Anger and Self-Defense


Anger and Self-Defense


Many people believe that they are essentially unstoppable when they are really angry. You have probably heard guys say something like, “You don’t want to make me mad. Normally, I am a very nice guy, but if you make me mad that’s it. Nobody can stop me when I am really mad!” There are a lot of people out there who not only say things like this, but they truly believe that it is true. Is it really true that anger makes you stronger and helps you in a self-defense situation? Well, yes and no.

Let me start by explaining why so many people believe that they are unstoppable when they are really angry. Anger is an activating emotion. By this, I mean that anger motivates someone to act or do something about what is triggering this strong emotion in them. It gives them an almost irresistible urge to take action. Along with the overwhelming desire to act, anger can make someone feel more powerful, and yes, even unstoppable at times. But there is a big difference between feeling powerful and unstoppable, and actually being powerful and unstoppable.

One of the reasons that someone feels more powerful when they are very angry is that the body produces an adrenalin dump as a response to a perceived attack or threat. This is called the fight-or-flight response. The body’s response to extreme anger is the same as it is during a fight-or flight response. Essentially, this is your body’s way of preparing you for action in order to save your life. So, in that sense, anger does prepare you to defend yourself and is helpful.

The drawback though, is that uncontrolled anger can actually hurt your chances of survival. Along with the adrenalin dump, you will also have tunnel vision, where you focus directly on the object of your anger or stress and neglect to see other things which may be happening around you. Your peripheral vision decreases. Also, you don’t think rationally and clearly when you are extremely angry. Not thinking clearly can cause you a truckload of problems, especially in a life-or-death situation.

The key in these types of situations is to be able to control your anger. Respond, don’t react. Don’t let your anger take over and control you. The warrior must control and direct his or her anger. Uncontrolled anger will cause you to make mistakes that you would not ordinarily make if you are thinking clearly and rationally.

This fact is well-known throughout the world, so much so that it has been a common strategy throughout history, to try and push your enemy to the point of uncontrollable anger. When your enemy allows his anger to take over and control his actions, he will act rashly and many times, make critical and/or fatal mistakes.

As I said before, the key to whether or not anger is helpful in self-defense situations is control. If you train to control, and use your anger, it can be used in your favor. If you cannot control your anger, and both your actions and your thinking are controlled by your anger instead of rational thinking, then you are in trouble.

Another problem with anger is that it can become addicting and the side effects can harm your health and thus, your ability to defend yourself. If you are constantly getting angry, you are only hurting yourself.

Anger, as I stated above, is an emotion that activates the body’s fight or flight response. The brain directs blood away from the intestines and to the muscles. Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration increase, and body temperature rises. The adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, and others.

This mix of hormones and bodily responses can be addictive if one continually feeds his or her body this combination of stress chemicals and metabolic changes. One can start to crave the powerful feeling that comes from this hormonal cocktail. This can get to the point that someone’s fight-or-flight response is activated over and over again throughout the day, and not over critical self-defense situations, but over minor annoyances.

In addition, persistent anger can cause long-term health problem such as insomnia, digestion problems and stomach pain, depression, increased anxiety, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. If you will notice, none of the things which I have mentioned hurt the person with whom you are angry; they only hurt you, and many of them can affect your ability to defend yourself, especially over time.

There is a Chinese proverb that states, “The fire of anger only burns the angry,” and this certainly holds true. It is senseless to allow a dangerous emotion to continuously cause damage to your body, which anger will if you don’t learn to control it and use it to your advantage. Constant, uncontrolled anger, without a doubt, works against your spirit, mind and body. It weakens you, both in the short term and in the long term.

Learn to control and manage your anger. Only get angry on purpose. Don’t let others make you mad. When you allow someone to make you angry, you give him control over you. The warrior should always be in control of himself or herself. You make that decision; never turn that control over to someone else. Your anger can be a weapon that is used to your advantage or a weapon that is used against you – YOU DECIDE!

Bohdi Sanders, Ph.D.

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