Anger & the BRAIN (Part 3)

brain chemicals

must be those pesky chemicals!

PREVIOUS: Anger & the Brain (Part 2)

SITE: “Helping children with anger


a. The ‘Reptilian’

b. The LIMBIC SYSTEM (cont.)
iii. The Amygdala (cont)
While there are successful behavioral tools to manage hostile responses to life’s difficulties, chronically angry people may have trouble using them if their brain isn’t producing enough acetyl-choline, the hormone which tempers the more severe effects of adrenaline & helps to schedule REM sleep.

BTW: Introverts generally have higher level of this calming neuro-transmitter, so they’re more comfortable being alone, not needing a lot of stimulation in order to burn off excess adrenaline.(More...)
AND – they’re highly sensitive to Dopamine, so – too much will over-stimulate them.

✤ Under sudden stress, the brain is wired to make us react before we can properly consider the consequences. While the amygdala is very efficient at warning us about a threat –
it can only react from previously stored patterns – so it’s not good at judging or evaluating what to do about it.

When flooded with emotions, it hijacksthe rest of the brain, so the prefrontal cortex (PFC) gets temporarily cut off, without the thinking-option of checking if our behavior is reasonable, appropriate or safe.

EXP: When anger takes over, a person will tend to ‘shoot from the hip’ instead of from the head. However, resilient people (emotionally & chemically balanced) are able to make a faster recovery from stress, allowing them to BrainCoherenceEmotionuse the thinking brain more easily to calm emotional intensity.

✤ Emotional flooding does not excuse bad behavior, but it does mean that managing anger properly is a skill that has to be learned, NOT something we’re born able to do instinctively.

NOTE to ACoAs: This is another reason there are times when we can’t seem to respond successfully or at all – until well past the event. It’s when we’re shocked by someone saying or doing something that scares our WIC, whether outrageous, actually harmful, or just because it reminds us of our family.

For many us, it’s only later – sometimes much later – that the cortex is finally able to kick in & lets us think of all the ‘right’ or clever things we could / wish we could have said. Very annoying, especially in the modern world where words are more often needed than fists!
(See ‘Communication discrepancies in “D.M., #5”)

Re. the Amygdala in Animals
Overactive – When their brains were stressed by electronic stimulation, they became aggressive. As the irritation continued (just like ACoAs suffered as kids), the amygdala became overactive, dramatically increasing the subjects’ agitation & short temper
Missing – When the 2 structures were removed, the animals became very tame, no longer responding to things that previously would have caused rage, fear or sexual interest….

Information (stimuli) first goes to the thalamus & then to 2 parallel pathways:
√ The ‘low road’/ short route (12 milli-sec.) provides a fast, rough impression of the situation, bypassing the ‘thinking’ brain. This creates an emotional response before all the facts are in

√ The ‘high road’ / long route (24 milli-sec.) – going from emotional input, thru the cortex to the amygdala – allows the brain to determine if an event is truly life threatening.
If the frontal cortex rationally decides that it’s not, it dampens the intensity of the amygdala’s quick reaction, via the unconscious. (MORE…. birth – age 7) (Circuitry & Sense of SELF)
In Humans
When the amygdala is damaged, experiences which should cause alarm don’t get to the cortex for processing (high road), and a person will compulsively go toward dangerous things, even when repeatedly warned against doing so – because the fear response is missing (low road).
too much risk
EXP:  When one woman had her amygdala removed to stop her seizures, those were eliminated.
But – she was no longer able to recognize fear or anger in herself, or in other people’s voices. However, she could still identify & understand expressions of sadness, disgust, happiness, & surprise.
◆ In the case of PTSD, the route through the cortex isn’t able to dampen enough of the fear response that has already taken place previously / repeatedly in the low road.

NEXT: Anger & the Brain (Part 4)

ABANDONMENT Pain, Now (Part 3)


PREVIOUS: Abandonment pain, NOW (#2)

STYLES of reacting to old abandonment (Ab)

1. UNDER – aware (Part 2)
2. OVER-aware
On the other hand, ACoAs can be hyper-attuned to the slightest slight, even when it’s completely unintentional or accidental. Everything that hurts them is taken as a personal affront, meant to humiliate & punish. This is the Victim position of the WIC (co-dep triangle), who believes everything is about itself – the narcissism of not even imagining that others are concerned mainly with themselves, not us!

Fear of Abandonment (FoA) rules our life:
• For all ACoAs, our default position is that we will always be abandoned, sooner or later – it’s just a matter of time
• We look for (Ab) everywhere, real or imagined. There’s an element over-awareof paranoia, which is always based on genuine childhood danger & trauma  (Post: ACoAs – Projecting)
As a result:
• we may deliberately make ourselves un-available OR un-likable, so we won’t become attached, & then have to re-experience being disappointed
• OR we desperately cling to people (even if it doesn’t show) & we watch them like a hawk for any hint of disapproval, anger, lack of attention… which might signal imminent abandonment

EXP: As Cicilia was walking downtown she noticed her friend Joe across the street, who didn’t even acknowledge her, much less smile or stop to talk. The ‘sensitive soul’ became enraged, & feeling invisible, obsessed about the slight for a few days & eventually fired off a nasty note, breaking up the friendship! (Sensitive souls can be very harsh when hurt!)

It turned out that Joe was so preoccupied in his own head he never saw Cici, but she didn’t bother checking it out first – just assumed that it was deliberate & disrespectful. Looking at her scathing email, Joe knew this was not the first time she had over-reacted. He decided it wasn’t worth arguing about it or justifying himself, again. If she couldn’t communicate more reasonably – then so be it.
Healthy: an appropriate reaction from her would have been: “I saw you on the street today & you didn’t say hi. What’s up?”

ACoA IRONY: We’re desperately afraid of being abandoned &Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.26.56 PM yet tend to only focus on things in our environment that are potentially abandoning, while ignoring all the positive strokes being provided by:
— people giving us complements, anywhere
— kudos & rewards at work
— friends, mates, children… who do love us

• Whenever we feel devastated, self-hating, hysterical, paralyzed … but can’t figure out what’s bothering us – we need to remember that: “ALL roads lead to (Rome) old abandonment pain”. No matter how real-life, practical or serious the current event (rational), we can definitely say the situation is pushing a very big AB button.
This triggers Self-Hate.
Realizing that, we can then look for what has recently happened to open our old wounds. This can lead us to the source of the pain, with the opportunity to do some loving repair work with the WIC.

• It’s always helpful to remind ourselves that ‘If it’s hysterical, it’s historical’, because the intensity of our feelings is usually not in proportion** ⬇️ to the present situation which was somehow similar
to repeated childhood abuse or neglect. We can react with tears or rage. Either way it’s a window into what happened to us as kids – so it’s very useful info.

• The pain we feel at the moment can be from a real event (a job loss, a breakup, being in a fire) – any one of which of is stressful. BUT ACoAs react much more intensely than less-wounded others – who may be hurt, upset, have some sleepless nights… while the ACoA will be depressed for a long time, beat themselves up cruelly, become suicidal….

** ACoAs have a hard time accepting that extreme emotions are ‘out-of-proportion’, because in that moment they FEEL so real, we can’t see the bigger picture. We don’t want to hear we’re over-reacting!
IMP: That makes us so angry because we think we’re being told that our feelings aren’t real or legitimate. NOT SO. It is NOT a negation of our emotions – only being realistic about the origin of the intensity.

NEXT: How ACoAs Abandon Others – #1