This is a transcript of our episode “Angry: All about feelings, pt. 3”
— START OF TRANSCRIPT —
DaCari: You’re listening to Brains ON where we’re serious about being curious.
Kid: Brains On is supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Announcer: Previously on Brains On…
Marc: HARVEY, all my life I wanted to be Alpaca Jack.
HARVEY: Sanden will soon star in Fleece of Mind, the next Alpaca Jack play.
Marc: Yeah. I tried out for that part too. Losing this part feels like I’ve lost everything.
Sanden: Oh Hey Marc — can I have a sip of your water?
Marc: Um. It’s actually pickle-ade.
Sanden: Even better! This all grass diet I’m on to prep to play alpaca jack is really drying out my mouth. I want to be sure I can enunciate all my lines. You know, can’t have a raspy star on stage, can we?
Sanden: Thank you! Nothing like a bit of brine to prep for a top notch performance. (gulp gulp gulp gulp) Ah. (jar lid screwing on) And, there’s your jar, good sir.
Marc: Sanden!! I didn’t say you could drink it all, Just a sip!!!!
Sanden: Gotta go.
Marc: AND IT’S JUST A REHEARSAL!!
(Door open, then Slam)
HARVEY: Hello Marc! I detect the door was shut with more force than usual. Did you replace it with one that has more mass?
Marc: Hey Harvey - sorry to rattle your robo-sensors but it is EXACTLY the same door as always.
HARVEY: I see. Then I calculate that you closed it with much greater acceleration.
Marc: Yeah. I SLAMMED it BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO BLOW A FUSE!
HARVEY: Oh. Fortunately I have spare fuses in the supply closet.
Marc: No. Harvey. I mean this situation with Sanden is making me -- IT’S. SO. UNFAIR. THAT SANDEN GETS TO BE ALPACA JACK IN THE PLAY.
HARVEY: You seem to be having strong feelings. My data log shows that we processed your emotions about Alpaca Jack the other day, and you are (beep): sad. Is this more sadness
Marc: Ugh. I was sad, at first, But now -- no, I’m just mad.
HARVEY: Emotion updated. (plink) What is bothering you about this situation?
Marc: Well. I’m upset that ALPACA JACK IS ALL SANDEN WILL TALK ABOUT. He knows I wanted that part too. It’s like he’s rubbing it in my face!
HARVEY: That sounds…. (sound as if scrolling through emotion words) setting up. (bing) I mean, upsetting. This reminds me of when I encounter a software bug. I simply reboot my system. I have heard that humans can experience something similar to a reboot when they pause and… take deep breaths.
Marc: That’s. That’s probably a good idea. (inhales and exhales) Thanks, Harvey.
HARVEY: Don’t thank me. Thank my system update. My operating system now features seventeen databases of information on emotions. And I have also added a kitten keyboard. Check it out.
(A scale of keyboard meows plays)
Marc: Ha! Hey, that IS helping. More kittens STAT!
(THEME music (but with kitten sounds))
Molly Bloom: Welcome to Brains On! I'm from American public media. I'm Molly Bloom and back in the studio with me today is DaCari from Baltimore. Hi DaCari.
DaCari: Hi there.
Molly: Today's episode is the third in our series on feelings.
DaCari: The first episode looks at happiness. It's a joy.
Molly: And the second gets into sadness.
DaCari: Check them out if you haven't already.
Molly: Today we're moving on to a new emotion.
Molly: And you have lots of questions.
Bennett: My question is how do people get angry?
Marianne: Why is it that when you're mad, your brain goes crazy and you'll do stuff you know you're not supposed to?
Kate: My question is why do I want to smash things when I'm angry?
Lucas: Is there a good evolutionary reason for getting angry and how does it help us?
Molly: That was Bennett from Richmond, Ontario, Marianne from Atlanta, Kate from Florida, and Lucas from London, England. When we're angry, it's often because our brain sees something it thinks is a threat.
DaCari: After all, one of the brain's main jobs is to protect us from danger.
Molly: Right. If your brain interprets something as potentially dangerous, it gets ready for action.
Brain: (sniffs) This brain smells danger and (sniffs) Thai food, but mostly danger.
DaCari: We call this fight, flight, or freeze.
Molly: Because in a threatening situation, our bodies get ready to try to do one of those things.
