Thar She Blows. Coping With Explosive Tempers

I’m Not a Psychologist, But….

OK. I’ll level with you right from the start. I don’t have all the answers, whether the person you want to deal with is someone else, or whether you came here hoping I had all the 100% guaranteed-to-work-every-time strategies for how to get your own anger under control, I don’t know it all. Sorry. Hope you are not too angry about that. I do have a few tips, however, that are very useful indeed when employed. Practiced, I should say, because like a lot of stuff in life, this, too, takes practice to get right. This is a light-hearted stab (oops, maybe a bad choice of words for a piece on anger) at the topic, and not meant to downplay the seriousness of the subject; anger can be very dangerous, very destructive, and is very worth talking about. Anger is a natural emotion which is not in itself evil or destructive, but I believe it requires management on an individual level, through use of self-discipline and self-knowledge. We can’t always do something about other angry people, but we can become more skilled at managing both our own angry impulses, and our reactions to other people’s anger. Willpower alone won’t keep our tempers in check for long, but development of emotional maturity by utilizing thinking skills effectively can.

Angry girl and Zulu movie clip
A Very Public Temper Tantrum That Ended Up Becoming a Meme

The Sad Case of Trigglypuff

If you’re an honest enough person to admit you might have some kind of problem with anger (and many of us do, and can’t), ask yourself, is Trigglypuff me? We all have a little of Trigglypuff in us, hopefully  not the whole beast , but we all lose the cool sometimes. This girl, however, shows no shame afterwards, which gives us the clue that this is her usual mode of behaviour when she’s abroad in the world. If she was throwing this tantrum in her room on her own, nobody would notice or care, but when it happens in public it gets everybody else pretty riled up too. Actually, the speaker she was interrupting at this campus lecture twigged  this  girl’s mental age pretty quickly, and gave her a mum-style telling off, before the full-scale tantrum erupted. Here’s the lead up to the ‘incident’.

We are human, and we react to strong emotion with strong emotion, to match the behaviour we are presented with.  We might have some chance of staying calm when the angry person is not trying to make it our fault that they are angry, because we don’t have as much personally, emotionally, at stake in the angry outburst. Unfortunately, when the anger is directed at us, because it is somehow our fault, it’s a whole other story, the big guns come out, and war ensues.

Anger is an attempt to deal with internal conflict. In Trigglypuff’s case (I’m sorry I didn’t provide the girl’s name here, but she seems to have at least three different versions, and I don’t think she deserves the extra research, to be honest;  do I need to be respectful of someone who has so little respect for themselves that they make no attempt to exert some control over their own emotions?) it is an attempt to get her views heard and accepted in an environment which she interprets as being hostile to them. So often anger has this at its core, the belief that one’s ideas or identity are not being accepted. This activates our primitive defense mechanisms because on an animal and emotional level, we perceive our physical safety as being threatened, and we swing into action, either verbally, or physically, against the perceived enemy. This lady on a flight, who found herself sitting beside a Trump voter just after the elections, was clearly feeling threatened. No doubt the mild-mannered young man she chose to berate felt the same, however his control of his emotions was a fair bit more developed than the woman, who didn’t make much effort to hide her feelings to save those of the young man, or her husband, or the air stewards who had to deal with her.

This lady is a good example of how anger often shows up how we think our own needs trump (sorry, lady, couldn’t help it) those of others. She wants what she wants, and to heck with everyone else. Her world view is utterly shattered by Donald Trump unexpectedly winning the US presidential elections, and she is angry because she wanted things her way. I think if we are being honest we must all be able to relate to something in this idea, that it sucks when things don’t go the way you want them to. I for one, although I find her behaviour a bit repulsive (her repulsive husband’s a whole different post) can feel her pain. Some folks take it further than just words, a lot further, and the reasons that they come up with to justify their violence can be ridiculous. This poor woman got beaten up by lefties because they reckoned she was a righty. Like that makes it OK. How? This is how polarized views can effect your emotions, and as we are seeing in all these examples, strong emotion can effect your ability to think clearly and rationally.

It is a very uncomfortable feeling being angry; that’s why most people try to avoid getting to that place in themselves whenever they can. There’s a certain sort of person, however, who spends a lot of time in the angry place. For these we reserve the special badge of honour, the one-size-fits-many label of crazy. These elicit our pity rather than our empathy, because their anger is deemed to be completely out of proportion to, or unrelated to, the circumstances, as far as the onlookers to the drama can see.

