The other day I pulled out of my driveway and onto the main thoroughfare leading downtown in Helena, Montana. It had lightly snowed a few days before and then warmed up considerably, so the streets were slushy and slippery. Luckily, I only have about a three minute commute to my office.
A half a block later, I glanced into my rear-view mirror and saw that there was someone right behind me. I mean right behind me. I couldn’t tell how close he actually was, but I felt my hackles go up. Hey! Get off my butt!
As he continued to tail me I felt that adrenaline that comes right before anger begins to flow through my veins. As I passed through the neighborhood, I felt my temper climb. I began to imagine myself doing all sorts of things…tapping my breaks…slowing down to 10 miles an hour to make him late…pulling over, rolling down my window and giving him that old universal sign language for…well…you know.
I turned left at the street where my office is located and looked to see if he was still behind me. He wasn’t. A couple of expletives entered my mind.
I began to reflect on the thoughts that had gone through my mind while we were both tooling down the street. A main one was, I can’t get hurt again! I broke my neck by falling down the stairs at my house in the year 2000 and I have an issue with chronic pain. Early on in the process healing, I was in so much pain that I seriously did not want to live much longer. Thank God I found a wonderful chiropractor who put me back together enough that I now enjoy my life very much.
Well, I knew that I always feel fear when I get into situations like this. I am worried I will get injured again somehow; get a whiplash if someone hits me from behind. But I also knew my anger level was over the top for the situation, so I kept thinking about it. Another block went by…and then it came to me.
I had been very worried about my dog. I have a golden doodle named Emma. She one of the great blessings of my life. She is smart and hilarious and affectionate…a mass of joyful auburn curls. A few years ago she was diagnosed with diabetes and we give her two shots of insulin a day to keep her pancreas working. The day before we had gotten a call from our vet and she was worried Emma now had Cushings disease. I had read about this early on in her treatment and although I couldn’t remember exactly what it was, I knew it wasn’t good.
The vet was still testing, so I purposefully didn’t go back online and look it up. I told myself not to feed my fears that way, and we didn’t know yet if she actually had it or not (she didn’t, thank God).
But in the middle of the night, and again that morning, I had been really worried about her. I hadn’t been in a great frame of mind when I said goodbye to her and got into my car.
I then I realized that my quick rocket flight into anger stemmed from my fear that I was going to lose Emma.
Just realizing that didn’t take my anger down to zero as fast as it had climbed to sixty, but by the time I got to my office, I had forgotten all about it. And all that in less than 3 minutes.
Mindfulness Skill ~ The Body Scan
Have you ever taken a moment to notice if your anger is actually stemming from something other than what is presented to you in that moment? A DBT Skill called Body Scan can help. The next time you feel your anger go up in a flash, stop and do the scan. Ask yourself, what is happening in my body? What is happening in my thoughts? What is happening in my environment? Am I feeling “over the top?” Does the situation really warrant it? Give yourself some moments to reflect on what is going on before you react. You will calm down much quicker and not do something that may ruin your own day.
Have you ever gotten really angry and then realized your emotions went way beyond what triggered them? Let me know in the comments below. Let’s talk about it! There’s a lot we can do about the problem of too much anger.