mood gremlins

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The Sick Kitty Reducer
Your boss is screaming at you. Again. Her face is savage and fiendish. You feel an adrenaline rush. Your brain’s natural response to anger kicks in—and today, the emphasis is more fight than flight.

Reducer: How do you stop this scenario from escalating? The answer is in a study at Stanford University: Look ’em in the eye. See the rage. And then imagine that the aggressor is...having a bad day and her anger has nothing to do with you. Maybe her little Siamese cat is dying. Or she didn’t sleep last night because she was worried about her mother. This is called reappraisal—a cognitive behavioral therapy technique that helps you see tough situations in new ways. When volunteers were confronted by angry faces and told to feel the emotion on the face and think about what it meant, they continued to be upset. But when instructed to imagine that the face’s bearer was having a bad day, they were like Teflon—the bad feeling didn’t stick. In fMRI brain scans, reappraisers’ brains look healthier: The prefrontal cortex, does damage control, while the amygdala appears relatively calm.


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