The Anger Ascent – Catch it on the way up.
I like to think of anger as a climb with a peak. The trick is to catch it on the way up because when you reach near the peak the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain for reasoning and empathy) is no longer engaged and you are in the fight/flight brain.
So here is the good news.
On the way up the climb, anger has physiological signposts: heat, faster heartbeat, tension of muscles. If you can spot these signs and learn to pause, you can simply defuse the anger.
Pause so that you can reconnect with yourself, I use meditation but even just 15 deep breaths will help. Pause and make a cup of tea and sit in the garden. Pause and dance to some music or pause and write in your journal. Just PAUSE!
If you are near the peak go and find a cushion and scream into it. This may sound crazy and you may feel silly but I promise it works. You are moving the energy through and out (with your breath and voice) and not pushing it back down. You are shifting your physiology by cooling the heat and slowing the heart. Obviously, if you have not done this before then tell your child first! My son thinks it's delightful when after 1-2 muffled (but full power screams) I come up all smiling and reset! Not to mention you are modelling fantastic emotional skills for your child.
The reason yoga and meditation support parents so much is that it brings you into your body, therefore you have more awareness of your shifting physiology. Also, you have more space to observe, with some detachment, changes in your emotional state.
In a recent talk by Dr Joseph Lee, he explained that anger is supposed to be uncomfortable, as its role, in psychological terms, is to cause discomfort in order to recruit others to help. The issue in parenting terms though is that the call for help can be misdirected towards our children. Parent yourself, park your feelings until you are able to process offline with a listening partner to see what help it is that your anger is requesting.
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