So the last thing you want to be doing is ruminating or throwing your fists. One day, it might not be a pillow you’re punching.
When we receive information from the outside world, it goes to various parts of the brain. How we react may depend on whether energy takes the “high road” or the “low road”.
When information travels through “low road” pathways, it bypasses the cerebral cortex and is received by the amygdala in the limbic system.
The limbic system is your emotional centre. Its function is to regulate emotion, behaviour, motivation, long-term memory, and olfaction.
The cerebral cortex, on the other hand, performs executive functions including logic, control and judgement.
Obviously, you want the information to reach your cerebral cortex before the amygdala. The left prefrontal cortex can dampen your emotions and help you retain your composure.
However, logic, sometimes, is at a disadvantage. Emotional responses are milliseconds faster the rational thinking. As a result, your actions are at the mercy of your programming.
“When we are calmly energized (good stress), the brain secretes catecholamines, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. This kind of “stress” is beneficial because we can perform at our best. When stress is severe, the brain secretes cortisol, which intensifies sensory awareness but dulls rational thinking. When levels of this substance are high, our memory does not work well, and we make more mistakes. Cortisol levels rise when we are bored, frustrated, or highly anxious, or when we have other strong negative emotions.” ~ Emily A. Sterrett, Ph.D, The Science Behind Emotional Intelligence
If external stimuli prompt a ‘survival’ state, the information has taken the “low road” to the amygdala and bypasses the cortex. As a result, you’re more likely to respond emotionally without thought or judgement.
The actions of people that struggle with anger issues are driven by emotions. They are in a state of survival and logic doesn’t get a look in. As a result, anger becomes a bad habit.
A burst of energy in the limbic system can last up to several minutes – long enough for you to say something you’ll later regret. By that point, your emotional outburst may have already spilled into an all-out argument.
Even if the other person doesn’t react and that initial burst of energy subsides, the emotional charge is still present in your system and your anger plays out in your head.
This scenario will probably cause more damage to your mental and physical health than actually expressing your anger.
How many times have you been in an argument with your girlfriend or boyfriend, leave the room momentarily and go back to argue again 10-minutes later – after ruminating instead of calming down!
If you have developed emotional intelligence, it’s possible that you recognise the warning signs before they explode. In this situation, anger management may work and you can remove yourself.
You may even reach a point where you can calm down, but your brain still gives your body a shot of adrenaline and cortisol. Stress hormones are the cause of countless illnesses.
The most efficient approach to overcooking anger and frustration is to understand what is it that triggers you. This enables you to reach a point of self-realisation, let go of attachments and integrate unconscious content into the conscious mind.
Hey presto, no more anger issues in relation to that particular attachment.
Identifying The Root of Anger and Frustration
Anger and frustration arise from attachment. Attachments are everything your ego thinks it needs to survive emotionally.
When you don’t get the thing you are attached to, you become frustrated which can then explode into anger. Oftentimes the attachment is because you are denied gratification or because someone doesn’t agree with your opinion. Your ego has not been stroked.
Attachment does not only relate to material objects. It includes beliefs, perspectives, values, behaviours and ideals; your view of the world.
“When we get angry, our asymmetric cerebral response is measured by the motivation of closeness to the stimulus that causes us to be angry and not so much by the fact we consider this stimulus as negative: “Normally when we get angry we show a natural tendency to get closer to what made us angry to try to eliminate it.” ~ Neus Herrero, University of Valencia
How many times do you get frustrated when people don’t agree with your opinion or you don’t get the outcome your “reward centre” thinks you need?
With self-observation, you will find that your anger and frustration occurs when you don’t get what your ego is programmed to need in order to survive.
Anger is essentially archetypal energy – it is universal and experienced by everyone at some point. In Greek Mythology, anger is personified as the irrational aspect of Ares, the God of War.
Like the god Ares, when this energy erupts, your mind is flooded with the proverbial red mist and you charge into battle without any thought of the consequences.
This is the destructive side of the amygdala at work.
When anger surfaces from the unconscious, intense feelings must be identified and dealt with; they don’t just go away on their own.
Identifying triggers that cause anger and frustration is the first step to healing trapped emotions. The root cause generally goes back to childhood.
Using Negative Emotions for Positive Healing
Negative emotions like anger and frustration are warning signs that signal you have repressed emotions that have not been dealt with. With self-observation, negative emotions can be used as a self-development tool.
Healing emotional pain is similar to healing physical pain. Analyse what triggers anger and frustration and you are a step closer to releasing repressed consciousness and integrating trapped emotions in the conscious mind.
When you can identify negative emotions that trigger survival instincts, they guide you to matters that need addressing. Determine what your attachment is and let it go.
Suppressing anger – like taking time out to calm down – can be more damaging to your mental and physical health.
Adopting breathing exercises will also suppress emotions, but will help you to relax when you recognise the warning signs.
You will still need to reflect on what it was that triggered you before you are able to overcome anger, however. If you leave anger to fester, you will continue to cling to the same attachments and react in the same way.
Writing your emotions down could trigger the frustration to resurface and relive the moment that made you angry in the first place. This will release the cocktail of neuro-chemicals that cause illness.
Anger management strategies offered by established medical institutions don’t appear to be conducive to healing. As a society burdened by stress and anger issues, the failure of the medical industry should be a real concern.
Using a healing technique that is thousands of years old is far more effective. I can tell you this from personal experience. Today we call it ‘letting go’.
“Who knows his manhood’s strength, yet still his female feebleness maintains; As to one channel flow the many drains, all come to him, yea, all beneath the sky.” ~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
Identifying the attachments that trigger emotions and letting go of the attachment involves becoming the master of your mind (“manhood’s strength) and overcoming your emotions (female feebleness).
It is worth the effort, however, because letting go frees you from becoming emotionally involved. Without emotional attachment, there is no anger and, therefore, no flood of stress chemicals.
Information is processed by the logical part of your brain rather than taking the low road to the amygdala. You are then able to gain your composure and not cause a scene.
The personal development program we offer at Master Mind Content includes numerous tools you can use to help you explore your inner world, identify triggers, and upgrade unconscious programs that cause you to become frustrated and angry.
Healing Anger and Frustration
We appreciate there is more than one route to healing. That’s why we offer 18 tools for you to explore in our Essential Self-Development Program. Use the techniques that work best for you in the moments you need them.
You will need to use several tools to overcome negative emotions. For example, healing anger and frustration could include:
- Self-observation to identify triggers
- Re-membering to identify the root cause of the emotion
- Reframing your attitude towards the attachment
- Accepting you have an attachment and letting go