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You have been provoked, you are angry, frustrated or fearful (or any combination) . Your body's muscles tense up. Neurotransmitter chemicals known as catecholamines are released in your brain causing you to experience a burst of energy lasting up to several minutes. You have a instinctive desire to take immediate protective action. Your heart rate accelerates, blood pressure rises and your rate of breathing increases. Your face may flush as increased blood flow enters your limbs and extremities in preparation for physical action. Your attention narrows and becomes locked onto the target of your anger. Soon you can pay attention to nothing else. In quick succession, additional brain neurotransmitters and hormones (among them adrenaline and noradrenaline) are released which trigger a lasting state of arousal. You're now ready to fight.
Holistically, you have been hijacked by your ego who runs you now, most of the time against your best of judgement. Physically you have been subject to a "coup de tant" by your amygdala which is the part of the brain responsible for identifying threats to our well-being. The amygdala is so efficient at warning us about threats, that it gets us reacting too fast before the cortex (the part of the brain responsible for thought and judgement). In other words, our brains are wired in such a way as to influence us to act before we can properly consider the consequences of our actions.
At Ha-P.com we have invented fun rituals allowing people to "buy" the much needed 4 to 6 seconds to "cool off" and transfer the command and control back to the prefrontal cortex of your brain, which is the anterior part of the frontal lobes, located in front just behind your forehead so it can keep your emotions in proportion. This brain region has been implicated in planning complex cognitive behaviors, personality expression, decision making and moderating correct social behavior. We can activate higher emotions that distinguish us from animals such as compassion, love, friendship, pithiness and care, allowing us to act in a way that will not regret as the prefrontal cortex is considered to be orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with our internal goals.
It is Easier Done than Said! We have created simple (yet not simplistic) fun, humoristic thus memorable rituals which are easy to master.
The ritual of gaining control over your anger is called "L.S.Do". No it is not the drag. It is the acronym for Listen, Smile then Do the Opposite of what your raged ego which is hijacked by your "terrorist amygdala" .
For example: I used to get upset when people cut me during driving. Like most drivers, I am the king of the road. How dare him to cut into my lane risking my family and car with his reckless driving and disrespect. Anger , frustration and the bad chemicals almost caused me an accident and ruined my day. After all, the guy simply want to go left, he does not know me and never intended to make an issue. He is just in a hurry.
Using "L.S.Do", I Listened to his request to get into my lane, I Smile and Did the Opposite of what my raged ego wanted me to do - to accelerate. Instead I waved with my hand gesture signalling"Please". I slowed down and let him join my lane. My brain had produced Endorphins and Dopamine which elevated my mood. My kids on the rear seat saw that father is a kind driver and they hopefully remember by my role modelling that one should be generous also while driving. I lost a second or two but I did not risk an unnecessary accident and loss of valuable time. I made the day for someone. He reciprocated with a smile and sent positive energy towards me. He will likely feel better and pay it forward with good energy to other people as well.
I felt good also because I could activate kindness within me which is one of the 5 top ingredients needed for balanced well being in the PERMA model that was published by Dr. Martin Seligman in his new book Flourish (our next blog post).
Here are links to a clip and two article about a woman who has a damaged amygdala that confirms the role of the amygdala. My conclusion is that we need survival instinct to survive yet not to surrender to its' deadly by product of making us fear what what we shouldn't and overestimate risks that are far from reality.