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3 ways to get rid of anger, according to neuroscience

They are an inch from your face, boiling with rage, yelling and screaming at you.

And all you want to do is scream and scream again. But you know that's not going to be good for anyone …

I've talked before about how to deal with other people who are angry and irrational, but how can you control those emotions in yourself?

Looking at neuroscience, there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

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So let's dig deeper into the research on how to get rid of anger, what you're doing wrong, how to do it right, and how you can make yourself and those around you so much happier …

Suppressing anger is rarely a good idea.

You tighten your teeth and hold it:I'm fine."

The good news is that suppression works. You can repress your feelings and not look angry. But nevertheless …

It's almost always a bad idea. Yes, it prevents anger from coming out, but when you fight against your feelings they only get stronger.

Via The antidote: happiness for people who can not stand positive thinking:

… when the experimental subjects are told an unhappy event, but then they are told to try not to feel sad about it, they end up feeling worse than the people who are informed of the event, but they are not given instructions on how to feel. In another study, when patients suffering from panic disorders listened to relaxation tapes, their hearts beat faster than patients who listened to audiobooks without explicitly "relaxing" content. The people in mourning who make the greatest effort to avoid feeling sorry, according to the investigations, take longer to recover from their loss.

When you try to avoid crying, tears are not cathartic. You do not feel better afterwards.

And the anger is not different. What happens in the brain when you try to suppress that anger? A whole mess of bad things.

Your ability to experience positive feelings diminishes, but not negative feelings. Stress goes off. And your amygdala (a part of the brain closely related to emotions) starts working overtime.

Via Manual of regulation of emotion:

… experimental studies have shown that suppression leads to a decrease in the experience of positive but not negative emotion (Gross, 1998a, Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997, Stepper & Strack, 1993, Strack, Martin and Stepper, 1988). ), an increase in sympathetic nervous system responses (Demaree et al., 2006, Gross, 1998a, Gross & Levenson, 1993, 1997, Harris, 2001, Richards & Gross, 2000), and greater activation in brain-generating regions. of emotions such as the amygdala (Goldin, McRae, Ramel, & Gross, 2008).

And this is what is really interesting: When you suppress your feelings, the encounter also gets worse for the angry person.

You subject your emotions and the pressure peaks of the other person. And they like you less. Studies show that, in the long term, this can lead to lousy relationships that are not so rewarding.

Via Manual of regulation of emotion:

Socially, experimental studies have reported that suppression causes less sympathy among peers for social interaction and an increase in blood pressure levels of peers (Butler et al., 2003). Correlation studies support these laboratory findings. People who often use suppression report that they avoid close relationships and have less positive relationships with others; this fits in with peer reports that suppressors have relationships with others who are less emotionally close (English, John, & Gross, 2013; Gross & John, 2003; Srivastava, Tamir, McGonigal, John, & Gross, 2009) .

And fighting your feelings uses a lot of willpower. So afterwards, you have less control and that is why you are more likely to do things that you regret after being angry:

… bad humor encourages risk taking by altering self-regulation instead of altering subjective utilities. Studies 5 and 6 showed that risk tendencies are limited to unpleasant moods accompanied by high excitation; neither sadness nor neutral excitement resulted in a destructive risk.

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Now some of you may be saying, "I knew bottling it was bad! You should let that anger out!"


Do not download your anger

So you hit that pillow. Or scream and rant about meeting a friend. It is not a good idea.

Unburdening your anger does not reduce it. Venting intensify emotion.

Via Manual of regulation of emotion:

… focusing on a negative emotion will probably further intensify the experience of that emotion and, therefore, will hamper negative regulation, leading to less adjustment and well-being.

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Sharing your feelings with others constructively is a good idea, but "getting them out" tends to increase your anger.

It works? Distract yourself. But why would distraction help?

Because your brain has limited resources. Thinking about something else means that you have less mental capacity to think about bad things:

Research suggests that this is because both cognitive tasks and emotional responses use the same limited mental resources (Baddeley, 2007, Siemer, 2005, Van Dillen and Koole, 2007) … That is, the resources used to perform a cognitive task are: It is no longer available for emotional processes. Consequently, people can get rid of unwanted feelings by participating in a cognitive activity, such as doing mathematical equations (Van Dillen and Koole, 2007), playing a game of Tetris (Holmes, James, Coode-Bate and Deeprose, 2008) …

Do you know that famous marshmallow test?

Experimenters put a child alone in a room with marshmallow. If the child can resist eating it, they get two marshmallows later. Children who were successful in the wait achieved better grades and more success in life. (They also stayed out of jail.)

Now this study has been covered a lot, but what they do not usually talk about is how successful children avoided temptation; how they reduced those powerful emotions by shouting, "COME THE MARSHMALLOW NOW!"

They distracted themselves. Walter Mischel, who directed the famous study, explains.

Via The marshmallow test: master self-control:

The successful delays created all sorts of ways to distract themselves and cool the conflict and the stress they were experiencing. They transformed the aversive waiting situation by inventing imaginative and fun distractions that eliminated the struggle of willpower: they composed small songs ("This is a beautiful day, hell!", "This is my house in Redwood City"), he made funny and grotesque faces, they took out their noses, they cleaned their auditory canals and they played with what they discovered there, and they created games with their hands and feet, touching their toes like piano keys.

And this also works with other "hot" emotions, like anger.

