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10 Seconds, Explained

November 12th, 2013 | Posted by Memo in Anger

Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him. – Louis L’Amour


When I was young(er), there was a commercial on the Mexican TV.  I’m not sure how many of you are old enough to remember or actually watched Mexican channels, but it was a commercial talking about anger control.

As I remember it, there was some man doing some kind of stressful activity and his careless son or daughter would come in and drop something on his work, whatever that was.  The man became furious!  He would turn around showing a closed fist and anger in his face and then the screen would flash while you could hear a beep and a voice telling you to count to 10.  After that, the dad would realize that his son had not messed his project up on purpose and that it was just accidental.  He explained calmly to his son that he should be more careful. They didn’t talk about consequences, but that’s for another blog entry.  Actually, false memories would be another great topic since I am not exactly sure that’s how the commercial actually was presented.

Behind all the cheesiness that an 80s commercial could give you, the message was correct, but the reasons were not fully explained.  It turns out that this was not a fluke after all.  There is a part of our brain called the frontal lobe which is in charge of our emotions, reasoning, problem solving, planning and some of our speech.  When we’re angry, the frontal lobe shuts down and that’s when some people explode!  The angrier we get, the more our frontal lobe shuts down and then we get even angrier.

Well, it turns out that it takes 10 seconds of further inactivity for our frontal lobe to be useful once again.  Inactivity means that we need to stop feeding that anger with more negative thoughts or even more stimulation.  Breathing is one way to stop feeding that anger.

For beginners, a way to do it could be to physically remove ourselves from a situation and with eyes closed, breath in very deeply while counting to 10 (or 50 in some cases).  The important part is to create a habit of awareness of what we do or say and not doing anything that we might regret.  Once we have created said habit, we could count to 10 right on the spot breathing very deeply with our eyes open or closed, our choice.

The more we are aware of our anger, the less we’ll hurt others and ourselves in a relationship of any kind, and the more we will be able to care for those we love.  So, the next time you begin to feel angry, remember about the cheesy commercial I told you about and count to 10 and enjoy.

- Guillermo

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