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Stourport Shrimper

Aug 16, 2009
Or for that matter can any human being learn to control anger?

Well the simple answer is yes we can learn to control anger. But in general anger cannot be managed simply by someone trying harder next time to avoid getting angry (as some seem to think).

I have never heard of footballers attending Anger Management Courses but these do exist and they have a good success rate. (Moreover if one type of approach does not appear to work then a different approach can be tried because not all Anger Management approaches are the same)

So here begins a short reminder about the human 'fight-flight' response (and briefly how that response can be modulated)

Simply getting to know how the human brain 'works' can in itself help.

Firstly very strong emotional response to a "stimulus' or 'trigger' locks the brain's attention upon that thing perceived to be the cause of the response. When there is such high arousal, we talk about the brain 'downshifting' to the lower primitive part of the brain responsible for amongst other things 'flight and fight' (Under such conditions we can't be rationale because rationality resides in the upper part of the brain)

When someone cannot seem to control their anger they need to be aware that the emotional response happens BEFORE a conscious response. 'Feelings' are distinct brain 'states' that appear to originate in the Brain's Limbic System and it is here that patterns of information coming from the body's senses are co-ordinated. This system is continually on the lookout for physical danger and it responds to a 'danger' pattern prior to conscious thought.

In a part of the brain called the amygdala, incoming sensory patterns are sorted AUTOMATICALLY into low emotional and high emotional content. If the signals are of low emotional content, the signals divert to the upper (rationale and creative) part of the brain and we can show a considered or creative response. However signals that have the pattern previously associated with high emotional arousal are diverted to the lower fight/flight part of the brain. Such response allows the 'emotional' brain to respond instantly to threat by triggering the 'fight or flight' reflex, and happens before the conscious brain knows anything about it. Emotion is an essential part of the mammalian design. Unfortunately, while our underlying emotional mechanisms have not changed over millions of years, our environment has, out of all recognition. The basic emotions evolved to ensure our survival, so they had to have particularly powerful effects, ensuring rapid and perhaps drastic action in times of danger.

When we feel we are in danger, the body immediately changes its priorities. Activity in the sympathetic nervous system instantly increases, stimulating the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline, two hormones that raise the body's arousal. The heart rate increases and blood is diverted to the muscles. Then the endocrine system gets to work producing cortisol, a stress hormone that increases vigilance in the brain and counteracts the effects of insulin, making blood sugar levels rise. Blood fibrinogen rises in case of injury that would require a clotting response. Anything that is not vital to counteract an immediate threat is put on hold, such as rationale thinking, growth, tissue repair, digestion, reproductive processes and maintaining the full immune response.

So in summary because the fight/fight response kicks in before conscious awareness we have to LEARN how to modulate the 'triggers' and 'patterns' that excite our amygdala. Also we can learn strategies that as soon as we feel the emotional arousal happening we can put into action before our brain gets locked into a full fight/flight response. These are the sort of things that will be tackled on any good Anger Management Approach. Being able to be in control of our responses to Anger is part of Emotional Intelligence which unfortunately is not taught in schools.

So it is possible to learn to control how we respond to our emotional 'buttons' but not by the person simply trying harder

It strikes me that at the moment there is more than one player at our club that should be sent on an Anger Management Course.

The next issue is if this is the case should they pay for it themselves (as it is part of their professional personal development and will also enhance their career if successful) or should the club pay for it (it will enhance their future transfer fee)? Perhaps a 50/50 arrangement?

Oh, and would fasting increase the Anger response? I don't have the answer to this, but one of the hormones released by the body to maintain blood sugar level is adrenaline so potentially this could add fuel to the fight/flight response