Anger is like shaking a bottle of soda… but maybe not in the way you expect
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If I told you we’d be explaining how anger works using a bottle of soda, right off the bat, you’d probably roll your eyes and jump to the conclusion that the analogy is obvious. I’m pretty sure you’d expect me to say something along the lines of, “If you shake the bottle, pressure builds up. So, when you open the cap, soda explodes everywhere and makes a mess… and that’s how anger works.”
Well, duh, we don’t even need to go through that analogy to know that's how anger works, right? So, no, that’s not the type of BS we’re going to be covering here.
We're actually going to discuss the subject in a slightly different light – we’re going to talk about who shakes the bottle. Not the one who opens the cap, not yourself as you relate to the anger. No, we’re going to discuss how that bottle gets shaken in the first place.
Let’s say you’re sitting there peacefully, minding your own business. Imagine you’ve got a bottle of soda somewhere right by you, but you’re not really paying attention – maybe you’re scrolling through your cell phone, distracted. As you’re looking through your phone, someone sneaks up behind you, grabs the bottle, gives it a good shake, puts it back in the same place, and disappears. You’re oblivious to the fact that any of it happened, so you don’t suspect anything when you go and grab your soda to take a drink, and… you already know what’s going to happen: all over the phone, all over everything.
Now, question: why are YOU responsible for the mess? I mean, based on the initial (BS) example, apparently, once you let all that foam out, you’re the one who needs anger management classes, right? Because still using that illustration, that’s what anger is – it builds up inside us and once we let it out, it creates a mess. It destroys things and makes the situation very sticky. It can really create damage and cause outcomes we regret if it gets all over something important, say, a keyboard or a document.
So, anger management classes would probably tell you, “It’s simple – don't take the cap off.” Well, sure… but that’s not the whole story, is it? If the bottle is shaken enough, you won’t even have to take the cap off – it’s going to pop off on its own, and you have no control over it.
Going back to the question – why is the mess YOUR fault, then? In an anger situation, 9 times out of 10, it’s not you “shaking the bottle,” so to speak. It's somebody else. Often, you’re totally unsuspecting – you don't know when somebody is going to say or do something that is going to cause a reaction that you can't control. You don't have that insight. It just happens, just like routinely reaching for the bottle and taking a drink, only to have foam get everywhere. Or, as I said, the cap just flies off by itself and you have no control.
Either way, you're not the one who shook the soda. Somebody else caused the situation. So, the question that oftentimes arises is, “If I'm in a situation where my bottle creates a mess, why am I being held 100% responsible for the, while the person who did the shaking gets off scot-free, no questions asked?”
Taking that in the context of an anger management class, the person who signs up for the class is told they are responsible for the foam that came out and created a mess. On the other hand, the one who provoked the explosion gets looked at as a victim that needs to be felt sorry for and needs to be catered for – it's all about the victim. In that situation, it’s unfortunate that the victim gets all the attention… and all you get is someone telling you what YOU should not have done (that you don’t even notice in the first place), right?
Now, let's look at it from the standpoint of bioenergetics. Why do people sneak up on you and shake the bottle in the first place? This happens because your bottle is unattended. It's wide open out there for people to come and shake – you are not aware of the dynamics.
Think of it this way: why do some people end up in anger management classes while others don’t? The things that trigger and provoke you may not trigger and provoke someone else. For example, if somebody is being rude, your blood might boil, and you might even say something to the offending party. On the other hand, your friend might just walk away – “It’s just the way they are, they won’t hurt you.”
You can’t “un-be” yourself. You are what you are at this point. So, all this anger management advice about not opening the bottle or somehow trying to control the foam that comes out is ridiculous and really unproductive – in most cases, you just can’t.
In essence, it’s the same pattern as PTSD for people who've been in combat. Soldiers who have been in combat – say, those who were deployed to Vietnam – have perhaps walked through villages, hearing children screaming and crying as they’re being killed. From then on, every time they hear a child crying, that vision is going to come to mind and they're going to lose it.
Obviously, that's an extreme example of a trigger, but a lot of people who grew up with some kind of childhood trauma – some kind of mistreatment and “wrong programming," as we call counterproductive influences – form the same type of trigger. Someone who doesn’t have trauma probably won’t have much of a reaction to something like a child crying, except maybe to feel sorry for them and go help. But the same trigger can totally send someone else – a “veteran who has been in combat” – into a frenzy to the point of them having to run away or do something crazy.
So, going back to our soda bottle illustration, what I mean by an “unattended bottle” is that you don't know that those dynamics and traumas exist. You aren’t aware that “Okay, I have childhood trauma, therefore I have these types of triggers – if A happens, B will result by default.”
Once you realize what type of trauma you have (not necessarily from childhood, but in most cases, that’s usually where it stems from), you uncover what kind of triggers you have and learn to work with them. Then you’ve got a handle on the bottle – if somebody is trying to sneak up and do something, you can withdraw yourself from the situation. You can work with it. You can maybe even somehow heal that trauma to the point that those things no longer trigger you.
Another aspect of “leaving your bottle unattended” is not being sure about your boundaries. This is a complex issue that I won’t go into depth here, but let’s go through a brief explanation.
The first case is when you feel too confined because you’ve always been over-controlled by other people to the point that any kind of boundary seems evil. You don’t feel the right to defend your boundaries because you’ve always been told that's selfish. Another possibility is that your boundaries have been violated so much in the past that you don’t even know where they are – in fact, you might not even have a clue about the whole concept of boundaries. In both cases, again this tends to stem from experiences throughout our childhood.
If you place the bottle within your boundaries and keep those boundaries strong, people probably aren’t going to be able to reach over and grab it. But because you can’t or aren’t even aware of those boundaries, your bottle becomes an open target for anybody to come and shake it.
The bottom line: contrary to what those anger management classes often preach, it's not about trying to keep the cap on, and it's especially not about trying to control the foam as it comes out. It's about preventing other people from shaking your bottle.
This is done by first realizing what “shaking the bottle” means for you. How does your bottle get shaken? What causes that? What triggers you? How does that happen? Why does that happen? Why does that happen to you and not anybody else?
The short answer is because of the wounds that you carry – most likely all the way from childhood – without even knowing that they are there. You need to uncover what those wounds are and heal them.
And the first step in that healing is guarding your borders – you can't rebuild anything unless the borders are there first. You need to realize those boundaries and where they are AND give yourself the right to enforce them without feeling guilty. That's how you start protecting your bottle, keeping other people from being able to shake it.
In a nutshell, this is how anger works.
In our other videos and articles, we’re going to dig a little bit deeper into the dynamics of anger: the two types of anger and a bit more to put you on the path of knowing what is going on to stop other people from shaking your bottle.