DaCari: You can fight to defend yourself.
Brain: Hands get ready for action.
Left hand: Yes sir. Brain sir.
Right hand: Just as soon as we..
Left hand: make this last...
Both hands: goal! New high score, high five!
Left hand: Ow!
Right hand: My face.
Left hand: Why do we do that?
Molly: You can take flight by running away.
Brain: Feet, be ready to run.
Feet: Yes sir. We're standing by, or as we call it, just standing.
DaCari: Or you can freeze. You feel so threatened, you want to hide or you are not sure what to do next.
Molly: This fight, flight or freeze reaction involves natural chemicals inside your body that tell it what to do. Brains On! producer Menaka Wilhelm is here to break it down for us.
Menaka: Hey Molly. Hey DaCari.
Menaka: And here are my notes hot off the printers. The fight, flight or freeze response is like a reflex. It might happen before you even realize what's going on. And there are two main chemicals involved in this fight, flight or freeze response, adrenaline and cortisol. They're both hormones, chemicals that your body makes to send messages.
Like most things in our body, these chemicals do many different things. In terms of our fight, flight, or freeze response these chemicals are how your brain tells your body: get ready for action. When your emotions kick in, that can ramp up your body's response even more. And anger is often related to the fight part of that fight, flight or freeze. (paper rustling) Ah! A paper cut! (music and yelling) I hate paper cuts so much!!!
Menaka: Who's Menaka? I'm Super You Person. I'm the size and shape of a regular person but with more adrenaline and cortisol inside.
DaCari: That's quite a name.
Menaka: Super-you-man would be a good play on, superhuman but not everyone is a man obviously, duh.
DaCari: Super You Person, you seem pretty angry. What's going on?
Menaka: That paper sliced me. The teeny-tiny hole that invaded my fingertip, puts my life in danger.
Molly: Here, we'll help you fill in this explanation. Let me see your notes. Where were you? Oh right. In fight, flight or freeze mode, our body's reactions change just a little. It says here, play a recording of someone named Uraina Clark. Oh. Here it is.
Uraina Clark: We'll be able to run faster and farther and act quicker and see more and pay attention to things better and remember things better.
Molly: Ok. Uraina studies how stress affects our brains at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Menaka: That paper threatens my survival!
DaCari: A paper cut isn't really a huge threat but I get that it might feel like that.
Molly: When the brain sees a threat, it sends a message to glands right behind the stomach above the kidneys. The brain tells the glands, "Make hormones."
Brain: Hey, adrenal glands, why don't you get some adrenaline going, and while you're at it, get me some cortisol.
Glands: You got it, boss.
DaCari: Hormones are chemicals that tell other parts of the body what to do. There are lots of different hormones.
Molly: Cortisol and adrenaline each send slightly different messages.
Uraina: Adrenaline's like, "Here we go, we're going right now. Go". Whereas cortisol is like, "I will keep you going. You're going to keep going".
DaCari: So, Super You Person, those hormones pumping through your body right now changing how your body acts and how you feel.
Molly: Yeah. What's it like?
Menaka: Hm. Well,
Menaka: Fast heartbeat, deeper breath, more oxygen, more blood to heart, lungs and limbs. Higher blood sugar, more fuel for muscles and brain. I'm ready to battle the paper.
Menaka: I will defeat this threat!!!!! (paper crumpling)
Molly: Menaka, do you just want a bandage?
Menaka: Huh? Wow. Thank you, Molly.
DaCari: That cut should be better in no time.
Menaka: You guys, what happened?
Molly: You went into fight, flight or freeze mode when you got that paper cut.
Menaka: It happened so fast.
DaCari: It is truly an amazing, overwhelming response.
Menaka: That's exactly what Uraina says.
Uraina: It's so automatic we don't even know it happens. Before you even realize that there was a threat, you are ready to fight it. You're ready to flee it. Your fight or flight response has already begun.
DaCari: And once your body reacts, your emotions can also kick up. Sometimes that feeling of anger can come on so quickly you don't realize what's going on.
Menaka: Definitely, wow. I think I'll go take a walk to keep calming down.
Molly: Thanks Menaka and Super You Person.
Menaka: Protect yourself from the paper. Later.
