Anger Management Secret #1: Anger is not a bad thing; in fact, it is a healthy emotion.
Why Anger Is a Healthy Emotion
Anger is a healthy emotion that exists to let you know when you do not like something, or that something needs to be changed. It warns you when you've been trespassed upon: when someone steps on your foot, your angry response lets you know immediately you've been hurt, and there is perhaps a threat. Anger often triggers immediate action, to resolve the danger.
The Problem of Out-of-Control Anger
Anger becomes a problem when it is out of control. When it is not proportional to the precipitating event, it blocks the brain's ability to think and process information rationally. When you experience extreme rage, whatever the proximate cause, your body automatically shifts into what scientists call the Stress Response, or "Fight or Flight." A number of physiological changes occur immediately to prepare you to either fight or flee, as if your life depends upon it. This is the same response that prepared your Stone Age ancestor to deal with a sabre-toothed tiger!
Under conditions of the Stress Response, the body mobilizes for extreme action. Adrenalin is pumped into the bloodstream; digestion shuts down; heart rate increases; blood flow is increased to the arms and legs. Brain scans of subjects experiencing the Stress Response show no activity within the cerebral cortex. Brain activity is primarily limited to the brain stem, the most primitive part of the brain. From the perspective of evolution, it is the same brain structure as the reptile brain.
What does all this mean? When you are enraged -- "seeing red" -- the part of your brain that thinks and reasons, uses judgment, and remembers from experience -- is SHUT DOWN. Out of business. You are unable to access the higher-order brain capabilities that you ordinarily use for problem-solving. In that moment you are the human version of a reptile, blindly striking out at a perceived threat.
Have you had the experience of becoming enraged at an insult or perceived threat and then not remembering what you did in response? The fog clears, and you look about you at the collateral damage from whatever you did? Perhaps there's a fist-shaped hole in the wall, or your family is shrinking away from you.
Learn to Reduce the Likelihood of Losing Your Temper
When you've become enraged, there's little you can do before the lights go out in the part of your brain where you can think. So the "Secrets" that follow are things that you learn to do BEFORE you lose your temper, to make it less likely that you will become enraged, and more likely you will employ skills to defuse threats or challenges and solve problems instead.