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neuroscience proved us right, so we were REALLY surprised to find batakas are still being sold on the internet with outdated and debunked descriptions like this: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:
- Refrain from trying to explain, justify, or rationalize why you got angry.
- Take a brisk walk, mop, shovel snow – movement helps dissipate the neurochemistry of anger and gives you faster clarity
- 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.
- Think about what triggered the anger. Is there a pattern? What were circumstances in your life that created the rejection, fear, sadness or hurt?