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I know that I know; When someone is screaming in your face it is very difficult to distract you. But there is a way to do this that is very easy and is backed by neuroscience research …

The answer? "Re-evaluation"

Imagine the scene again: someone is screaming at you, an inch from your face.

You want to scream again. Or even hit them.

But what if I told you that your mother passed away yesterday? Or that they were going through a tough divorce and simply lost custody of their children?

You would let it go. You would probably even respond to his anger with compassion.

What changed? It is not the event. The situation is the same. But the story you're telling about the event changed everything.

As the famous researcher Albert Ellis said: You are not frustrated by events, you are frustrated by your beliefs.

Research shows that when someone is exploiting you, a good way to "reevaluate" the situation and resist getting angry is to simply think:

"It's not about me, they must be having a bad day."

As one of the neuroscientists behind the study said:

"If you are able to re-evaluate and you know that your boss is usually in a bad mood, you can prepare for a meeting," Blechert suggested. "He can scream and scream and scream, but there will be nothing."

When you change your beliefs about a situation, your brain changes the emotions you feel.

Via Your brain at work: strategies to overcome distraction, regain focus and work smarter throughout the day:

In one of Ochsner's re-evaluation experiments, participants are shown a photo of people crying outside a church, which naturally makes participants feel sad. Then they are asked to imagine that the scene is a wedding, that people cry tears of joy. By the time the participants change their evaluation of the event, their emotional responses change, and Ochsner is there to capture what is happening in his brain using an IRMR. As Ochsner explains, "Our emotional responses ultimately flow from our assessments of the world, and if we can change those assessments, we change our emotional responses."

Reassessment also works for anxiety. Reinterpreting stress as emotion can improve your performance on tests.

And what happens in your brain?

Your amygdala does not get excited as it does with suppression. In fact, the little one calms down.

Via Manual of regulation of emotion:

The evidence that re-evaluation can directly influence this amygdala circuit stems from consistent findings in positron emission tomographic (PET) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies in healthy individuals showing decreases dependent on re-evaluation on activation of the amygdala in response to negative stimuli.

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Unlike bottling, when you tell yourself "are having a bad day", The feelings of anger subside and the good feelings increase.

Via Manual of regulation of emotion:

In contrast, experimental studies have shown that reassessment leads to reduced levels of negative emotion experience and greater experience of positive emotion (Gross, 1998a, Feinberg, Willer, Antonenko, & John, 2012, Lieberman, Inagaki, Tabibnia, & Crockett , 2011; Ray, McRae, Ochsner, and Gross, 2010; Szasz, Szentagotai, and Hofmann, 2011; Wolgast, Lundh, and Viborg, 2011), have no impact or diminish sympathetic nervous system responses (Gross, 1998a; Kim; & Hamann, 2012; Stemmler, 1997; Shiota & Levenson, 2012; Wolgast et al., 2011), and leads to less activation in brain regions that generate emotions such as the amygdala (Goldin et al., 2008; Kanske, Heissler, Schonfelder, Bongers, & Wessa, 2011; Ochsner & Gross, 2008; Ochsner et al., 2004) and ventral striatum (Staudinger, Erk, Abler and Walter, 2009).

What happens with the social results? People who reevaluate report better relationships, and their friends agree.

Via Manual of regulation of emotion:

Revaluation, on the other hand, has no detectable adverse consequences for social affiliation in a laboratory context (Butler et al., 2003). Correlation studies support these findings: people who normally use reassessment are more likely to share their emotions, both positive and negative, and report that they have closer relationships with friends, which coincides with reports of greater sympathy from their peers ( Gross and John, 2003; Mauss et al., 2011).

You know when you get angry and you start telling yourself, "They are out to find me! They want to make my life miserable!"

That is also a re-evaluation, in the wrong direction. You are telling a story that is even worstthat reality And your anger goes off. So do not do that.

As the infomercials say, "But wait, there is more!"Revaluation has another great benefit: do you remember how suppression undermined self-control and made you do things that you later regretted?

Well, like children in the marshmallow experiment, reevaluation can increase your willpower and help you behave better after intense moments.

Walter Mischel explains:

The experiments with marshmallows convinced me that if people can change the way they mentally represent a stimulus, they can exercise self-control and escape being victims of the hot stimuli that come to control their behavior.

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Well, let's summarize this and learn the research-backed way to make sure that anger does not come back …


Here is how to get rid of anger:

Suppress rarely. They may not know that you are angry, but you will feel worse inside and hurt the relationship.
Do not be discouraged. Communication is good, but ventilation only increases anger. Get distracted
Revaluation is usually the best option. Think: "It's not about me, they must be having a bad day."

Sometimes someone gets under your skin and suppression is the only thing you can do to avoid an accusation of murder. And, sometimes, reassessment can make you tolerate the bad situations you need to get out of.

But with that said, telling a more compassionate story about what is happening inside the other person's head is usually the best way to do it.

And what is the final step to get rid of that long-term anger so you can maintain good relationships?


It's not for them, it's for you. Forgiveness makes you less angry and healthier:

The forgiveness of the trait was significantly associated with fewer medications and less alcohol consumption, lower blood pressure and product pressure rate; State forgiveness was significantly associated with a lower heart rate and fewer physical symptoms. None of these sets of findings was the result of the decrease in anger levels associated with forgiveness. These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness-health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger.

As the old saying goes: Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

So remember: "You're just having a bad day."

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Is Article appeared originally in barking up the wrong tree.

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