DaCari: Some feelings like anger can come on really quickly. It can be overwhelming but the feeling of anger isn't a big, bad thing that you have to avoid or ignore.
Kaz Nelson: It is healthy to feel anger and healthy to notice that signal.
Molly: That's Kaz Nelson. She's a doctor whose specialty is feelings and mental health at the University of Minnesota. She told us the key is noticing those feelings.
Kaz: What you want to do is catch it and maybe bring down the intensity of that anger. If it's not going to be an effective tool in meeting your goals or it might hurt somebody, that's when we have to bring down the intensity of anger.
DaCari: But once you have your anger, it can also be useful in some cases.
Kaz: If you see someone else getting hurt, for example, or someone hurting another person, that might make you feel angry on behalf of that person and they might be justified at that point to use that anger to help fix a system or to correct an injustice that might be happening.
Please know that anger is a flag and a signal and you have to use it carefully but it's not necessarily a bad emotion that has no use.
Molly: Later on in this episode, Malika Chopra will share a strategy for taking a break to dial back your anger. She's a meditation expert who's sharing some strategies in each episode of our feelings series.
DaCari: Meditation helps a lot of people pause when they have a big feeling.
Molly: In terms of what meditation exactly does to us, it's actually a tough question to answer. Does it change our brains? Here's Alea Skwara who studies meditation at the University of California, Davis.
Alea: Meditation does change your brain but so does literally anything else you do. So does going for a walk. So does practicing an instrument. Anything you do in the world changes your brain. Your brain is very plastic. It's a learning machine, especially kids.
Molly: Alea and other scientists have a lot of questions about how meditation and mindfulness affect us.
DaCari: And it's kind of tricky to measure the answers to those questions.
Alea: If I want to see how tall someone is, I can use a measuring tape. If I want to see how mindful someone is, there's no direct way to measure that. We’re measuring things that go on inside someone.
Molly: That doesn't mean it's impossible to understand how meditation works. It just means there are lots of things left to learn about meditating.
DaCari: Researchers like Alea are hard at work. They're starting to see when you meditate...
Alea: There do seem to be differences in your ability to maintain your attention over a period of time, to keep your attention on whatever it is that you're choosing to keep it on.
Molly: Meditation helps you practice noticing things like your breath, small details in the world around you, and even feelings. And that seems to help when you have a big feeling like anger.
Alea: So you're able to see it as a reaction instead of feeling like, “I am my anger,” being able to feel like “I am the space around the anger and I'm feeling this anger come up.”
Molly: When you meditate, you practice noticing things without jumping to act. So you might start using that skill when you have a strong emotion too.
Alea: So it's not to reject it and not to push it down, but instead because you are not the anger, being able to make a choice on how you want to express that feeling.
DaCari: That way, it's up to you what you do next, your anger doesn't get to pick for you.
DaCari: This summer, get ready for season two of Smash Boom Best!
Molly: In each episode of Smash Boom Best, debaters go head to head in a knock out, drag down — verbal — matchup.
DaCari: Like chocolate vs. cheese! museums vs. libraries! Grand Canyon vs. Mount Everest!
Molly: Each side brings their finest facts. And their sharpest wits. All in hopes of winning over our kid judge.
DaCari: Listeners can follow along and pick their own winner. And if you stick around to the end of this episode… there’s a sneak peak of this week’s debate: Museums vs. Libraries!
Molly: Which one of those do you think is cooler, DaCari? Museums or libraries?
Molly: What’s your favorite thing to do at the library?
DaCari: To read the books?
Molly: What’s your favorite book you’ve read recently?
DaCari: Percy Jackson.
Molly: This is a really hard one. Libraries are so, so cool and museums have so much stuff there that is really hard to see anywhere else. But I think we definitely have to listen to the rest of the shows to make up our minds.
DaCari: After you listen to the preview, why not subscribe to the show?
Molly: And if the wait for new episodes is making you angry, maybe… take a pause to decide what to do with that feeling.
DaCari: While you’re waiting for more episodes of Smash Boom Best, send Brains On a note at BrainsOn.org/contact
Molly: We love when you send us questions, debate ideas, mystery sounds, and drawings. Brains on dot org slash contact is the place to reach us.
DaCari: That’s how we got this question:
Ben: Hi, I’m Ben
Max: and I’m Max. We’re from Ocala, Florida.
