Anger rarely happens by itself. It is usually triggered to protect our more vulnerable feelings such as fear, sadness, loneliness, or helplessness in a situation. If we give into reacting to our anger too frequently, we can get taken on a ride of our fight or flight response. Doing this is normal, but if we react in anger too frequently, it can be very destructive to our relationships and our health. People will always remember how they feel around you.
What can we do about this?
One proven approach has emerged from the field of “neuroscience” over the last ten years. Neuroscience is all about how your brain operates and how we can make the most of it. Recently, it has been discovered that “naming” an emotion you are experiencing “tames it.” Simply recognizing and naming an emotion calms it and helps you to intentionally manage your response rather than lose control. This is referred to as “Name it to Tame it.” It has also been referred to as, “if you can feel it, you can heal it.”
There are numerous positive effects that have been proven scientifically in many studies, some of which I’ve referenced below. I’ve highlighted a few points on what the researchers found:
By noticing and naming your emotion, it changes it into “an object of study,” and reduces its raw power over us. It takes a negative emotion that may overwhelm us and puts it “out there” under the microscope, rather than in the driver’s seat of our reactions.
Researchers have repeatedly discovered that becoming self-aware of an emotion, naming it and writing about it all have significant positive effects in reducing, calming or taming it to regain self-control. Becoming more self-aware of your emotion can lead you to better self-manage your response rather than react.
Daniel Siegel, a leading neuroscientist refers to this process as Mindsight. Siegel describes it as “a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the internal workings of our own minds to get ourselves off of the autopilot of ingrained behaviors and habitual responses.” It lets us “name and tame” the emotions we are experiencing, rather than being overwhelmed by them.” Siegel says that focusing on our feeling (anger/frustration/anxiety…), and our body sensations (tight shoulders, clenched jaw, etc.), help us see what is inside, and accept it. This means it is far more important to notice and experience the feeling rather than trying to push it away. When we accept and not deny it, we can then let it go, and finally transform it into a response we can feel good about and will lead to better health.
Use this practice to decrease your reactivity to stress, anxiety, fear and anger. Start to understand your early “warning signs” that you’re going down that fight or flight path so you can “reset” your course by “naming it to tame it”!
Dr. Dan Siegel: An Introduction to Mindsight
Philosophy of Baruch Spinoza
Jepore, S. J. (2002) The Writing Cure: How Expressive Writing Promotes Health and Emotional Well- Being
Valeo (2013) When Labeling an Emotion Quiets It