A N G E R

Responding like a stoic…

Is anger a good thing or a bad thing? Anger, when first recognized, is actually just simply a warning. A signal from your amygdala blasting throughout your brain, sounding an alarm via chemicals, that warns your body that something is not right. Message received as, “there is a present threat and there is a possibility to fight, flight, or freeze.” Anger can therefore be seen as a natural response to external stimuli. It is a response that was designed in humans to help protect us in perceived dangerous situations. After reading what Seneca wrote on Anger, I concluded that he deduced that anger wasn’t natural, that reasoning was natural. The truth is, it requires more brain function to engage the logical areas of the brain. Leaving me to believe, emotion is more natural than thought.

The emotional response happens automatically. This emotional part of our brains (amygdala) is so much more developed than the logical part of our brain, which is known as the prefrontal cortex. The emotional part of our brain has kept us alive, reacting to the world without much thought to consequences, other than one that is primal, “Stay alive!” While this much developed area of my brain has kept me alive, it has also assumed for far too long that it is in charge. I have now learned that the prefrontal cortex can be trained/stimulated so that it can show the amygdala whose boss. Seneca was then saying that allowing our emotional brain to just run rampant in our lives wouldn’t be natural. The natural thing, the “good thing” is to have what we call In DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, your wise mind always aware of what your amygdala and prefrontal cortex are doing. After studying stoicism and understanding that Cognitive Behavior Therapy was designed using stoicism. I can see how it’s philosophy is also helpful in The therapy I am currently receiving now. That this higher order thinking, being cognitively aware is the practice of stoicism. “through Stoic training, Aurelius was able to master his perceptions and see each obstacle as an opportunity to improve”(dailystoic.com) mastering our perceptions, added with the knowledge of how our minds naturally respond will help most manage anger.



You can find some exercises for the prefrontal cortex below…

https://heartmindonline.org/resources/10-exercises-for-your-prefrontal-cortex


If you have read any of my previous posts or know anything of Borderline Personality Disorder, becoming a stoic is changing the natural way in which my BPD brain will more than likely over respond to the difficult to digest external stimuli. Like black is to white, BPD is to stoicism. The way in which one chooses to respond to this automatic alarm system is what I believe answers our question today. When anger is triggered inside the mind, it is neither good nor bad. It is not decided until we respond.

Anger, shows duality, with the possibility of being both good and bad. Stoics believe that there is no good with anger. They were told to see that there is no good, because of all the “evil” it created. They want every stoic to believe that there is no good to be found in anger. I see the justifications of their message. A calm and sound mind, not writhing with “passions” can be controlled. One drowning in anger or other “passions” cannot. So then, if looking at it from this perspective, serenity isn’t the final goal, but rather control. Or does control get us to the place of serenity? I have had moments, in which I have given into passions of anger and it has kept me alive. So isn’t it necessary to be alive in order to be serene? Can we have one without the other?

I absolutely want to be a stoic sage someday, using this higher-order thinking to get through the most complicated of situations with clarity and peace of mind… I’m left perplexed at this particular question. While I understand what the stoic philosophers were trying to convey to their followers in those times, teaching people to seek serenity. Being calm and collected leads to logical thinking and sound decisions. I have also experienced anger on several levels. Ultimately, anger has ensured my existence during some pretty tough times. More recently, I find that I am just angry at myself and my mistakes and this anger has propelled me to find better ways to manage myself, my disorder, and my life. Has it been pretty? No, fighting my way to this point hasn’t been pretty. I feel that’s why we are all built in this way. There is no way to determine which human will be placed in prime conditions and which will be placed in tough conditions. The emotional tools we are equipped with may not be dispersed equally, but we were all equipped with the ability to learn. I choose now as I am on the verge of entering my forties, to learn this higher order thinking. Working a portion of the brain more and more, so that my logical mind becomes stronger every day. My ultimate goal being serenity in this deeply maddening world.

I had a discussion with my students the other day about anger. One student said, “as a kid, my counselor told me not to show my anger, but to keep my anger to myself.” I felt that wasn’t a very healthy way to teach a young person to deal with such an intense emotion. I asked him, “How has that advice worked out for you?” My student responded with, “I’m still trying to find a useful method to control my anger.”

I then asked, “what if we started looking at anger differently?” A lot of puzzled stares looking back at me. I then said, “what if we started looking at the positive ways in which anger can be of use to us? Can anger be of use to us? Can we manage it? Or do we let that emotion manage us?”

What if we started looking at the positive ways in which anger can be of use to us?

What are positive ways anger has helped you?

Can anger be of use to us?

Can we manage anger, or do we let anger manage us?

Emotions indicate so many things for an individual, learning to understand our emotions and why we choose to respond in certain ways, increases not only our emotional intelligence but the control we possess over ourselves. Why then should anyone just ignore this emotion, anger? Especially, when anger is often the first emotion we go to when life gets confusing, or when we are afraid, when we feel threatened or rejected.

“Anger is temporary madness: the Stoics knew how to curb it” By: Massimo Pigliucci, here he states 10 ways to curb anger! Maybe one of these can help…

  • Engage in preemptive meditation: think about what situations trigger your anger, and decide ahead of time how to deal with them.
  • Check anger as soon as you feel its symptoms. Don’t wait, or it will get out of control.
  • Associate with serene people, as much as possible; avoid irritable or angry ones. Moods are infective.
  • Play a musical instrument, or purposefully engage in whatever activity relaxes your mind. A relaxed mind does not get angry.
  • Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.
  • Don’t engage in discussions when you are tired, you will be more prone to irritation, which can then escalate into anger.
  • Don’t start discussions when you are thirsty or hungry, for the same reason.
  • Deploy self-deprecating humour, our main weapon against the unpredictability of the Universe, and the predictable nastiness of some of our fellow human beings.
  • Practice cognitive distancing – what Seneca calls ‘delaying’ your response – by going for a walk, or retire to the bathroom, anything that will allow you a breather from a tense situation.
  • Change your body to change your mind: deliberately slow down your steps, lower the tone of your voice, impose on your body the demeanour of a calm person.

My Conclusion: I thought about anger for an entire week. Oddly enough it kept me from getting angry. While I may not have answered the question for everyone here, my answer is… Anger, like all other emotions is necessary. It is neither a good or bad thing. To let it get out of control is bad. To see what it can do for us when we need it to survive, is good.

Have a great day! The end! 🙂

A game that could help improve logic… Chess

**Wanted to include a huge thanks to @dailystoic and @stoiccoffeebreak for wonderful podcasts! Thanks for stirring good thoughts and inspiring and motivating me to change the things I can control. Check out their podcasts if you are learning on the stoic philosophy.

Mindfulness

Quotefancy-33042-3840x2160 So I decided after my counseling session today that I would add a few things to my routine.  I have to be more mindful of the things I accomplish in my day while working at being more present.  I decided that I would read a chapter of a book before writing my blog entry for the day.  The book I decided to start reading today is “Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google?” By: William Poundstone.  I am only reading a chapter per day.  I can handle small goals that ultimately lead you to reaching bigger goals.  Today the first chapter tells the origin of the name, Google.  I had actually heard of the word ‘googol’ before as it is used in the mathematical sense. Oddly enough I heard this from one of my students, that had been instructed by his parent to ask me if I knew what it was.  I said, “the website?” He confidently said “No, the number.”  I said, “nope, never heard of it.”  I had a more in depth conversation about this from said parent during a parent/teacher conference.  I am sure he meant to make me look stupid with this new information, but I just wanted him to talk about his student and leave, so I could continue with the other 40 conferences we needed to conduct.  Well, he did eventually leave.

The reason I personally chose to add reading to my routine today after counseling, was my intention to be more mindful.  I never actually thought about the concept of being mindful.  I so often run on auto-pilot.  The more mindful I am of myself, my surroundings, and the people in my life the more I should see an improvement in my mental health, my over-all physical health and my financial health.  It seems like everyone is mindful, right? Stop what you are doing, look around you, what do you notice?

I sat down intent on writing my daily blog and noticed that just to the right of the bar in our kitchen a stack of neat books.  Books that I have had either given to me or that I have collected from thrift stores with every intention on reading.  I wasn’t being mindful of my urges when I purchased so many books, as when I purchased these books I didn’t really have time to read them.  I mean I might have been able to, but I would have had to sacrifice something else in my life at that time. I need to be more mindful of my spending and why I am making purchases.  What purpose does that item fulfill.