Ben: And our question is: Why does the sound of nails on a chalkboard bother people so much?
Molly: The answer to that question is coming at the end of this episode. Right before that smash boom best preview.
DaCari: Keep listening!
DaCari: Welcome back to Brain On! from American Public Media. I'm DaCari.
Molly: And I’m Molly. We have some important business to attend to.
Are you ready for the mystery sound DaCari?
Molly: All right, here it is.
Okay, any guesses about what that sound might be?
DaCari: Glass breaking.
Molly: Oooh. That is a really, really good guess. We're going to hear it again, a little bit later in the show.
Molly: All of us get angry, but we don't necessarily get angry in the same ways. We asked you to tell us how it feels in your body when you get angry, and here's what you had to say.
Liam: When I get angry, my body feels like it does not want to talk. I just want to walk away and be alone for a little while.
Eve: It feels like I need a volcano to explode down my body.
Beckett: When I'm angry, I feel like my fists are crunched up inside my body and brain.
Jack: I also feel like energy builds up inside me, and I feel like I can go really fast or really strong.
Kathy: I feel overwhelmed.
Jack: I just feel like I want to punch somebody.
Josie: I feel like I want to shook up a fizzy water inside my body and it wants to explode.
Ava: When I'm mad and and sad, I whine a lot.
Kathy: Sometimes I play on my keyboard. I start with the low notes, and I play out my emotions and when I get more calmer, I play out calmer songs that I make up myself. And when I'm calm enough, most the time I'm able to talk out how I'm feeling.
Molly: Thanks to Liam, Eve, Beckett, Jack, Kathy, Jack, Josie, and Ava for sharing those answers with us. Now, we've talked in this series about how different people have different emotional thermostats.
[music: Oooh, emotional thermostat]
DaCari: Some people really get mad really fast, and other people take longer to feel upset.
Molly: It turns out even for just one person, one feeling can also have different temperatures.
DaCari: Like super-hot fire, explosive anger.
But there's also lukewarm simmering anger.
Molly: Exactly. People talk about those different angers a little differently depending on the part of the world they grew up in. Michaeleen Doucleff is a science reporter for NPR. She's looked into lots of different kinds of anger so we asked her to join us to talk about it.
DaCari: Welcome, Michaeleen.
DaCari: What are some different types of anger that you heard of in other languages?
Michaeleen: First of all, there's many of them. There's kind of an infinite numbers, but some of my favorites are, for instance, in German, they have a word that means a face in need of a slap, that you're so angry at this person that their face is just begging you to hit them. The ancient Greeks differentiated between a short burst of anger versus long anger that lasted a really long time.
But my favorite place to find anger is in India, it's like a treasure trove of anger. One of the best is an anger called “when the eggplant hits the hot oil.” So like when you put eggplant or something in a hot pan, it like sizzles and bursts. And so this anger is like you hear something and you just immediately become so angry, you want to burst and sizzle like something in a hot pan.
They also have a different anger that you express for people that you love and that are close to you, then anger that you express towards like the boss or the government. They separate these two out and they try not to mix them up.
Then finally they have an anger that's a loving anger. It's like when you're with your parents or a friend that you're angry at them, but you also just feel bad and sorry and you love them and you want to help them but they're not letting you. It's love mixed with anger and kind of mournfulness, it's a very, very beautiful anger, I think.
DaCari: What about your own anger? Do you have special names for any anger you feel?
Michaeleen: Yes. After I did this reporting, I started looking and paying attention to what made me angry, and I started trying to make up words and ideas for these different types of anger.
One that I found that I had a lot, my husband and I called disophonous anger or sophonous anger. It's when things are just too loud. Like in our house, we have a loud dog and a loud baby and sometimes people are shouting and it's talking and it's just too much sound. We call that like a sophonous anger.
We use it in our house, my husband will say, "Disophnous anger, Michaeleen". Then it's useful. I'm like, “Oh, you're right, let's turn that radio off, or let's put the dog out". It tells me why he's angry.
Another one that I have a lot is what I call “hurry up anger.” When people aren't doing something fast enough for me, which is kind of ridiculous when you start saying it, but someone's not driving fast enough, or my kid’s not putting her shoes on fast enough, and I'm like, “Hurry up, hurry up". I call it hurry up anger.
