Anger is, in the spectrum of emotions, the most explosive, comparable to fire, and it can cause similar effects of damage and destruction, if the flames are not controlled in time. Fortunately, there is a lot we can do to put out the fire before it's too late.
The chronicle of a fire
Like any other emotion, anger plays a role in survival, and so it is neither good nor bad; the key is how we manage it.
In this case, anger arises from a situation that we perceive as a threat, such as a driver who cuts us off the road by imprudence, causing an accident.
This event, which endangers our integrity, causes our organization to instinctively prepare for two possible scenarios: fight or flee, depending on the magnitude of the threat. At this point, we are talking about automatic reactions.
Continuing the analogy of fire, it would be like the initial spark that could generate fire, depending on whether there are flammable substances that can feed it.
In our case, fuel would be our thoughts, and it is at this critical moment that we have the power to feed or extinguish the fire.
Once the instincts play their original role of conservation of the species, enters the stage what distinguishes us as human beings: our thoughts and our values. Let's take the example of the car accident to illustrate the process and see what we can do:
- Recognize the signs: The first step is to learn to detect the physical changes that accompany anger, as well as the events that tend to irritate us, so that we can end it in time.
Thus, the driver of the example can observe the acceleration of his pulse and breathing, muscle tension, redness in the face and a feeling of warmth.
Once he has identified these changes, the irritated driver could take a deep breath to calm down, because breathing is the only physiological function that we can control at will, and by rhythmically breathing, biofeedback is generated which has a calming effect on our emotions.
- Become aware of our thoughts: This is crucial because if our driver would agree to some derogatory thoughts against the other driver, such as, "What a savage!" "He's an idiot," "He'll pay me," etc., he'd be throwing oil on the fire and cause a bigger problem.
However, if your friend decides, after the initial shock, to try to understand that the other driver might be distracted because he has personal problems, or that it was simply momentary negligence, choosing wisely positive thoughts and values such as compassion, the intensity of fire would decrease and the event would not get worse.
- The result: Depending on how our driver decided to use his free will, the results are opposite. If he takes the inflammatory path, he could engage in a fight with the other driver, and in addition persistent anger has devastating effects on our cardiovascular system and he might even have a heart attack.
By the way, if he puts on the "firefighter's suit", he could win a new friend who could help him in the future; but most importantly, it would be the feeling of having overcome its own destructive tendency and having bet on peace … It is priceless!
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Ben Raynal