A common occurrence in many couples or family interactions is anger. We generally think of it as a behavior more than an emotion. But anger is, first of all, an emotion and one that we ALL experience at one time or another. We have said it before. It is important to differentiate between the feeling of anger and the expression and behavior of anger!
This feeling is also a reaction to a perceived threat. It is not just a single emotion but ranges on a continuum from annoyed, frustrated, upset, irate, furious, and enraged. In addition to a wide description of emotions, it also has many other characteristics.
Definitions of Anger (Potter-Efron, 2012)
- Feeling – Anger
- Attitude – Hostility
- Behavior – Aggression
- Pattern – Chronic Anger
- Out of Control Experience – Rage
- Reaction – Perceived Threat
Anger is a survival emotion
Anger is defensive, protective and can be triggered by perceived threats. Your body is created in an amazing way and the interaction of your brain and body can be very powerful. But fear and anger are closely connected in the brain. And so anger can become the brain’s default option. Angry people have angry brains, and angry brains do not assess, judge, or evaluate events well at all. There becomes a physiological response over time during anger where an angry person continually trains themselves to become angrier. Their brain changes positive neural circuits into negative ones. This happens in the Prefrontal Cortex where impulse control and an ability to prioritize behaviors originate. Not a good place for negative functions.
Although anger is an emotion we all experience as normal,
there are some people that just have an angry brain.
Reasons for an angry brain
Brain Chemistry (lowered serotonin, lack of acetylcholine, excess dopamine)
- Hormones (high levels of testosterone, estrogen, cortisol)
- Genes (nature vs. nurture)
- Trauma or Injury (dangerous events, abuse, physical injury)
- Family or Cultural Training
How to change the angry brain
The good news is that we know from decades of research that neuroplasticity or brain change is possible. Angry people can change their brains and improve their lives so there is a low likelihood for relapsing into anger.
- Creating a core sense of safety
- Consciously turning anger off
- Increasing empathy
- Ramping up understanding
- Challenging negative thought patterns.
The key is effort, time, and PRACTICE!
Understood that the effects of anger, especially when it happens again and again, can last for years. And each time the hurt goes down deeper into a loved one’s heart and soul. Are you irritated or angry often? Feel annoyed or threatened emotionally a lot? Decide and commit to change the angry brain. Get help to identify and change your anger if you need it. The results will be living with lower stress and increased positive relationships! Give us a shout and let us know how we can assist you.