Naming it like that made me realize how silly it was. Why am I getting angry? Because you're not moving fast enough.
Here's another one. This is very useful, I call it boomerang anger. This is when somebody does something to you that really hurt your feelings or makes you feel bad, and you have a right to be angry and you get angry at them and then they get angry at you back. They boomerang the anger back to you. (laughs)
At first, I would get upset or I get more angry back and everyone just gets anger and more and more angry. But since I've labeled it and figured this out, boomerang anger, I say now, “Hey, you're putting that anger back on me, but you're the one that hurt my feelings". That is way more productive than just boomeranging anger back and forth to each other.
Molly: I've seen all these angers. Do you have any of the ones Michaeleen just mentioned? Do you ever feel yourself getting any of those?
DaCari: The boomerang anger.
Molly: Yeah. So Michaeleen, what made you interested in anger in the first place?
Michaeleen: I grew up in a house that was just full of anger, door slamming and shouting were just basic means of communicating with one another. When I got married, my husband was always like, “Why are you yelling? Why are you shouting?” I was just like, “I don't know, this is the way I was taught to communicate.”
Then when we had our daughter three years ago, I really was like, I don't want her to grow up in a house full of anger. So I wanted to figure out what to do with it. Deal with my anger in a more productive way.
I don't want to come across as saying that all anger is bad and we should you know completely all never be angry. I think that though understanding the anger and the different types of anger helps us deal with the anger in a way that's more productive.
DaCari: Thanks, Michaeleen.
Michaeleen: Thank you, DaCari. It was a pleasure.
Molly: Okay DaCari, are you ready to get back to the mystery sound?
Molly: All right. This time I'll give you a hint before you guess. This is the sound of something you might feel like doing when you're angry. Here's the sound.
Before, you guessed that that was breaking glass, do you want to stick with your original guess or do you have any new thoughts?
DaCari: I think like you're throwing something at glass?
Molly: Well, the sound you just heard was indeed glass breaking and people breaking it. Really good ears. And this sound is from a place called Rage Ground in Los Angeles where you can smash things safely to let your anger out.
Brains On! producers Meneka Wilhelm and Kristina Lopez got to live out that impulse. Basically each room there is empty, except for a bunch of smashable things and a few baseball bats that you can smash with. Here's what it was like.
Peter Wolf: My name is Peter Wolf.
Edwin Trivia: My name is Edwin Toribio.
Peter: You can break stuff here.
Edwin: We like to say that we're at a place where people can come to break stuff in a safe environment to release out any anger, pent up emotions and stress. It says, “a place and time for everything.”
Kristina: We put these on here?
Peter: Yes, safety first.
Edwin: 'cause you're breaking things and there's a lot of sharp objects--
Edwin: So you're wearing an orange helmet with a mesh welding mask and you're wearing blue-felt welding gloves--
Menaka: Okay let me put on my gloves.
Edwin: And a white jumpsuit with a rage ground patch on it.
Kristina: Let's do it.
Edwin: Right now, we have a room full of different items. We have vases, all types of glass, we have some electronics, printers, keyboards, desktops all have been cleaned and our safe to break.
Peter: I’m going to close the doors so that nothing leaks out and have fun guys, let us know when you're done.
Kristina: [laughs] I’m so excited.
Kristina: Okay, I think we’re done.
Peter: How was it?
Kristina: It was great.
Edwin: I think people afterwards, they feel relieved,
Peter: very relaxed and calm.
Edwin: They come out feeling like they've gotten this huge weight off their shoulders. They usually come out smiling or they come out sweaty because of- it’s basically a work out in there.
Menaka: It made me feel physically powerful to be able to break glass and to make a dent in a computer tower but there's other things too that make me feel powerful in my normal life, so it was a similar feeling to exercising hard or trying to run fast.
Kristina: It felt like I was playing an awesome dodge ball game. It's that same kind of like hitting things, that's really fun and you don't have to worry about getting hurt really. I mean we were very careful in the room. I slept really well after. I had one of the best sleeps I’ve had this year.
Menaka: It's hard to break things. You don't think about that when you feel angry and you're like "Oh I really want to break something, it's actually really hard work.”
