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Keep It Frontal: Don't Go Limbic

Using our modern brain to outsmart anger

When is the last time you got angry at someone treating you with respect? You don’t. The brain doesn’t work that way. This has the same reliability as gravity. Apples don’t fall up and the brain does not activate anger when it feels respected. Anger is an emotion designed to change the behavior of someone else. We get angry when we want someone to do something different: start doing something or stop doing something. But being respected feels great, so why would we want to change that?

Anger comes from the impulsive, irrational part of our brain called the limbic system. The limbic system is responsible for emotions like anger and fear, for memories, for pleasure. It is an ancient part of our heritage, helping us survive for hundreds of millions of generations.

Thinking comes from a much more modern part of our brain called the frontal lobes. Put your hand on your forehead. The thinking part of our brain is right here, behind our forehead. Our frontal lobe is responsible for solving problems, executing a plan, and anticipating the consequence of that plan. How many times have you done something impulsively, perhaps irrationally, limbically, and slapped your forehead saying “what was I thinking?” as if to jump start your frontal lobe.

Next time you feel angry put your hand on your forehead, get that frontal lobe going, and think, what do I want to see different?

Dr Shrand Keeps it Frontal

Next time someone else is angry put your hand on your forehead and think, what do they want to see different? Remember, people have a more difficult time getting angry when they feel respected. Think it through. Use your thinking part of your brain and keep it frontal, don’t go limbic.

More from Joseph A. Shrand M.D.
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