Break the Vicious Cycle with Cognitive Therapy

2014-1027 smit by Shutterstock
Photo credit: Smit / Shutterstock

Sometimes it is better to just walk away when you’re angry.

As naturopathic doctor Dan Labriola explains in The Seattle Times, anger is similar to fear on a psychological level as they both trigger “fight-or-flight” responses:

You get a burst of heightened ability as your body goes into survival mode, including increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle strength, alertness and immune-system function, enabling you to better defend yourself from threats such as a physical attack or an oncoming bus — events that are over quickly.

The problem is that it isn’t always life-threatening danger that catalyzes these responses. Sometimes it’s work or politics. If your body gets accustomed to entering “fight-or-flight” mode for every relatively minor conflict, you put yourself at risk of long-term health issues such as heart problems, a weakened immune system and poor judgment. The constant entering of panic mode will eventually wear you down, not to mention make you rather irritable.

Instead, Labriola suggests engaging in cognitive therapy to tame your compulsive rage. This involves putting minor affronts into context:

The jerk that cut you off doesn’t deserve status in your life. If you escape without damage or injury, classify it as an annoying nonevent and walk away. When you raise yourself emotionally and spiritually to a higher standard of behavior, the jerk just looks more like a jerk.

What makes cognitive therapy “cognitive” is the overt decision you have to make in order to fight the impulse for lashing out. Train your brain that instances of frustration need not be treated like instances of danger. It’s not difficult to do as long as you dedicate yourself to taking control of your emotions.

Labriola offers a few additional tips — the usual stuff such as good nutrition, avoiding irritants, and meditation. You can also seek the help of a doctor, as chronic anger is a health risk that needs to be monitored and treated. Ultimately, the best strategy is to wake up each morning and promise yourself that you’ll resist any urge to act out on your anger.

All you have to do then is keep that promise.

Photo credit: Smit / Shutterstock

Click here to read the full article by Robert Montenegro


Click here to read another Beyond Injury post.

The previous article was written by Robert Montenegro for Big Think. His article is based on a the article written by naturopathic doctor Dan Labriola and published in The Seattle Times. Thanks to Google for helping me find Montenegro’s article; Shutterstock for providing the picture used by Montenegro; and all the other people who, directly or indirectly, made to possible for me to include the picture and text in this post.



    1. Geo, do you feel the time away helps, or does it just delay the onset of problems? If you go away for a bit, and the same trigger still exists, does your previous away time help you cope with the still present problem?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *