We were happily driving along, mid conversation when a car with two young men travelling towards us, deliberately swerved into our lane to scare us. Thankfully my reactions were quick, I managed to avoid a collision.
My mum was a little shaken and I was less than impressed, but we continued our conversation and our journey with no other issues and the incident wasn’t mentioned again. Now imagine what could have happened if my reaction to the same incident had been handled differently.
Instead of continuing with our conversation and journey I felt triggered by their stupidity, and I spun the car around. Followed the men in question, chased them down, demanding an explanation for their recklessness. I would have had to drive faster to catch them up in a built-in residential area putting myself and others at risk of an accident.
Then what? Honking the horn to get their attention, shouting, becoming increasingly annoyed as my heart rate pumps, my palms become sweaty with anticipation and my breathing becomes shallow as the hormones, adrenaline and cortisol rush through my body.
I catch them, they stop their car, we all get out of our vehicles, have a blazing argument, angry words are exchanged, and let’s hope it doesn’t become physical. I get back in my car, I’m shaking, I’m probably crying with anger and frustration by now.
My day feels like it’s been spoiled, my body is fizzing with rage, I’m hot, my heart is pounding out of my chest. Meanwhile the two lads have driven off laughing and got on with their day, and mine has been spoiled. I can’t help thinking about what happened. I talk about it constantly, what else I should have said, or done or what if I see them again … and so, it goes on. What could have been over and done within seconds has been allowed to ruin an entire day and beyond.
It might sound extreme, but situations like this occur all the time. I remember years ago, a friend jumping out of their car after someone cut us up in traffic. I was mortified as I sat in the car while they shouted and screamed at the person who was oblivious to what they had done.
I realise that my friend’s reaction was from a place of being scared, the incident had given them a shock and they reacted angrily propelled by the sudden rush of adrenaline. The better response would have been to pull over for a moment, take a breath, let go of the anger and carry on thankful that we had escaped incident or accident. Although I wasn’t going to say it at the time for fear of being shouted at too.
Anger is a natural and healthy emotion to recognise but acknowledging anger and frequently becoming consumed by anger are worlds apart.
It would be hard not to watch the news or read a paper without feeling anger and frustration at what’s going on in the world. The humanitarian crisis, the rise in fuel, inflation, Covid-19, but if we became angry at everything upsetting thing, we’d be physically and emotionally exhausted.
Here are some very simple ideas to help you if you’re feeling triggered by anger and you’d like to implement some ways to manage it:
1 Understand why you’re angry. Anger is often there to hide what’s going on beneath the surface. Are you angry or are you sad, frustrated, embarrassed, or something else? Find the root of your anger and work on that by being honest with yourself
2 When you feel the first signs of anger, fizzy tummy, or tingly sensation in your body- remove yourself from the situation if you can. Try breathing deeply and slowly, in through your nose and out through your mouth will help to calm you down
3 If you are with someone who is angry, try and remove yourself from the situation when/ if it is safe to do so. Don’t tell the person to calm down, it rarely works. Instead speak in a calm, non-patronising, tone of voice, listen to what they have to say without shouting.
4 Are you holding onto something that has happened in the past that is causing you pain and anger? Can you confide in someone about the way you are feeling, processing what happened might be difficult, but it could be what you need to move forward
5 Release anger and tension by doing something fun, watching a film you like, listen to some comedy, go for a walk, dance to some music, do what you need to do to safely burn off the anger without hurting yourself or someone else
Shannon Humphrey is a First Aid for Mental Health Instructor Youth and Adult, for more information visit www.pathwaysforpositivity.com