WHEN IT’S SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE
We tend to look at anger as some sort of useless emotion that gets us into way more trouble than it will ever get us out of. Am I right? All of us can think of at least one time in our lives where we reacted in anger and either said or did something that we instantly regretted. Anger basically becomes our scapegoat at that point and gets to take the blame for our bad behavior. The problem with this line of thinking is it’s based on a lie. Anger wasn’t to blame, it was us reacting in anger that is to blame.
Don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone on this one. Everyone knows how easy it is to get swept up in anger. Especially when it’s that real cool justifiable kind of self righteous anger where we absolutely know we have a right to be angry. This is why so many of us frequent those chat groups with all the bigots in them. We get all wound up by the idea of telling someone off. At least then we can justify expressing our anger because we are afforded the moral high ground. So we troll away looking for ideal conditions. Then… We judge, we belittle, and we completely throw out all the spiritual lessons we hold dear.
THE BIOLOGICAL RESPONSE IN OUR BODIES
What we feel as anger is a biochemical reaction within our bodies to something we are afraid of and find aggressive. Little neurotransmitters from all over the body relating to stress and tension send signals to the amygdala which triggers the emotion based on our past experiences. The amygdala stimulates our brains to remember what happened to keep us safe.
Luckily, our brains are wired with a tiny connector between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex that helps us control the influx of anger. Interestingly enough, research has proven that the cerebral cortex is less developed in death row inmates than it is in you or I. So, logic would dictate that the smart play here would be learn to develop control over our emotions to avoid becoming the type of person who gets lost in these bursts of anger.
MEDITATION DEVELOPS FRONTAL LOBE
Meditation, especially single pointed concentration, has been shown to help develop the frontal lobes and various other regions of our brains. It also increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs our memory and learning centers, while also decreasing brain cell volume in the amygdala which is why it eases our fears and anxiety over time.
Great. So meditating daily will eventually rewire the way we think and increase our ability to respond without reacting to our anger, eventually, but I’m angry right now. I want to fight, scream, or whatever, RIGHT. NOW. What do we do in the heat of the moment when the adrenaline is rushing through our system and our heart rates elevated?
YES. IT’S MEDITATIVE “PRACTICE”
Well, this is why we practice meditation. So when moments of duress occur we can return to that calm place within us. The first thing I always do is get quiet before doing an assessment. I start by monitoring my breathing and paying attention to what is going on in my body. I look for that tension, usually found in my shoulders, of my muscles contracting preparing my body to spring into action. I tend to become more alert and scan the room to make sure there aren’t any other threats.
Once I’m aware of my anger and where I’m carrying it I start to relax those muscles. I breathe in deep through my nostrils and exhale slowly through the mouth. Once I have myself in check I go through a mental checklist:
- -Is this life threatening to me or my family?
- -What emotional memory did it trigger?
- -Is this person/situation responsible for what happened then?
- -Should they pay for my past trauma?
- -What set me off?
- -Have I ever done this to someone else?
This usually puts enough space between the initial flood of chemicals when it started and the present to keep me from reacting in that classic fight or flight mode. Then, after I’m calmer, I can look at whoever, or whatever, it is that’s upsetting me a little more objectionably. This also creates the space for the others involved to calm themselves down on their own terms and possibly spared you both.
This is the difference between reacting and responding. A reaction would end in the same way all of those past experiences did and we’ll never grow past it. This is how we end up in those emotional cycles of self destructive behavior being tossed around by our emotions.
I hope this helps. Please feel free to share it with whoever you think may need it