Rural Roots April 14, 2002
"Anger is natural; it just isn't necessary", says Jeannette Kasper in her book, Anger Is Not An Emotion. Rather than looking at anger as a feeling, Kasper sees anger as an attack mechanism, through which defensive behaviors trigged by our "safety brain" can destroy marriages, families and work relationships.
Kasper shares her own insight and experience at recognizing this safety brain, which triggers immediately when we feel threatened, as opposed to our "thinking brain" which helps us to reason and plan healthy responses. She doesn't teach anger, but shares her understanding and her experience of it. Her approach teaches how to understand and manage ourselves.
Kasper shows how our safety brain is always on the lookout for danger, and cuts in automatically, often before we realize what is happening. This happens whenever we feel back into a corner, when we need to protect someone, and whenever we are vying for position or power.
You can't avoid anger but you can understand and use simple techniques to neutralize your normal, but unhelpful reactions. The safety brain triggers chemical reactions when it senses dangers. We can help flush these chemicals through gentle exercise (overly vigorous exercise may make things worse), laughter, tears, healthier breathing patterns, writing things down (keeping a journal), using logic games or puzzles, and smiling, even when we have to force ourselves to.
As a counselor, I taught cognitive principles for years, teaching people that what they think or say to themselves in response to what happens around them, determines how they feel about that situation.
Kasper goes beyond this. She shows how we tend to think in images and pictures. We communicate and receive many more "don't" or negative images in our culture, society or families, than positive ones. Because of this, we have a photo album of negatives in our head, which instantly feed and fuel our safety or defensive brain reactions.
"Negatives" in a photo album are hard to look at. Only when you develop them into positive prints, can you change negatives into positives. The same applies in life.
To test this out in your own life, Kasper suggests you think of a person who is a problem in your life. Now, try to think of three positive things about them. You are likely so conditioned to react negatively, even to the thought or image of that person, that it is very difficult to do.
In a few short years Kasper moved from working for Canada Customs to becoming a much-demanded speaker and seminar leader throughout the world. Fortunately, she has put here ideas in book form, allowing many more to experience her journey and wisdom.
Anger Is Not An Emotion contains a wealth of idea, impossible to cover in one column. In future weeks, I will look at how differences in communication and personality styles can trigger the safety brain, and ways to counteract it. Our "safety brain" is always sitting at the starting gate, ready to race away on us at a second's notice.
I will also explore Kasper's effective strategies for dealing with other people's anger, which by the way involves with improving yourself, including your communications.
Anger Is Not An Emotion, which is self-published by Jeannete Kasper, is sold in many bookstores. It can be ordered by phoning 1-877-238-6865. The cost is $24.95 plus taxes and shipping. It is into a second printing within a year of being published, and in my opinion, deserves to become a bestseller.