06 Jun Discover a Path to Uproot Your Anger (Part I)


Dr. Shanthi Lakshmi Duraimani, Ph.D., Bangalore

Anger is a universal emotion, found across all cultures and nationalities. Nevertheless, excessive uncontrolled anger and that triggered by trivial issues are often considered harmful.

Countdown to 10

Go into your room, lock the door, and scream

Hit the Boxing bag…….

These are some popular anger management techniques that you’ve probably heard over and over again, maybe even tried. If you try to manage your anger using these techniques and they don’t help, it’s not because you’re doing them wrong. It’s because the techniques themselves are outdated. The problem with mainstream anger management techniques is that the end goal is to control or contain your anger, rather than to heal or to resolve the  root cause of  your anger has tried to bring to your attention.

1. Identifying your Root Cause of Anger

The foremost step in managing the anger is to identify the root cause of your anger.

Traumatic Experiences

Traumatic experiences can happen to a person before they were born, or during their childhood, or adulthood.

a.  Emotional Trauma in the Womb

Traumatic experiences can happen at the time of a baby spending its life in his/her mom’s womb. One can identify whether they have experienced trauma before they were born, by taking a detailed history from their parents. An author and well-known obstetrician, Christiane Northrup (2005) said that if a pregnant mother is going through high levels of fear or anxiety she creates a “metabolic cascade.” Hormones known as cytokines are produced and the mother’s immune system is affected, including her child’s. Chronic anxiety in the mother can set the stage for a whole array of trauma based results such as prematurity, complications of birth, death, and miscarriage. The opposite is also true. When the mother is feeling healthy and happy, she produces oxytocin. This is often called the molecule of belonging. The presence of this component creates feelings of bonding and strengthens immunity in the baby. Neurotransmitters moving inside the mother’s body create a chemical and physical imprint on the baby’s brain and body. The message imprinted is that there are safety and peace.

b.  Childhood Trauma

Early childhood trauma generally refers to the traumatic experiences that occur in children aged 0-6. These traumas can be the result of intentional violence, such as child physical or sexual abuse, or domestic violence, the grief of favoritism (When parents favor one child over another) or the result of natural disaster, or accidents. Young children also may experience traumatic stress in response to painful medical procedures or the sudden loss of a parent/caregiver.

c. Adulthood Trauma

Adulthood traumatic experience could be domestic violence,  community violence (Community violence includes predatory violence (robbery, for example) and violence that comes from personal conflicts between people who are not family members), medical trauma, natural disaster or war.

d. Rejections

The pain of rejection is one of the strongest factors in a person’s life, especially in childhood. A child forms strong attachments to parents, friends, and relatives and finds security in these relationships. When those who are trusted communicate rejection, the child’s secure world collapses and he faces a host of fears. The pain of rejection and the torment of fears can cause the child to develop deep bitterness toward the one who is responsible for his pain. When parents get divorced, their children typically experience the pain of rejection.

e. False Accusation and Unjust

A false accusation not only damages the one who is accused,
but it also stirs up indignation and a desire to see the false accuser brought
to justice. The mixture of guilt and pain that surrounds the memory of these
experiences trigger anger when we hear of or face similar situations.

Can you recall a past experience that deeply hurt you?

Then Congratulate yourself

Identifying the root cause is the first step to overcoming anger.

  1. Physical Sensation and Anger

Emotions are often felt in the body, and somatosensory feedback has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Neuroscientists have found that physical sensation is associated with anger. In 2013, scientists from the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science and Brain Research Unit, Aalto University, Finland, published a paper on “Bodily maps of emotions”.  They reveal maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method. In five experiments, participants were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. Different emotions were consistently associated with statistically separable bodily sensation maps across experiments. These maps were concordant across West European and East Asian samples.

They found that the discernible sensation patterns associated with each emotion correspond well with the major changes in physiological functions associated with different emotions. Most basic emotions like anger were associated with sensations of elevated activity in the upper chest area, likely corresponding to changes in breathing and heart rate. Similarly, sensations in the head area were shared across all emotions, reflecting probably both physiological changes in the facial area (i.e., facial musculature activation, skin temperature, lacrimation) as well as the felt changes in the contents of mind triggered by the emotional events.

  1. Changing the Negative emotions to Positive

The most important lesson in anger is transformation- changing the negative emotions into positive ones.  The key is to know which group of emotions is directly opposite the ones you are experiencing. When you identify the specific feelings you must transform, then you become ready to shift polarities. Reversing directions and then more clearly and deal with your anger situation more effectively.

  1. Accepting the Pain

Instead of backing away from negative emotions, accept them. Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state. Many people find it helpful to breathe slowly and deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings or to imagine the feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass. I often tell my clients that a thought is just a thought and a feeling just a feeling, nothing more. If the emotion is overwhelming, you may want to express how you feel in a journal or to another person. The exercise may shift your perspective and bring a sense of closure. If the discomfort lingers, consider taking action. You may want to tell a friend her comment was hurtful or take steps to leave the job that makes you miserable.

It might look difficult to identify and manage anger, but, what if you have a simple technique to dissolve your anger?


  1. Northrup, C. (2005). Mother-daughter wisdom. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
  2. Nummenmaa L1, Glerean E, Hari R, Hietanen JK. (2013) Bodily maps of emotions. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A,  Jan 14;111(2):646-51. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321664111. Epub 2013 Dec 30.[fb_button]

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