Anger management will stop you turning into a caveman

Do you go “back-brain,” escalating your emotions, when you feel scared or angry?

Think about cavemen. Odds are that the image that comes up for you is of someone with a sloped forehead, and maybe a rather small head. A sloped forehead suggests that the area of your brain, specifically the left prefrontal lobe, that controls aggression is under-developed. The left prefrontal lobe also plays a role in keeping you feeling happy, so if there’s not much there, you are likely to feel less than joyful and all the more quick to anger.

As to the small head, new evidence suggests that the amygdala, which is from the earlier, even reptilian stage of brain development, varies in size. People such as those with borderline personality disorders who tend toward emotional chaos with volatility and rages—earning them the nickname of Drama Queen—have a relatively small inner brain piece called the amygdala. (See p.1289 ofNeurobiology of Mental Illness, edited by Dennis S. Charney and Eric J. Nestler.)  Somehow this apparently smaller size seems to correlate with less sophisticated or nuanced readings of the world.

The amygdala of highly emotional people therefore gives false positives. That is, it screams “Danger!” to mobilize people to fight or flight, when the actual threat does not merit such a strong response.  A hyper-active amygdala sees danger where there is none and overrates the degree to which what lies ahead is in fact a genuine threat.

If you are a caveman, quick responses are likely to save you from beasts who would like to enjoy eating you for dinner. In our contemporary world however most dangers do not need immediate reflexive responses. Better to be able to think than to rush into immediate aggressive action.

The bottom line: Beware if you have a tendency to react like a caveman.

The good news is that when you feel yourself beginning to become angry, if you leave the situation immediately odds are good that you will be okay. Leave the situation for a few minutes to give your brain time for your thinking ability, which travels on a slower neurological system than the caveman parts of your brain, to kick into gear and start quietly collecting and processing data.

Again, when in doubt, just get out.

Return to the situation once you have calmed down so that thinking can lead you to a safe plan of action.

Better safe than sorry. And better savvy than caveman.

Source:15 fred flintstne pictures fred flintstne images cartn from


Denver psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D. specializes in teaching couples the skills for marriage success.  Her interactive onine marriage program at and her books for therapists and for couples aim to make the world a safer, more mature, less caveman-like place.

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  • anger management
  • borderline personality disorder
  • BPD
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Susan Heitler, Ph.D., is a Denver clinical psychologist who specializes in treatment of anxiety, depression, anger, narcissism, parenting challenges, and marital difficulties. An author of multiple books, articles, audio cd’s and videos, Dr. Heitler is best known in the therapy community for having brought understandings of conflict resolution from the legal and business mediation world to the professional literature on psychotherapy. David Decides About Thumbsucking, Dr. Heitler’s first book, has been recommended for over twenty years by children’s dentists to help young children end detrimental sucking habits. From Conflict to Resolution, an innovative conflict-resolution theory of psychopathology and treatment, has strongly influenced the work of many therapists. The Power of Two and , and also Dr. Heitler’s  website for couples called, teach the skills for marriage success. In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Heitler coaches boards of directors in skills for collaboarative decision-making and, in the world of professional sports, Dr. Heitler serves as mental coach for a men’s doubles tennis team. Education Dr. Heitler graduated from Harvard  University in 1967, and earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from NYU in 1975. Awards and Accomplishments The editors of the master therapist video series Assessment and Treatment of Psychological Disorders selected Dr. Heitler from all the marriage and family therapists in the US to demonstrate the theory and techniques of couple treatment.  Her video from this series, The Angry Couple: Conflict Focused Treatment has become a staple in psychologist and marriage counseling training programs. The editors of the Psychologist Desk Reference, a compendium of therapeutic interventions, selected Dr. Heitler to write the chapter onTreating High Conflict Couples. Other editors of books on counseling theory and techniques have similarly invited her to contribute chapters on her conflict resolution treatment methods. Dr. Heitler’s 1997 book The Power of Two (New Harbinger), which clarifies the communication and conflict resolution skills that sustain healthy marriages, has been translated for publication in six foreign language editions–in China, Taiwan, Israel, Turkey, Brazil and Poland. Dr. Heitler has been invited to present workshops on her conflict resolution methods for mediators and lawyers, psychologists, and marriage and family therapists throughout the country.  She has been a popular presenter at national professional conferences including AAMFT, APA, SmartMarriages, and SEPI and has lectured internationally in Austria, Australia, Canada, China, Israel, Lebanon, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Heitler is frequently interviewed in magazines such as FitnessMen’s HealthWomen’s World, and Parenting.  Her cases have appeared often in the Ladies Home Journal column “Can This Marriage Be Saved?”  She is often interviewed by Denver TV newscasters for her perspectives on psychological aspects of current events. In May, 2004 Dr. Heitler appeared on the CBS Early Show where anchor Harry Smith introduced her as “the most influential person in my life—my therapist.”  He encouraged his viewers similarly to seek therapy when they are emotionally distressed and pre-marital counseling when they are contemplating marriage. Most recently, Dr. Heitler, three of her adult children and one of their friends were awarded a U.S. government Healthy Marriages Initiative grant to produce interactive games for teaching marriage communication and conflict resolution skills over the internet.  See to experience their fun, low-cost, high-impact methods of teaching the skills for a strong and loving marriage. Personal Dr.  Heitler and her husband of almost 40 years are proud parents of four happily married adult children and are grandparents, thus far, of a a baker’s dozen grandchildren.