These problem people can be relied upon to create havoc from peace with no provocation at all. All the drama and the imagined threats are in their heads, which are filled with paranoid ideas about how the world works that most of us couldn’t begin to fathom. These poor souls are in a hell of their own making, where they are constantly being persecuted by the rest of us, who, in reality, haven’t done anything to them at all.

The Demon Drink

I have to make a guess that the lady in the next video had more than one pint of Guinness in the bar before the ‘plane ever took off, and many’s the fight that happened or angry words exchanged when drink has loosened the inhibitions. The animal side of our nature comes out to play then, as anyone married to a mean drunk will tell you. The poor man sitting beside this lady looks like he wishes the floor would swallow him, he’s so embarrassed. Does she care? No. She is totally out of control. She can’t handle her emotions at all, and is clearly suffering as much as everyone else around her.

Help Is At Hand

OK, I hear you say. You certainly made a long-winded attempt to describe anger, but where’s the help you promised? Can you actually help me control my explosive temper, or cope with the effects of someone else blowing their top? Try these solutions out for size. If it’s someone else’s anger you need to deal with, try a little empathy. Empathy helps get you in the other person’s shoes. Imagine how awful it feels to be them at the moment they are truly losing their sh*t, how fired up they must feel inside as they thrust their finger in your face to emphasize their anger, and spit in your eye as they shout at you. See yourself performing the same actions, saying the same words. Instead of seeing the anger as something outside you, see it inside as you swop roles in your mind’s eye. You don’t have to be in agreement with what the person is saying, or doing. You just have to be able to imagine that it is you. This puts you in the empathetic place. People get empathy and sympathy mixed up sometimes; you don’t get anywhere with understanding anger if you only feel sorry for them having the burden of their anger, you must also be able to see something of how they got to the anger, or at least be able to experience some of what they are feeling. The removal of the self/other polarity helps with compassion, which, again, isn’t a sympathetic frame of mind, so much as an understanding one. It goes against the grain to open yourself up to someone who is causing you some uncomfortable feelings, as anger tends to do to those on the recipient end of it, but developing understanding is a good route into diffusing anger, since your emotions get disengaged from the situation just enough for you to see that there is no ‘payoff’ in feeding the angry persons emotions by reacting angrily in response. When the angry person doesn’t have a reciprocal angry response they often desist, because they have not gotten the fuel required to keep the anger going. This is an ideal situation; sometimes escape is impossible; when you live with an angry person you don’t always have the opportunity to escape the anger, and since anger tends to be a cyclical, repeating behaviour, the dread of more angry encounters can make even the smoothest anger-wranglers despair. I said I didn’t have all the answers; I wish I did. Sometimes people with anger issues are just grown-up bullies, and like all bullies seek you out when you are trapped or vulnerable, and can’t escape. The best escape of course, is to physically remove yourself if the bully is a repeat offender in the anger department, but like the people on the airplane flights we looked at, the choice isn’t always ours, or we can be taken by surprise when anger comes from nowhere. However, if you manage not to get emotionally overwhelmed by a person’s angry behaviour  you have a chance to keep your dignity and self-respect intact when the episode is over. Over time, if you stick around to allow yourself to be abused by the person over and over again, you start becoming a participant in your own emotional abuse, and your self-esteem begins to suffer.

Telling the Angry Person What You Think

Is this OK? Shouldn’t we just give as good as we get, or is it better to be loving, forgiving, maybe pretend nothing happened? I’m no expert, so I’m just gonna give my personal take on this. The tips for dealing with anger that I gave above do work, but you’ve got to decide for yourself what the right thing to do is, because when you start talking about woulds and shoulds you are in the area of morals and ethics, and you have either become a philosopher, or someone in need of a guru or religion. I think, though, that the idea of personal boundaries is important, because asking yourself what your own boundaries are will help you answer the woulds and shoulds of how you want other people to behave around you.

It’s not a judgemental thing, where you decide this is a ‘good’ person, that is a ‘bad’ person, and weed out your friends and acquaintances based on which they are. It is just figuring out what you can cope with from other people, and what is too much to expect you to put up with. Someone who you know to be an angry person who is comfortable freely expressing that anger on a regular basis might be someone you decide you don’t want to be around often; maybe not at all. Then again, you might be well able to cope with being with this sort of person, and able to accept them as they are with no problem. You probably already have the answers to these kinds of questions yourself, if you think about it a bit.

