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Science Explains How Anger Can Change Our Brains And Thinking In A Good Way

Science Explains How Anger Can Change Our Brains And Thinking In A Good Way

We are so often taught to avoid negative emotions in order to be our most positive selves and maintain a socially acceptable status quo. But what about the ways we could use negative emotions to our advantage? What about the ways we could harness emotions that are perceived as negative, but could be used productively? For example, getting agitated and losing your temper is bad, but using the energy that sustains agitation can quite possibly be productive. What’s more, anger can even change our brains in a good way!

How Anger Can Be Positive

There are good reasons why we tend to subdue emotions like anger, because it can be difficult to harness and harmful in its full effect. Yet anger is a good example of how we can take negative emotions and consider their full use.

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While we are taught that anger is largely detrimental and inhibiting to our daily lives, this may not always be the case. Studies have shown that when fuelled by anger, we are less likely to think in systematic ways and we have high-powered cognitive ability compared to people who feelsad or depressed. When we lack systematic ways to process information, we tend to look at the bigger picture to gather more clues. Such way of thinking is highly related to creativity.

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Channel The Negatives In Order To Be Positive

Studies also show that productivity with emotions like anger isdependent on the situation and on the person. It is an emotion deemed to be beneficial only in some, but certainly not all, contexts. For example, anger might be used productively in a negotiation, but only when the situation is confrontational. In other words, the heightened nature of the interaction may be fuelled with anger, but it is down to the person and the nature of the negotiation to be able to fuel the anger wisely. Studies showed that when these circumstances had productive results, it was because the participants wanted to feel anger in order to produce the desired result. They were aware of the scientific benefits and were able to harness the emotion productively.

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Be Aware When You Make Use Of Anger

Alternate studies have shown that angry people make better leaders, but again it is circumstantial. If those they are leading are not sensitive to conflict, the leadership can be successful. The research indicates an alignment of personalities. In order for the negative emotions to have a positive effect, the people involved need to be emotionally compatible and emotionally knowledgeable about the possible outcomes. They must be aware that anger can be beneficial, but also be able to recognize the dangers and the responsibility of such interactions. How negative or how positive our experiences maybe is dependent on what we are trying to achieve and how we approach these situations.

If we can recognize these things within ourselves and manage to harness them with maturity and knowledge, there is a chance that we can use perceivably negative emotions in a productive way and turn them into positive results. We can change the way we think about “negatives” and approach them with a sense of neutrality or even positivity. We can begin to understand that emotions — even the “bad” ones that we wish to avoid — can aid us for the better when it comes to our psychological and overall health.

Featured photo credit: Albumarium via albumarium.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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