"Anger can be a signal that something needs to change… however, it is often not the most effective energy to trust in making the change."
~ Bill Crawford

“Anger can be a signal that something needs to change… however, it is often not the most effective energy to trust in making the change.”
~ Bill Crawford

Anger Management vs. Anger Mastery!

Anger can be a complicated emotion. It certainly serves us when we, or those we love are being physically threatened with harm. In these situations, anger can move us to fight back and hopefully subdue the perpetrator so that they can no longer hurt us. In addition, anger can be a valuable signal that either alerts us to a situation that needs addressing, or even moves us from inaction to action when action is called for.

However, I think we have all heard of times when anger made the situation worse. Maybe it was the time someone fired off an email without thinking. Or, it could have been something said to another in anger that only served to intensify the conflict. Or, maybe we just found ourselves fuming for days or weeks over some perceived slight in such a way that minimized the quality of our lives.

Regardless, what most people have come to realize is that anger is a powerful emotion and unless we chose to use it in a purposeful way, it will “use us,” or influence our lives in ways that create more problems than solutions.

Of course, for those of you who follow my “Life from the Top of the Mind” philosophy, you know that when I speak of using anger purposefully, I am talking about coming from the purposeful, upper 80% of the brain (the neocortex). It is this upper brain that gives us access to our clarity, confidence, and creativity, as well as, our best interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Therefore, let’s look at how people have been effected by, or have used anger in the past from a neuroscience perspective so that we can use this scientific information to inform our use of anger in the future.

For example, I think that we can all agree that anger in response to a physical attack on either ourselves or those we love is an appropriate use of this powerful emotion. It triggers adrenaline (from the brainstem) that allows us to hopefully overpower the perpetrator, and keeps everyone safe.

As mentioned, it can also be a valuable signal that something needs to change so that we don’t allow dysfunctional situations to go unaddressed or unchecked. What we want to be careful of, however, (careful meaning “full of care”), is that we don’t use the energy of the signal to attempt to solve the problem.

Why?… Because when we use anger to address a situation, we are, by design, attempting to solve the problem from the angry part of the brain which is the lower, reactive, brain. Unfortunately, it is from this lower brain that we do or say things that are more irrational and reactive. This then minimizes the potential that what we say will be heard as valuable or that we will truly resolve the problem. In fact, it maximizes the potential that what we do or say will trigger the other person and make the situation worse.

In fact, even when we are using anger to get another’s attention or impress upon them the seriousness of the problem (kids, direct reports, spouses, etc.), this rarely creates a trusting relationship. It can get them to “obey” us in the short term out of fear, but if trust (creating a trusting relationship) is what we are going for, then anger is not likely to accomplish this. Plus, it may send the message that they really don’t have to pay any attention to us until we get angry, which will require that we continue to get angry in the future in order for them to take us seriously.

Therefore, I suggest that we use anger in the way that is the most effective… we trust it to trigger a “fight,” or brainstem reaction that allows us to protect ourselves and those we love from physical danger. Plus, we trust the signal of anger to let us know that something needs to change.

Then, I suggest that we trust the “Top of the Mind,” or the clear, confident, creative, purposeful brain to create that change or respond to the situation in a way that truly solves the problem versus simply triggering more anger in the recipient. Further, in dealing with those whom we love and/or are responsible for, if trust and effective communication are our goal, I suggest we engage these people in such a way that they shift from their resistant brain to their receptive brain so that they truly hear and understand what we are wanting them to know.

This is what I have the pleasure of teaching in my books and seminars. If you feel that you and/or your organization or family could use this information and skill set, I would be happy to be of service, because, until we learn to use the powerful emotion of anger in a purposeful way, it will “use us,” or influence our lives in ways that create more problems than solutions.

~ All the best, Dr. Bill