Why do we get angry?

Mindful Introspection   Today I came across an interesting theory about why we’re getting angry most of the times. In his book The Brain and Emotional Intelligence: New Insights, Daniel Goleman talks about the fact that we have two ”bosses” in our head which controls the way we see things and we make decisions. There is the good boss located in our prefrontal cortex which controls our attention, our reasoning, our flexibility in giving answers and our decision making. We also have a bad boss which is our amygdala that is responsible with our emotions of suffering, fear, anger, impulsivity and so on.

   “Amygdala is the brain’s radar for threatening. Our brain is designed as an instrument for survival. Amygdala has a privileged position in our brain’s schematics. If it detects a threat, it can take immediately control over our whole brain’s activity, especially over our prefrontal cortex; this is called a hijack”. – Daniel Goleman

   As you see, whenever we think we detect a threat, our brain will get concentrated on that and the negative emotions will kick in and every decision we make is seen through that negative filter. During this hijack we can’t learn new things, we’ll be concentrating only at the threat, we can’t be innovative and we’ll remember things related to that threat.

   Our brain is ready to react in case a threat is been perceived, but we are perceiving threats more that we should. Actually, there are very few real threats we encounter in our lives, but we perceive threats all day long. As an example, if we see a random person looking “strange” at us, we might perceive that as a threat (I know, threat is a strong word, but whatever we think it goes against anything related to us can be seen as something negative) and it will trigger the hijack and we’ll be invaded with negative thoughts and feelings.

   The solution? We should stop perceiving random things as being threatening and here is how  Daniel Goleman proposes we can do it:

   “The steps for ending or for interrupting a hijack start with monitoring what happens into your mind and your brain and with observing: “I’m exaggerating” or “I’m very upset right now” or “I’m starting to get angry”.[..] It’s easier to stop the hijacking at the beginning.”

   The author also states that we need to want to calm down so this can work. Using empathy and having dialogs with ourselves can also work. There must be other reasons out there for one’s behavior.

   As I said, it’s an interesting theory, but bottom line it all comes to monitoring and changing our perspective about looking at things. This might be the key to everything?

17 thoughts on “Why do we get angry?

  1. I only read first paragraph, but I can tell I would like the whole thing. This subject matter reminds me a lot of “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales: (2003–I think).
    It’s a 5Star in my opinion. The guy who gave it one star says that he did not like the end, where the author takes the liberty to talk a little bit about himself. Fact is that the reviewer really didn’t like Gonzales’s promotion of 1) humility 2) logical references to a few bible sayings. Some people are scared of those things, because deep-down they want them but are not sure if it is attainable.

    1. I haven’t read that, but I will! Well, there is a theory in which people are tend to view the beginning and the end of something much deeper compared to the middle. So if that reviewer saw something that didn’t felt right because of some internal issues, he/she rated accordingly without being able to have a view about the idea, not about what he thought about the idea. Thank you for sharing your insights and for your suggestion! It truly helps me! 😀

  2. I’ve read a little about schematics, and this really does resonate. Especially in cases of domestic abuse, ptsd, etc. Fight or Flight mode. I seem to live in this constantly, and am learning techniques to stop before the breakdown. Thank you for sharing this, I loved it!

    1. I love that you love it! It’s a pretty interesting topic that puts some perspective in the way we’re viewing anything around us.

  3. Committing to monitoring my emotional reactions to every situation is the only way I’m able to function, but it’s also the reason that the only psychiatric med I need is to manage a significant attentional deficit. With that deficit managed I was able to go off all of my other meds for depression and anxiety, and it’s because I was able to commit to and sustain a practice of monitoring. Not enough emphasis is placed on a client’s personal responsibility to the process of recovery. It’s easier to take a medication and pathologize things that are choices rather than afflictions. That’s not to say there’s no place for medications and understanding. But empathy can become collusion very easily. What Goleman is talking about is mindfulness. Presence. And orientation toward each moment rather than the one before or after. And it really is an amazing tool that we don’t take nearly enough advantage of, especially in the social cultures of highly developed nations. Always focused on what’s next, we get hijacked without even realizing it and then waste precious energy try to reroute the Titanic. Great post! It mirrors a lot of issues I’ve been thinking and writing about lately.

    1. Thank you! You’re absolutely right! The thing with this mindfulness is that it’s harder to master, but once it is, it can bring bliss to one’s life. Thank you for your amazing comment! I’m looking forward to see your thoughts about other things as well! 😀

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