Out of Control

Lately we have seen an increased amount of violence in our country. Troubling, isn’t it? Anger can easily escalate into intense aggressive acts toward other humans and even to inanimate objects. Desperately angry people in Portland, Oregon, Washington D.C., and New York City have wanted to damage and destroy buildings there, and have taken many lives. Portland was an attractive city–”the city of roses”–but what does it look like now after weeks of increasing animosity and mayhem?

Why are people so angry? Of course, the President of the U.S. is blamed and so are police officers, but this animosity has continued long after the death of George Floyd, who was killed by an angry police officer. So, what is it all about?  Why do you get angry? Is it just injustice that causes you to yell, to throw things, to seek to hurt and destroy?  Are you able to control internal feelings that produce a lightening response of rage, or do you burst out with thunderous expletives, demeaning others? Let’s look at anger and some of its causes.

Anger is located in, and is a function of, the brain’s reward circuit. Humans are constantly, consciously or sub-consciously, weighing what we expect to happen in any situation or circumstance. When what we expect to happen doesn’t, the amygdala, a small but significant part of the brain’s emotional center, fires up.

“Anger can trigger the body’s fight or flight response, causing the adrenal glands to flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline, and testosterone, preparing us for physical aggression. But whether we actually end up swearing or scowling or even punching someone depends on a second brain area, the prefrontal cortex, that is responsible for decision-making and reasoning. This puts our anger in context, reminds us to behave in socially acceptable ways and for most of us, most of the time, keeps our primal instincts in check,” according to Olga Kazan in a September 19, 2016 article in The Atlantic magazine.

In actuality, the prefrontal cortex of the brain acts as a brake or damper, helping you to calm enough to apply logic and appropriateness to your rage, so a moral and/or less aggressive decision can guide and determine your actions. Of course, in order for the prefrontal cortex to be active, one has to have had proper influences in the ever-sponge-like formative years when outside influences contribute to building one’s character.

Now, think for a few minutes about the behaviors of the rioters and terrorists who are currently causing mayhem in our cities. A few causes may include:

– Previous (even childhood) experiences of personal injustice they might have experienced;
– Mental disturbances or illness;
– Prejudice against race, religion, or political party;
– Sensitivity to injustice; or
– Being paid to riot by others who want to see destruction occur for political gain, etc.

Ask yourself what triggers intense anger in you. I hate it when I see people deliberately hurt or injured in any manner. I can hardly handle watching the news lately, because it seems that the majority of it is so negative, highlighting man’s inhumanity toward mankind, damages to representations of our history as Americans, and murders of and injuries to helpless children.

Let’s remember that we do have a prefrontal cortex–all of us. Obviously that portion of the brain is more active in some than in others, but Godly kindness is available to all of us. Let’s use it by regular connection with the One who created us! Take a walk in nature, offer up a brief prayer for control of  your emotion. Ask yourself:

– When in my character forming years (birth through age 7) did I feel like I do now?
– What caused the feeling then?
– What is causing the feeling now?

And then write the answers to these questions. By the time you have written the answers, your prefrontal cortex will have cooled down the amygdala, and you’ll have new understanding to benefit you the next time you feel anger rising within you.

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”  Proverbs 29:11

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