Anger is a normal human emotion.
We feel anger when our brain is telling us that something is not quite right. By mastering our anger, we can take control of our emotions, create better relationships with our family, and deal with life issues in a much more effective.
The amygdala is the part of your brain that triggers anger. It acts as your own personal alarm system, and is there to protect you from harm.
When you feel anger, your brain is reacting to a perceived threat that may be triggered from a past memory, a present situation or future danger.
When your alarm system is activated, your heart rate increases and your brain releases a stress hormone called serotonin, putting you into a state of high alert. This results in the fight, flight, or freeze response.
You can see this response in behaviours such as arguing (fight), storming off (flight) or ignoring people (freeze).
Flooding is caused when your alarm system is in overload. Your heart rate rises to around 100 beats per minute, and it becomes hard to think rationally and stay calm.
Being flooded is your biological warning sign to get out of the stressful situation that you are in and calm down otherwise you may flip your lid.
Flipping your lid
Yes flipping your lid is a real thing that happens in your brain. Described by clinical psychiatrist Daniel Siegel as a mechanism in the brain that is activated within seconds if your brain is not balanced after becoming stressed and flooded.
Flipping your lid is like hanging onto the edge of a cliff with your fingers, eventually they will give way and you will fall. The brain has a similar response to extreme stress and eventually your brain will ‘flip’.
Once you have reached this level, you become out of control. You may start behaving badly, becoming physically or emotionally abusively towards the person that you are angry with.
This means Danger.
Stop and back OFF
At this point the best thing to do is to stop and back away. Think of it like a boiling kettle on a stove - The kettle won’t settle unless it is taken away from the heat.
You must back off and calm down for at least 20 minutes or until you feel calm again, and have allowed your brain to process everything. Now is the time for self-soothing.
Learning to self sooth is a great feeling, and is a vital tool in mastering your anger. Especially when the person you may run to when you are flooded is the person you are angry with. By learning techniques that help you return to a happy state allows you to be more independent and in control of your own emotions.
It is important to become aware of anger as it starts to build. If you feel yourself becoming angry and notice you are becoming flooded - interrupt this by breaking yourself out of the situation.
How to self-sooth
- Go for a run
- Go for a walk
- Go to the gym
- Hit a punch bag/pillows
- Listen to calming music
- Sit quietly
- Go dancing
- Read a book
- Deep breathing
- Find some space alone in nature
- Cry it out
- Ask for help from a friend or trusted adult (this is important in situations that leave you feeling alone)
Prevention is always better than a cure. You can prevent this cycle of destructive anger by looking for common triggers that set it off. If you or the other person is starting to trigger anger, it often stems from these four triggers.
- Being criticized
- Being defensive
- Blaming and shaming
Think about your basic needs that can lead to poor decision making. They are a personal inventory to help you to regulate yourself and keep yourself from being vulnerable to anger. Ask yourself are you:
Persistent state of alarm
Repeated and overwhelming stress means that your brain becomes hyper alert and it can be on a persistent state of alarm. This means that anger is easily triggered and never far away. To really master anger and to slow down this reaction you must take responsibility to be mindful of your feelings, and take care of your mental and physical health by self-soothing everyday.