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Last Updated: Monday, 4 September 2006, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
How to temper your temper
By Dr Alan Watkins
Physician & Neuroscientist

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Traffic jams are a common anger trigger

Anger is one of the seven deadly sins and one of the most toxic emotions which can seriously impair our health.

Some of Britain's angriest people are put to the test in a new BBC One TV series, Temper Your Temper.

Jason is an ex-squaddie, six foot four and a scary looking character.

He has explosive anger and one of the highest adrenaline levels that I have seen.

This puts him perpetually on the verge of an explosion - not a good trait for a driving instructor.

Two thirds of people have experienced anger or rage at work and nearly half of the workforce regularly loses their temper

Little things can trigger him so we sent him shopping with Saira Khan, the former Apprentice contestant with instructions that she should be as awkward as possible. It wasn't difficult.

Jason was asked to fetch and carry changes of clothes.

Saira had to tell him none of them were quite right.

Biting the furniture

Within a few minutes he became so angry and frustrated that he ended up sinking his teeth into one of the display shelves and leaving bite marks.

Goodness knows what would have happened if the cameras had not been there.

TYPES OF ANGER
Argumentative
Judgmental
Helpless
Explosive
Adolescent
Nutritional

Jason is typical of people with explosive anger.

Their anger is directed outwards in explosive bursts.

They vent their ire on others, engage in verbal or at times physical abuse or they damage property.

They tend to run very high adrenaline levels and left unchecked they are at serious risk of developing high blood pressure.

After their explosion and release of energy they tend to feel better for a while but their outburst can cause lasting damage to their health, their work and their relationships.

Two thirds of people have experienced anger or rage at work and nearly half of the workforce regularly loses their temper.

The majority of people have been the victims of bullying and 80% have witnessed such events.

Raging women

It is no better on the roads. More than three quarters of drivers claim to have been involved in road rage incidents and a quarter admits to committing an act of road rage.

It is also on the rise with a 400% increase in air rage between 1997 and 2000 plus a 200% rise in attacks on NHS workers in Scotland.

A large proportion of this aggression is perpetuated by people in the 25-34 age group.

Half of all 16 to 24-year-olds admitted they would turn nasty if spurned by their partner compared to only a small percentage of the over-55s saying they would seek revenge.

And it's not just a male problem. Women are nearly as angry as men, although the type of anger they suffer tends to be different.

There are six types of anger: explosive, argumentative, judgmental, helpless, adolescent and nutritional.

For each type, the solution begins with the person accepting that they are the problem, not someone else.

It is a very common trap for people with explosive anger to believe that their rage is caused by someone else.

Acceptance

The problem with this view is that is prevents the anger being solved.

Once Jason had accepted he had an anger problem, I taught him how to reduce his risk of high blood pressure and stroke by developing what I call "cardiac coherence".

This is an improved physiological state which enables Jason's brain to work properly at times when it would normally shut down.

Once he knew how to get his brain working properly, we taught Jason how to identify what triggers his outbursts and take avoiding action or catch the escalation before the explosion occurs.

Jason needed to burn off his excess adrenaline and we chose the discipline of martial arts to help him channel his energy.

Jason, as an ex-squaddie used to discipline, loved this approach.

I have also taught him how to meditate which can be a great antidote to an explosive nature.

He also needed to start repairing his relationship with his wife and we have worked on that through the judicious use of massage.

Six months later, Jason remains a changed man and is going from strength to strength.

He does an hour of martial arts two to three times a week before he starts work and he meditates for five minutes between clients to defuse the frustration of having to deal with the Sheffield traffic.

We also hear that the local shops have run out of massage oil.

Jason is a testament to what can be achieved. Maybe we should send him shopping again?

  • Dr Alan Watkins is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Psychological Medicine at Imperial College and runs a training and coaching company.

    Temper Your Temper is on BBC One each weekday at 1100BST until 15 September 2006.


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