Last update: April 19, 2015
Anger is, among the various emotions, the most explosive, comparable to fire, and can cause damage and destruction if the flames are not put out in time.
Fortunately, there are not a few things we can do to put out the fire before it's too late.
Chronicle of a fire
Like all other emotions, anger performs a survival function, and is therefore neither good nor bad; the point is in how we manage it. Anger arises when faced with a situation that we perceive as threatening, such as a car rushing down the street recklessly while behind the wheel, causing an accident. This event, which endangers our integrity, causes our organism to instinctively prepare itself for two possible scenarios: to fight or flee, depending on how great the threat is. Up to this point we are talking about automatic reactions.
Taking up the comparison with the fire, this fact would be the initial spark that can generate the fire, depending on the existence or not of flammable substances that feed it. In this case, the fuel is the thoughts, and it is at this critical moment that we have the power to feed or put out the fire.
The firefighters of emotions
Once instincts have played their initial role in defending the species, what sets us apart as humans enters the picture: our thoughts and values. Let's now go back to the traffic accident example to illustrate the process and see what we can do:
- Recognize the signs: the first step is to learn to detect the physical transformations that accompany our anger, as well as the events that tend to irritate us, in order to be able to slow them down in time. The driver "victim" of the previous example, therefore, will experience an acceleration of the heartbeats and breathing, muscle tension, a redness of the face and a sensation of heat. Once these transformations have been identified, the irritated driver can proceed to breathe deeply to calm down, since breathing is the only physiological function that we can control with our will. Once breathing is regulated, a bio-retrofeeding is generated which has a calming effect on our emotions.
- Consciousness of thoughts: this is fundamental. If the driver in question conceives negative thoughts towards the other driver such as: "What an animal!", "He is an idiot!", "He will pay for it!", Etc. he would be doing nothing more than throwing more wood into the fire and giving rise to a bigger problem.
- The result: based on how the driver decides to use his free will, the effects will be distinct. If he opts for the incendiary route, he could get caught up in an argument with the other driver, without calculating the disastrous effects that unbridled anger has on our cardiovascular system, even causing a heart attack. If, on the other hand, he decides to “wear the fireman's uniform”, he could make a new friendship useful for him in the future. But, above all, the feeling of having overcome one's destructive instinct and having opted for non-violence… It is priceless!
Image courtesy of Ben Raynal