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Surfing Your Adrenalin Wave: How to Dissolve–Not Disguise–Anger

Feel that rising tide of anger? Surf’s up! Start
paddling.

Whenever we feel angry or frustrated, we get a blast
of adrenalin coursing through our bloodstream. In the
fight or flight response to stress, our bodies rely on our
appendages. We need to hit, kick, jump or run away,
and our bodies help out by sending extra blood to our
limbs.

If we were living in the wild and had to actually fight
off a predator or run away to escape, this would make
perfect sense. But in a typical day, we just don’t need
those survival mechanisms like we used to. In fact, we
do our best to thwart our body’s response to stress by
suppressing our physical reactions.

Oh, sure, we still use our extremities to express our
anger. We raise our fists, pound on the desk, slam
doors or cupboards, kick the garbage can, or stomp our
feet. Still, since we’re trying to be civilized and all, we
use words more than body parts to react to whatever
upsets us. This is good in that we don’t want to go
around hitting people. Slugging your boss may be
biological, but it won’t get you too far in your corporate
climb.

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So, instead of the fight or flight response our
predecessors relied upon, we’ve developed more of
what I call an “explode or seethe” response. Some of
us react right away when we’re upset. We clench our
fists, do some wild gesticulating, raise our voices, or
slam the phone down. Others tend to seethe. We
suck in our breath, count to ten, hold it, and keep our
frustration covered by a tight smile or maybe a little
gasp of exasperation, but that’s about it.

There’s also the classic combo of the
seether/exploder. You know the type: they just keep
their heads down, don’t say a word, and then out of
the blue they go into a tirade that rattles the roof.