What About Me?

What if you are the angry one? Maybe you recogize something in yourself from the examples we have shown here. If you are able to be honest enough to see something of yourself here (and trust me, most of us display anger, even if we don’t admit it, and those of us who don’t display it are having an anger issue, too) then well done. You are half-way to solving your problem, and there are much better ways to solve them than venting anger at other people. Sometimes it’s difficult to admit that we are not perfect, or to have to listen to someone tell you that they are great, and you aren’t. And let me tell you, if you didn’t already know, this p*sses other people off like nothing else. And this is exactly what angry outbursts do; they let other people know that they are inferior to you, and you are therefore allowed to make them squirm with discomfort, ‘cos you are entitled, better, and just generally more worthy of your needs getting met than them. Often, this self-agrandizing view doesn’t gel with reality, and this plus the fact that you are indirectly running the other person down, gets them so annoyed that they start shouting back at you and before you know it you have made an enemy for life. Then you can have fun shouting about how the world hates you, after you have just created a self-fulfilling prophecy. The universe is pretty neutral, in fact, and this kind of ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking is typical of the thought distortions that often fuel anger. If you can use the ‘unhooking’ technique, to disengage from your anger you have removed the fuel from your anger, and you can do this by dropping the ‘storyline’ that goes along with the emotion. Thought feeds emotion, and our story about why we are right to feel angry, if sometimes correct, can also get us so stuck in anger that we revisit our anger over and over, unless we manage to disengage enough to move on. We are not meant to get stuck in emotions, and it is a sign of an ineffective resolution of a traumatic experience, or some kind of blockage of energy, when we keep revisiting an old emotion with no cause in the immediate environment. Somatic therapies such as Gendlin’s Focussing Technique are excellent ways to deal with PSTD traumas, which can be a factor sometimes in anger issues. Click here for a very interesting  free book on the topic, which includes exercises. Lastly, for anyone trapped with an angry person, keep on rockin’ your thing, and don’t let them bring you down.

How to Be Kung Fu at Being Excellent!


So I’ve been brushing up a bit on my Tai Chi skills (see previous post here), and came across a very interesting article about the relationships between Kung Fu and Tai Chi ( Taijiquan). It points out that the term ‘Kung Fu’ is used in China to describe someone who is very good at something, since the term refers to a skill which requires a lot of practice. So, when you meet someone who is very good at something, you can compliment them, as well as confuse them,  by telling them that their Kung Fu is great!

Precision in Tai Chi
Tai Chi is another martial arts based skill that takes a lot of practice to become good at. It’s not exactly difficult, but it is tricky to do correctly. If you tried to get the hang of it just watching videos, you would end up maybe being able to ape the general movements, but wouldn’t gain much of an understanding of the importance of

  1. Mindfulness – utilizing the mind’s energies as well as the body’s
  2. Precision – why doing moves correctly matters

Tai Chi Book

Let’s talk about these two points right from the start, when you are taking up Tai Chi for the first time, to get you off on the right foot, so to speak. The book I recommended in the last post covers both these topics excellently (the authors have super Kung Fu writing skills!), and if you want to download the book, I have included the link for you here; just click on the image to download the .pdf. Many thanks to whatever kind person uploaded it in the first place. The book is also available from Amazon at a price that won’t break the bank, if you’d like your own copy.

Breathing, mindfulness and Chi

I included a video in my last post that explored a Chi ‘light ball’ energy-focussing technique, but I didn’t discuss the role that correct breathing has in the generation of this energy. Chi (Qi) energy can be described as Life Force energy. When you do some of Tai Chi’s Qigong exercises, often incorporated into warm-up routines for Tai Chi sessions, you will soon see why they are thought of this way; abdominal deep breathing floods the body with oxygen, and wakes up body and mind, giving you energy throughout the day. Let’s see how abdominal breathing works, since, surprisingly, so many people just aren’t doing the breathing thing right!

Well, you might be surprised that the topic of the perineum came up in a video about breathing! These Tai Chi practitioners have quite a science behind their art, and often are experts on Chinese traditional medicines as well. I think some of the ideas about meridians and energy channels could be related to Indian chakra systems well also. However, I digress slightly (it’s just so interesting, I can’t help it), so I’ll get back to the point; to break down the abdominal breathing thing to it’s simplest explanation. When you breathe in, let your belly expand. When you breath out, let your belly contract. That’s it, in a nutshell.

