Want a little good news? How about this: You can let go of the anger.
Right here and right now — or whenever it next pops into your body and threatens to explode. You can let go of the anger. It won’t grow in strength and come back to haunt you later if you refuse to express it.
Throughout my life, I’ve heard phrases like, “The steam’s gotta come out somewhere” and “It’s important to vent.” We feel anger and we assume that giving it full access to our mouths and our actions will be the only thing that will get rid of it. But that’s not true.
Dr. Brad Bushman and his team at Ohio State University have been researching the activity of anger in the brain for many years.
I’m no scientist, but I’ll sum up a few of their findings as best I can.
Basically, they have found that the more we express anger — the more we vent — the more active and strong the “anger centers” of the brain become. It’s as if giving the anger room to move makes it stronger in the future.
Yelling, screaming, stomping and throwing are great ideas if we’re training our brains for the Anger Olympics, but if we want to be people who show grace and restraint and have the ability to control that anger in the future, we’ve gotta learn to reign it in.
Now please, make no mistake. I am not saying that when someone is treating you badly, you should suck it up and become their personal punching bag. I am also not saying that anger has no place in our society. We often need to feel that passion as a catalyst to change our world.
Anger has its place, but as a woman on a mission to spread the news of the power of kindness, I can tell you there are times when anger isn’t our only alternative, it’s just a lazy default.
So what do we do?
Remember that song, I’m a little teapot, short and stout? Here is my handle, here is my spout. When I get all steamed up, hear me shout. Tip me over and pour me out.
When that teapot begins to shout, we don’t have to pour it out. We can remove it from the heat. At some point the steam dissipates.
Our bodies are the same way. When we get all steamed up, instead of shouting, we can remove ourselves from the situation. Reading a book, watching a funny show on Netflix, going for a walk, or adding inspirational quotes to a Pinterest board give us just enough time to escape the heat of the situation. When we’re calm, if we still need to talk it over, we can do that. But the fact that we told our brains, “No” to the first reaction we wanted to have means that we will have more control over those reactions in the future.
I don’t know where you are in the anger department. Maybe that’s not a struggle for you. But isn’t it nice to have a little knowledge in your back pocket just incase it ever sneaks in?
Visit Dr. Bushman’s website for links to his articles on anger management.