It’s so easy, we’ve all been there. Someone says something that pushes a button in your head that sounds off all alarms. Next thing you know, you’re sent over the edge of anger, fear, and sadness all at once.
In my experience, these people know what they’re about to do. They lift the plastic guard, they turn the key, and slam their hand over the big red button that brings out the worst in you.
You lose it.
You see red.
You black out.
You throw things.
You hulk out.
No matter how prepared you are, it’s still nearly impossible to control what you feel in that moment. So how do we move forward?
To understand the problem, we have to take a step back and understand why it happens, and why it feels so difficult to overcome.
When humans perceive a threat, the Amygdala sounds an alarm and releases chemicals into your body like cortisol and adrenaline—a deadly cocktail to anyone with anger issues. These chemicals are designed to move us into action. You’ve been triggered and fight or flight kicks in.
I’m going to call the Amygdala, Amy, and the only thing you need to know is that in these instances, Amy is a bitch.
When we activate Amy, not only are chemicals released in our system, but our gateway to the Prefrontal Cortex shuts down. The prefrontal cortex is used in determining right from wrong, predicting future outcomes, working towards goals, and is involved in repressing socially inappropriate behaviors.
We become disoriented.
We get lost in a heated argument.
Our complex decision making goes right out the window.
We say things we don’t mean.
We find ourselves stuck in a singular perspective.
I’m right and you’re wrong.
Have you ever been in a heated argument and been asked to give an example and in that exact moment it’s like your entire memory has been compromised? Dammit, Amy.
So, now what? How do we move from “Amying Out”, to being a normal functioning human again?
Recently, I was faced with a situation that caused Amy to be ignited in the worst kinda ways. After the smoke settled and the feeling returned to my hands, it caused me to reflect and try use this experience as something to help others.
There are four things have stopped me from:
A) Punching someone
B) Punching something
C) All of the above
I hope this helps you.
This might seem like the easiest step, but paying attention to this while angry is nearly impossible. The rhythm and pace of your breathing can lower your heart rate and cause the adrenaline and cortisol production to stop. Inhale, exhale, repeat.
Inhale 1, 2, 3
Exhale 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
*Side note: that breathing technique has proven helpful when I can’t sleep too
2. Pay attention to your body
For me I know when Amy is taking over. I feel it in my hands first, then it creeps up my arms. Before I know it, it’s like my limbs no longer exist and I can feel my heartbeat in my ears. Paying attention to the warning signs can allow you to prepare for them. When you know it’s coming, you can pay more attention to your breathing, you can step back and analyze the situation.
3. Remain present
Sometimes when Amy is ignited all we want to do is run. We get so angry or so sad that the only solution we can think of, is that if we can’t see it, it can’t see us. But If we’re paying attention to our body, if we’re listening to the way our breathing sounds, then we can remain in the moment. We can understand what is happening and why, and with logic we can think through why we’ve gotten to this point. We can listen, and react with more maturity than Amy, who at this point, only wants to throw something at you and run away.
4. Let go
This is the hardest part, because no one wants to be wrong. But sometimes, the person you’re fighting with doesn’t know how to get rid of Amy. Sometimes, that person just won’t talk about it in a way that elicits meaningful conversation. Sometimes, you’re talking to them and realize they’re immature and can’t understand things from a different perspective—and you can’t change that, they have to. Just because they can’t see their own immaturity in that moment, doesn’t mean you have to drown in it with them.
Walk away, let it go, and learn that there are much bigger fish to fry.
Forward to a friend