The next video shows a Qigong technique for building up energy before a Tai Chi session. It is called a ‘Permeating Technique, or Guanqifa, if you wanna get fancy, or bore your friends with new-found knowledge at get-togethers. There are instructions for this in the book too, starting on page 26 (link in book image).

The point of entry for the energy the universe is so kindly providing for you is a point at the centre of the top of your head (any hippies reading this will know it as the Crown Chakra!), and at the end of the movement, the stale energy and tensions which your body may be holding get released into the ground, through  points located just behind the balls of your feet.

Image from

Posture wise, it’s also important to have a straight line going from the crown of your head, down to your perineum. Visualize all the stale energy and tension going down about 3 feet into the ground beneath you. Incidentally, the lady in the video is getting a good grounding herself by doing her exercises outdoors, and if you take your shoes off and get those toes into some grass or even get some sand between your toes you are electrically getting yourself back in tune with the earth’s energies.

Precision – Start With Your Stance

Your stance in Tai Chi, like all martial arts, is very important to get right, since it’s where you generate power. Think of the energy coming up from the ground, through your body, and flowing out through your hands, and you will be on the right track with your Tai Chi efforts. Pushing off with the feet, or using your back leg as a tripod, as is done with the Bow Stance, helps you generate more power up through your hips and arms, power which is intensified and concentrated with the circular movements and twists the hips and arms use. Tai Chi isn’t done with great power, but do remember, it should be done with energy flowing at all times, and it is important to bring the mind to bear on matters, and think about where in the body your energy is travelling, and where it is being directed, and to this end you may want to repeat the moves you are learning over and over again, and think them over between sessions. Here’s the best explanation of the Horse Stance and the Bow Stance that I could find;  you need to learn these in order to do your Tai Chi routine, and they are a good place to start.

Keep about 70% of your weight over the front leg when you move forward into the Bow Stance. You can see how the stance is used in the Tai Chi routine  if you look at the instructional video in the previous post again.

Let’s finish up with something fun, that teaches you a new skill. This one is known as ‘Cloud Hands’, and you will be in your Horse Stance while doing it. As well as feeling really nice to do, it teaches you how to move your waist, and get arms, body and legs working all together. Brain too, hopefully! I always feel chilled out and happy doing this one. It’s my favourite Tai Chi move, and a good example of the circular movements used in martial arts to generate power. Think of the concentrated power in the tip of a twirling whip, or how the movement concentrates and speed builds up at the tip of a piece of ribbon twirled by a gymnast. The guy in the next video is great fun , and although I wouldn’t normally teach something by telling people all of the million ways they are doing it wrong (which he does for the first 2 mins and 50 secs on this video), we could all probably do with a bit of a laugh, after our big, heavy-duty info giving session. The far less funny, but much easier to understand video tutorial is below this one.

Well done if you are this far down the page, ‘cos that means you are probably already very motivated to learn Tai Chi! Try putting on some music you like while you’re practising and you should have a wonderful time!

For those intellectuals out there who always must go deeper into the subject, and Tai Chi will bring you about as deep as it’s possible to get, here’s a bonus video. If you want to go back to my previous Tai Chi post, click here.

For anyone who just wants to do party tricks with their Chi, start watching the video from 2hrs 5mins in; grab a friend for the second Chi trick, and see if s/he can sense you interfering with their Chi vibes. Click the video below to go straight  to the party trick section. Have fun exploring Chi.



Tai Chi for Beginners – Flows Like Water (but has paws like a tiger!)

A friend asked me to show him how to do Tai Chi, so I thought I’d throw together a short post on the topic, to help me get it together with figuring out how to go about teaching this martial art to a beginner. ‘Martial art, really?’ I can imagine at least a few readers (if I have any at all, har har) will be surprised to hear that the thing they normally associate with elderly people waving arms about gently at a sloth-like pace in the park is a martial art.  In fact, Tai Chi is a relation of the well-known martial art Kung-Fu, popularised by the late, great Bruce Lee. Ah, hell, let’s stick a clip of Bruce in, just ‘cos he’s still cool, even if he’s no longer with us.

