Anger_coping_web

Coping with anger

There is nothing pleasant about having someone get angry at you. Of course there is always the possibility that the anger could escalate to something physical, like being slapped across the buttocks with a live haddock. Putting aside for a moment the potential for piscatorial abuse, there is also the emotional consequences of anger. These will differ from person to person but we all need to know how to handle anger with equanimity and new research has provided an answer.

One of the commonly suggested cognitive behavioural approaches to dealing with anger is to find a way to reframe the angry person. For instance, you might tell yourself that they are not really angry about you; they could have just discovered that they have been beaten for a promotion at work by a near-sighted duck. Or perhaps they were woken early this morning by an unexpected phone call from Billy Ray Cyrus. There could be many reasons why that person is angry, it is probably not all about you. Taking this point of view is known as reappraising and in the latest study researchers wanted to see how reappraising is reflected in brain activity.

Reappraising is a conscious process that takes place in the frontal portions of the brain. An emotional response to anger takes place in centres at the rear of the brain. These researchers wanted to see how quickly reappraising modified what was happening in those emotional centres.

To test this, they showed subjects a series of faces and tested their reactions. On one occasion subjects were told that when they saw an angry face they should consider that the people they were seeing had had a bad day and that the anger was nothing to do with them. The results showed that people who had been trained in this way were not disturbed when they saw an angry person’s face on a second occasion.

In a second experiment the researchers recorded brain activity in people as they viewed angry faces and found that when people practised reappraising the activity signifying negative emotions in the rear parts of the brain was completely wiped out.

This tells us that by preparing yourself to reappraise or reframe someone’s anger you can totally circumvent any negative effects on yourself. It seems a stitch in time does indeed save nine.

The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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