What gives you joy?  What brings you peace?  I have found that I am peaceful outside, more than I am when I am inside.  That I am joyful over a hot cup of coffee (no cream or sugar necessary.)  I am also a person that enjoys spontaneous adventure, or to find time to gain more knowledge.  What is one way to do both of those things without breaking the bank… Reading.  I love to read.  I always have.  It needs to be included in my daily routine.  I love it just as much as writing.

Living life being mindful sounds easy.  Once you consider the time it takes to appreciate all that is around you, it may not seem so easy anymore.  I will try to be more mindful of my activities, my urges and those people with whom I share life with today and from now on.   

The first chapter of the book was great.  I am so glad that I read it today.  I even imagined I could go to an interview with Google.  The work environment sounds incredible.  The first interesting thing that I found while reading is a quote from Nikolay Gogol.  He describes in his story “The Overcoat” the difference between those that fix and those that create.  “The abyss that separates tailors who only put in linings and do repairs from those who sew new things.”  It is a different world for those that create from their imagination (creative mind – creators) and those that only rely on what they have been taught (academic mind- scholars).  I love what Gogol says and also the quote from Einstein.  Creativity can often be overlooked.  I want to be mindful of my creativity.

Have a mindful day, inspect your surroundings.  How does it smell, sound, and feel?

Stone Flake on A Lake

pexels-photo-568027.jpeg

I was not in control of my emotions last night. Brad received a bill from his lawyer in the mail. He opened his mail as soon as he stepped inside.  The bill was for our day of mediation. And that day was pretty expensive. Her one day of work is more than I get paid in a month. That part wasn’t the important part. The important part was the anger he was feeling and directing towards me. I wasn’t in physical danger I have never been with him, but I knew some harsh words might be swirled around at any moment. At that moment he was transported in his memory to the days that I had chosen to leave and attempt a new life. I was running from my own pain. Trying to outrun my own lies. The days of deception and selfishness are behind me, why doesn’t he see that.  He was feeling all of what I had done to him and to our children all over again. I hate these reminders, I hate what they do to him emotionally. I felt destroyed last night. He was hurting and angry and needing to feel those emotions and I tried to rush his processing time. Why? Because, I don’t want him to feel these feelings. That was something I did, I don’t want to do it again. I don’t want BPD affecting my decisions.

He hit me with truths last night. He hit me with them so hard that I couldn’t find a reason to justify what I had done. The only thing left for me to do was to accept responsibility. I had to accept this pain. I wanted to run. Where would I go? I wanted to not feel this extreme pain. It flooded my head, my chest… and the only way to get rid of this pain was to cry, ugly cry! Annoying cry, I can’t catch my breath because I’m hyperventilating cry. I was hurting so bad and he said that my wailing and gasping for air was scaring our kids. I tried to stop, I wanted to stop, but my emotions would not do as they were told. After about 2-3 hours my meltdown calmed and we could resume with life. It makes me hate BPD. It makes me hate myself. I really hate hurting the people I love. I don’t like to disappoint.

Stone Flake on A Lake is a meditating skill my counselor gave me. It wasn’t helping yesterday,but it had been effective in the past. You simply imagine a flake of stone hitting the top of the lake, everything in me becomes cooler the atmosphere of my mind calms to see this small flake of stone hitting the top of the lake and then it slowly falls into the water destined to hit the bottom. But the one imagining this decides how many times it will glide back and forth before finding itself on the lake bottom. I like this method, it is calming. I had waited to long to start this coping skill so it was ineffective. As I look back on the order of events I probably should have started that skill as soon as I found out what was in the mail. Prepare myself to receive things with a calm mind and spirit.

Today was a rough day! Not only did I deal with that from about 8-11pm. I watched the teacher walkout throughout the day. The state of our education system is crumbling. It’s crumbling from all sides. The fact that our state officials aren’t taking this seriously is more than disturbing. This bothers me so much, because teachers have been disrespected for far too long in our state. The schools and it’s inhabitants should be valued and respected.

I will write more on that tonight or tomorrow. I need some breakfast.

Boiled Easter eggs to the rescue!

Have a blessed day! Thanks for stopping in to read my story.