OK. Back to the art of Tai Chi. Many of the circular, curving movements, and twists that makes up the moves, known as ‘forms’ of the Tai Chi routine, are energy-generating movements, designed to channel power to the direction you want it to travel. In martial arts, the twisting movements are getting energy not only from the energy-storing core of the body, the area known as the Dan Tian, but also up through the ground, and controlling it mindfully throughout the routine. The style of Tai Chi explored here is the Tai Chi Chuan, 24 form one. I have included the video on Chi light energy here also, because the utilization of Chi energy is so important when learning Tai Chi. This technique is also very useful for focussing bodily awareness in meditation practices.

Now that we’re all in a focussed and calm frame of mind, we are better able to admire the beautiful, flowing forms of the Tai Chi practice. I’ve included two videos below for you, one with a guy performing the forms, and one with a girl.  Watch one, or both, to get an idea of what Tai Chi looks like in action.

There’s a lot to take in, so obviously things need to be broken down a little for you to learn the 24 forms, and it takes a little patience. It is, however, very rewarding, mentally and physically, because as well as teaching you to slow down and pay attention to what you are doing, it strengthens your body and keeps you loose, and you don’t have to be super-athletic to get started either. The next video I’ve included is a good place to start. I think this guy is easy to follow, and performs the routine in a clear way and at a good pace for the beginner. This is the first video in a series of three, which take you through the full routine.

Let’s have a look at this lady doing a Tai Chi routine with a great big sword in her hand. You can really start to see how the martial arts come into it, can’t you? Looks like she is ready for a part in the next  Matrix movie. This is how I look (in my dreams) by the way.

Here’s another helpful link to get you started with your Tai Chi (or you can click on the book image below, right). Some things I really like about this book is the fact that it shows you the fighting applications of the moves, and it has lots of photographs and diagrams to make things clear. It’s a great resource when used withTai Chi Book the video instructions. You can’t beat classes from a good master, of course, but we don’t all have lots of time and/or money at our disposal, so make use of free stuff that’s out there by all means. I was lucky enough to start from a position of familiarity with martial arts before I took Tai Chi classes, and that gave me a bit of an understanding of what Tai Chi was about, although the martial art I trained in was Taekwondo, which is a bit different from Kung Fu. Here’s the guy who founded the school I trained in; most martial arts have sets of forms students learn to improve their skills. These are the ones Taekwondo students have to learn to earn their black belt.

Let’s give Master Kan from the TV series ‘Kung Fu‘ the last word. He always gave such great advice to grasshopper.

In the Shaolin temple there are three kinds of men: students, disciples and masters. Development of the mind can be achieved only when the body has been disciplined. To accomplish this, the ancients have taught us to imitate God’s creatures…. From the crane we learn grace and self-control. The snake teaches us suppleness and rhythmic endurance. The praying mantis teaches us speed and patience. And from the tiger we learn tenacity and power. And from the dragon we learn to ride the wind. All creatures, the low and the high, are one with nature. If we have the wisdom to learn, all may teach us their virtues. Between the fragile beauty of the praying mantis and the fire and passion of the winged dragon, there is no discord. Between the supple silence of the snake and the eagle’s claws, there is only harmony. As no two elements of nature are in conflict so when we perceive the ways of nature, we remove conflict within ourselves and discover a harmony of body and mind in accord with the flow of the universe. It may take half a lifetime to master one system.’

Master Kan

Link to next Tai Chi post

Managing The Conversation – The Hidden Persuaders

Alex Bikfalvi's Flickr image 'Pinocchio for sale'

How can marketers pull our strings from behind the scenes to manipulate our emotions, manage the conversation, and effect outcomes in ways we often aren’t even aware of? This short documentary from Channel 4 News on Cambridge Analytics is a tale of how marketers pull the strings to manipulate reality.

Sometimes the truth is hard to distinguish from all the lies that we are presented with in the media. An alternative view of the same news story is presented by Alex Jones. We like to have a choice; we tend towards cognitive dissonance when we have more than one choice, and don’t know which one to believe. Most people prefer to pick a side, and polarised positions result. The media love this too, because they  can feed like vampires off the fear and anxiety created by the uncertainty, and start working on their next story to give us all our next fix.

Marketers and producers in news and social media networks  are experts in keeping us going around in circles, never getting anywhere further in deciphering what the news really means. Obsfucation and misdirection is very much the point of much of the media, who want us to be kept in a confused state (i.e. easier to control and herd in a particular direction), with occasional intelligence-insulting payoffs in the form of flattery from people we don’t even know. One would think this stuff would be hard to fall for, but the truth is, it’s hard-wired into our brains to need a pay-off, to need certainty. We’re only human, after all.