IN THE MIDST of a monumental family or workplace blow-up, what are we thinking? That’s the point. We so often aren’t. At the very best we can expect a voice inside us to shout, “STOP,” but realistically we hardly ever listen to that voice. A moment after, we realise with regret what we now cannot take back; what we can only apologise for. But, will an apology always mend the situation?
This is no unique problem. We all have our frustrations and annoyances—it’s just our responses that set us apart. Yet our responses are not typically much different from other people. Many people respond appropriately most of the time, yet it’s those critical few times that cause the damage.
All that good work, for what?
Anger gets us all sorts of undesirable places. I envisioned being tangled in an angry fight with another man recently. Not wanting to fight, I said to him rhetorically, ‘Have you got nothing to lose?’ And with a pause, but immediately afterward, I asked a second question: ‘Really?’ as if to home in on the point. We’ve all got something to lose by letting our anger rage uncontrollably. Some of these costs are truly incalculable, certainly before the event.
This is sufficient motivation for us to forever want to rectify the urges to anger.
And we can. Every day, over the course of our lives, we can increase our abilities and capacities of control over anger. We commend ourselves for good responses to angering situations and we forgive ourselves when we do fall for it. We get back up on the horse. We seek help. We’re honest about our problem with it. We need to be.
But, the real key is alluded to in the title of the article.
We must use our higher minds to ward against the negative effects of our anger. By asking ourselves the rhetorical question, ‘Got nothing to lose?’ to which we will most certainly answer, ‘Well, no, of course, I’ve got plenty to lose,’ we have cause then for instant reflection. It’s even something to meditate over as a way of mind training.
It takes us necessarily to cognitive territory that requires the lower reptilian and mammalian minds to accede to the neocortex—the higher mind—the part of the mind that deals in delay, rationality and adult logic; real thinking on a cognitive level. This part of the brain can help us respond how we don’t feel we should, but how we should in any event.
How often in that fit of anger do we even see the right way to respond—the way of the higher mind? We don’t generally. The higher mind needs to be invited. It needs to be accorded a role, more and more frequently. To become useful it needs to be used.
Situations inciting anger require from us, delay. If we don’t delay we are set to explode without logical reason and we bear the regrettable consequences later. Some of these will potentially destroy our relationships, others will simply add to the damage that’s already there.
The truth is we can learn ways of controlling our anger, but we must be honest and decisive about it, and be prepared to engage the higher “adult” mind.© 2010 S. J. Wickham.