The First Fry: Are You Angry or “Hangry”?

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“We can’t do this anymore!” She screamed out.

“I can’t take this! It can’t be like this!” He yelled back.

They were so upset with each other. “After all this time,” they each thought, “After all this effort.”

They continued driving to the restaurant in silence. They were both hungry, and as bad as this fight seemed, they were both still set on eating.

They ordered; despite their anger, each found the ability to muster up a bit of kindness to the waitress as they placed their orders.

Through all the years, perhaps the one constant they agreed on regardless of circumstances or mood, was the desire to split fries as an appetizer. When the waitress brought them out, they each took one…

From the first fry, everything changed. They looked at the other, and a smile grew on each of their faces. “I’m sorry,” they said in unison.

“I think I was just crazy hungry.”

“Me too.”

And that was that. One fry is all it took. One fry, and their fight turned into apologies, listening, and compassion. One fry.

One symbolic fry.

The primary part of our brains that signals hunger (hypothalamus) is steeped in the part of the brain that is generally associated with emotions (limbic system); so that means, oftentimes, our hunger is closely associated with emotions – which seems to make a whole lot of sense, considering the tendency to get angry when we’re hungry is so common it has its own word, “hangry.” It also helps us have a better understanding of why we tend to catastrophize more when we’re hungry than when we’re not (i.e., “This is terrible!” or “I can’t stand it!” etc.). After all, think about how many extreme statements you or your significant other have made through the years because one or both of you was hungry. Too many to count? 

There is a way to eat a proverbial fry before the fight begins next time: Do a mental scan of yourself when you begin to feel anger. Ask what might be going on with yourself physically. Ask if you are hungry (you can also ask yourself if you are tired, sick, in pain, or otherwise physically distressed). If you are, then take the time to accurately express to your loved one how you feel physically, rather than irrationally building on unnecessary anger. In fact, consider saying something along the lines of, “I’m really hungry, and I would sincerely appreciate if we just ate first before we continued this discussion.”

Something as simple as that can be the mental fry you need for satiating your emotions.