We've often heard the old suggestion that we should count to ten when we get angry. Is there any validity to this advice?

I'm Dr. James Dobson with Focus on the Family.

Actually when angry feelings do come over us, it can indeed be very valuable to have a cooling-off period before acting on those feelings. The reason for waiting is that anger is not only emotional, it's biochemical as well.

The body is equipped with an automatic defense system called the "fight or flight" mechanism, which prepares the entire organism for action. When we're upset or frightened, adrenalin is pumped into the blood stream, setting off a whole series of physiological responses within the body. In a matter of seconds, the individual is transformed from a quiet condition to an alarm reaction state.

All of this biochemical response is involuntary. It occurs quite apart from the conscious choice. What isn't involuntary however, is our reaction to these sudden changes.

We can learn to take a step back in a moment of excitation. We can choose to hold our tongue; to remove ourselves from the provocative situation, particularly when we're dealing with children who anger us. We can control the impulse to lash out verbally or physically, doing what we will certainly regret when the passion has cooled. We not only can exercise this self-control, we absolutely must.

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