Principle 13
What we do can affect how we feel
How we choose to act can affect how we feel. Emotion can influence behavior. But how we act can trigger how we feel.

Let's say you are feeling fairly mellow. I give you a pillow and ask to hit it repeatedly and scream "I hate you!" in a rage (not a pleasant thought, I know). If you keep hitting and screaming, you might actually find yourself becoming angry. When I ask you to stop, you are not likely to be feeling so mellow. Your gut may be churning and your face red.

The pathways in the brain responsible for the emotional arousal of anger have been triggered by the behavior. This is why the "ventilation" approach to anger management is not effective. Giving an angry child an object, like a pillow or doll, to hit, is NOT a good idea. This substitution actually increases anger and encourages violent behavior.

We can use this principle in anger management. In some circumstances, if we act calm and talk calm as we get angry, we can actually begin to soothe the stress arousal of what is called the HPA Axis (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal glands) in the brain.

Next: Do others “make” us angry?