Molly: We should say in basically all normal situations, Brains On! does not endorse breaking things. It's really important to think of ways of handling your feelings without hurting other people or their stuff, especially when your feelings are really big.
Is there anything that you do that helps you when you feel angry DaCari?
DaCari: I just close my eyes and go to my happy place and pretend I'm the only one there. It helps me every time.
Molly: That is really great. Can I ask you what is your happy place?
DaCari: My happy place is full of legos.
Molly: Oh yes, that’s awesome. What kind of stuff do you like to build with legos?
DaCari: I build cities, houses, cars, airplanes and helicopters.
Molly: Yeah when I am angry, I take deep breaths. That helps me a lot, but now I think I might start imagining a lego room. I think that would really help me too.
And Mallika Chopra has another idea of what to do when you're angry.
DaCari: She's a meditation and mindfulness expert.
Molly: In every episode of this series, she's sharing meditations you can try when you feel different feelings. Here's what Malika suggests for big, angry feelings.
Mallika Chopra: When we get angry, you can often feel it in your body so you may feel that your face gets red, you clench your hands, your heart starts beating really fast and you may even feel like hitting something or shouting out loud. Your body reacts to anger.
When we are angry what I suggest is an exercise called STOP, S-T-O-P. S is for stop what you're doing.
T is take three breaths because breathing helps us slow down, so take three breaths in and out.
O is observe what's happening in your body. Like I said, it's normal for your heart to start beating or your hands to start sweating or get clenched, your face to get hot. Observe what's happening while you're taking those breaths.
P is for proceed. What this does is it helps your anger get more in control so that you feel like you can make good decisions and not angry decisions.
Molly: It's very normal to feel angry sometimes.
DaCari: We evolved to sometimes want to fight and respond to a threat. But there are a lot of different reasons people feel angry.
Molly: Chemicals called hormones send messages within your body.
DaCari: Adrenaline and cortisol are key hormones in our fight, flight or freeze response.
Molly: But if you pause to realize what's happening to your body, you can calm down and think about what to do next.
DaCari: Scientists are still trying to understand exactly how meditation affects us, but so far it seems that people pause and pay attention better.
Molly: Naming different types of anger can help you understand and help control this feeling.
DaCari: That’s it for this episode of Brains On. Brains On is produced by Marc Sanchez, Sanden Totten and Molly Bloom.
Molly: This series was also produced by Menaka Wilhelm and Sam Choo, with support from Call To Mind - APM’s mental health initiative. We had production help from Hannah Harris Green, Kristina Lopez, Elyssa Dudley, Phyllis Fletcher and Emily Bright. And we had engineering help from Veronica Rodriguez, Bob White and Cameron Wiley. Special thanks to Naundia Fitzgerald, Jamar Peete, Andres Gonzalez and the Holistic Life Foundation, Kaz Nelson, Cindy Willner, John Rabe, Gabriel Cortes, Jessica Flores, Marley Feuerwerker-otto, Libby Denkman, and Jonaki Mehta.
DaCari: Now before we go, it’s time for the Moment of Um...
Ben: Why does the sound of nails on a chalkboard bother people so much?
Adrian: When you say sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, immediately everyone has the same feeling. We actually don't know why specifically we are so repulsive to it.
My name is Adrian KC Lee, I’m associate professor of the department of speech and hearing sciences at the University of Washington. First of all, we need to know something about frequency. Sound, you can analyze it like on a piano. There's low sound, low frequency. There’s high sound, high frequency. For nails scratching a chalkboard, a particular range of the piano, shall we say, as two to four kilohertz, so tends to be somewhere in the middle to high range.
It turns out our ear, especially our outer ear, so the bits that you can actually feel with your fingers right now, accentuate sounds between two to four kilohertz particularly well. In some way, that frequency range is extremely important for a lot of things.
Speech has a lot of energy around that area of frequency and so does many other environmental sounds. People speculate we are more sensitive to that region because babies crying is around that acoustical region or chimpanzee crying.
We actually don't know exactly whether that is true that we're that particularly sensitive to the fingernails scratching the chalkboard as tied to all these different environmental sounds that we’re biologically predisposed to process. Why is it useful? I have no idea but it's something that is universal.
Molly: We’ll be back soon with more answers to your questions!
DaCari: Thanks for listening!