Feeling too calm? Get a Bataka

During the early years of our psychotherapy practices anger management groups used batakas to beat on pillows (and in more “advanced” groups – each other).  Supposedly, batakas released the anger but we never referred anyone to those groups, thinking that practice makes perfect and practicing being angry, much less violent, was not therapeutic.

Many years later neuroscience proved us right, so we were REALLY surprised to find batakas are still being sold on the internet with outdated and debunked descriptions like this:

 “The Bataka Encounter Bats (or aggression exercise bats) are designed to enable children and adults alike to release aggression in a fun, safe way. . . .Batakas are especially popular in therapeutic or educational environment.  The Bataka consists of a coated fabric with a firm foam roller with integrated plastic handle. The handle provides hand protection, so that the risk of injury is minimized.”

Here’s a sample instruction to practice getting angry, easily and quickly:

  • Buy a bataka from an internet site – hey, it’s only $160 . . .
  •  Think of something, someone, anything, anyone that’s bugging you and feel the anger.  
  • Focus on anger at past injustices, present slights – doesn’t matter if it’s directed toward you or someone else.
  • There are opportunities everywhere – get angry at the news, household chores, lack of time, growing old, the weather, politics . . .
  •  Slug away at a pillow or chair.
  • Make anger a habit and trust it to become a quick ‘n easy, automatic response. 

(Warning:   Your brain isn’t having fun, it’s strengthening your neuro-connections to retrieve angry feelings quickly.)

Unless you are being physically assaulted, anger is usually the lid on another emotion like fear or hurt.   Put simply, fear and hurt create vulnerability and covering those feelings with anger gives us a sense of power. 

To reduce anger:

  1. Refrain from trying to explain, justify, or rationalize why you got angry.
  2. Take a brisk walk, mop, shovel snow – movement helps dissipate the neurochemistry of anger and gives you faster clarity
  3. Pick another emotion – rejected, afraid, sad, hurt – even if you aren’t sure, just intuitively pick what feeling might have been covered by your anger.
  4. Think about what triggered the anger.  Is there a pattern?  What were circumstances in your life that created the rejection, fear, sadness or hurt?

Your brain is always creating and strengthening neuro-connections.  Unused or seldom used emotional “connections” lose strength and fade away.  The connections used the most often grow stronger.

You can train your brain to form any emotional habit you choose, with determination, effort and time.

“The actual secrets of the path to happiness are determination, effort and time.”

The Dali Lama

Take a look at the post on Reducing pain associated with anger regulation with a new biobehavioral model.  Click HERE 

Happiness Habits – My Brain Training

While reading “The Science of Happiness” I realized I practice turning worries and fears into “happy” . . . or at least “content”.  Let me share:

Part of being happy is having the habit of being happy

Ancient Greek Philosophical Statement – Greek philosophers actually ran “happiness schools”

Periander said “Everything is practice”

How to Practice Happiness*

  • Tell yourself that negative thoughts are destructive to your mind and let them go by replacing with positive or neutral thoughts.

 I’ve learned to tell myself –  “If I’ve been thinking negative thoughts and they haven’t helped me, I might as well stop thinking them and move on”.  It works, but takes practice. At first, my brain wants to go right back to the negative thought. I have to tell it a few times to switch to positive or neutral thoughts (having something specific to switch to can help).

  •  Sensitize  yourself to positive  feelings–look for them and expand them.

Pay attention to the present – where you are, what you are doing, who you are with.  I look for ANYTHING, however, small, I can  be grateful for or at the very least appreciate.  

imagine looking at yourself from a great distance, or though the eyes of someone else–notice how IN THE LONG RUN  your worries might not be as significant as you think.

Worries, I remind myself, haven’t happened but  my mind conjuring up possibilities.

  • Imagine good things, your imagination can change the brain almost as much as actual experience.

I sometimes make up an alternate history for myself,  how I got the support and love I wished you had.  It’s like a movie, made and directed by ME.

It takes time and practice but I can testify that it is possible to increase your ability to control how you feel.  


*From “The Science of Happiness” by Stefan Klein