Angry: All about feelings (1)
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...