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According to psychologist Charles Speilberger, Ph.D who specializes in the study of anger, “Anger is an emotional state that varies from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. It's accompanied by physiological, psychological and biological changes. When you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure elevate, as does the level of energy hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin." Anger can be triggered by thousands of external events but in reality, every feeling we have is the direct result of our thought process. Therefore, whatever thoughts you are formulating about the event you are witnessing or experiencing actually leads to feelings of anger. For example, a driver cuts me off on the highway. I can say to myself (my thoughts), "This guy's an idiot!" and trigger feelings of rage (intense anger). Or, I can choose to express relief that I was able to avoid a collision. "Thank God I have quick reflexes!", thus producing feelings of gratitude and good fortune.
Nationally renowned speaker Israel Kalman, MS, offers further insight into anger and defines it as an emotional drive to defeat anyone or anything that we perceive as a threat. In this regard, anger alerts us to the fact that we, or someone or something else, is perceived to be in danger. Adrenalin and noradrenalin prepare us for the flight or fight mode as a means to restore our safety.
Whenever anger arises, we have several options available to us as to how to handle it. First and foremost, we can train ourselves to monitor our thoughts, thus choosing those that produce the most advantageous emotions. I can teach myself to see the goodness and benefits of whatever enters my life as opposed to always seeking the negative. While this may not work 100% of the time, it can become our default method of experiencing life.
Secondly, we can choose to control anger in the moment. This can prove beneficial under certain circumstances where remaining calm is more advantageous than an immediate expression of our outrage. In a recent incident, a woman was on the verge of being raped. Her husband, naturally enraged, attacked the assailant in an effort to protect his wife. However, his rage was overpowering and he eventually killed the attacker. Now facing manslaughter charges, had he momentarily controlled his rage, he most likely could have avoided such devastating consequences.
Thirdly, once the anger has manifest, we can choose to safely express it verbally or choose benign ways of expending it, such as through physical activity. Readjusting our expectations, forgiving those who have offended us, accepting that which we have no control over in life, appreciating every person and event that enters our life as a necessary part of our journey, and prayer are just some of the techniques that help alleviate anger in any of its stages.
In conclusion, remember that anger is an emotion and like all other emotions is neither good or bad, right or wrong. It’s what we do with our anger and how we manage it that makes it a motivating force for positive change or a destructive one that creates additions problems in our lives.
Remember the formula called T~E~C~O Magic: your Thoughts create your Emotions which cause you to make certain Choices. And everything we say or do has an Outcome. If you are not happy with the results of how you handled your anger, change your thought process and everything that follows will change as well. Negative thoughts ultimately produce negative results; positive = positive.
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A special thanks to my guest, Bob Ciampi, LCSW. Find Bob @ www.rciampi.com.
Bob runs a General Psychotherapy group in Montclair, NJ. Call (973) 865.5012 for details.