Everybody feels anger at some point, ranging from an internal feeling to uncontrollable rage that can cause us huge problems. But all anger has it’s roots in the emotional brain. This article explains about anger and how we can get to the root of it to stop it causing chaos. Likely to be a pattern causing the anger that relates to past experiences. 



Anger and the brain 


Anger isn’t a negative emotion, it’s a necessary instinct that we have to keep us safe. In itself, it is a positive emotion that moves us to make necessary changes. It is the emotion behind the anger that creates that change. But it can cause problems, and in order to understand why, it’s necessary to understand a little about how the brain processes anger. 



Understanding the emotional brain 


We have a thinking brain that enables us to make decisions, work things out logically and make plans. We also have an emotional brain, which evolved much earlier that the thinking part of the brain. This is the instinctive part of our brain, which works ceaselessly to keep us safe and alive for another day. From even before we are born we use patterns to make sense of the world. We store pictures and patterns and use them to understand new things that we see, hear and learn. Pattern matching forms part of our human ‘toolkit’  along with other tools like our dreaming brain, empathy and imagination.

 If an experience makes the emotional brain feel threatened it can create a traumatic memory template. The amygdala, our brain’s security officer, is always scanning our environment for danger. So, when a situation is recognised as similar to the pattern of a trauma memory, it can trigger an anger response in order to protect ourselves.  At this point our emotional brain takes charge. In order to keep us safe, it also reduces the thinking brain’s capacity so that we don’t overthink causing unnecessary hesitation. This is why when the ‘red mist’ descends, we often don’t remember our actions, or act in a way that we certainly wouldn’t normally. 


How one man’s anger was ruining his life


Scott is a 29 year old plumber and I treated him a few months ago for anger issues. He has struggled with anger for most of his adult life, impacting on his relationships, jobs and friendships. In our sessions, the anger linked back to experiences he had with his dad. His dad was himself a very angry man, and you could be forgiven for thinking that Scott has inherited this trait from him. However, although there is an element of learned behaviour in his personality, it is not a character trait. In this case, as it very frequently is, Scott had learned patterns that associated certain situations with his dad’s anger. As a child he was unable to argue back and defend himself against his dad’s rage. But his emotional brain naturally felt threatened and vulnerable when being shouted at and stored these situations as a pattern. 


Not all patterns are precise


And so, as he got older, if his brain felt that he was in danger of being treated in the same way his father treated him, it would trigger the pattern. The difference now is that he’s no longer a child – he can shout back and express his anger. Of course if Scott is being attacked verbally, or physically, by someone then it makes sense that he would defend himself. The problem is that pattern matching is by nature quite crude. The brain only has to see a vague likeness to something to recognise a pattern. As such, what Scott’s brain recognised as anger was often mild criticism, a difference of opinion, a raised voice. And anger was often a very out of proportion response to these situations, and this is when the problems started. 

When I was able to trace back the pattern of the anger, I was able to put his childhood experiences in context with the rest of his life as an adult. Naturally he will still act in anger if he is attacked, but without the trauma template in place, he’s now able to respond in a manner that’s appropriate to the situation. 



Get some help



If this sounds familiar to you, and you find yourself reacting angrily in a way that is disproportionate to the situation, then maybe there is a link to your past which is causing you to act this way. Getting help is easy, why not get in touch and see if you can make a lasting change that will benefit every aspect of your life. 

I hope you have found this information about anger helpful. As always, please share if you know someone who would benefit from reading it. For more information and useful downloads, head over to our website.

With very best wishes


Book your free phone consultation for proven therapy that works


Share This