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Defining Anger

Updated on February 21, 2013
Anger is a normal emotion that can be managed.
Anger is a normal emotion that can be managed. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

People are all affected by anger differently. Not only in intensity, but in how we react, from one day to the next, to situations, other people, and the miriad of things that make us angry.Having a good understanding of what makes us angry and why can go a long way in how we process this emotion and changing how we react in the future.

Anger - The Dictionary and Thesaurus

According to most dictionaries, anger can be defined as a powerful feeling of displeasure that has been aroused by some wrong that has been committed or has occurred, or to arouse anger or wrath in someone else. Synonyms found in the thesaurus include: annoyance, irritation, fury, rage, antagonism, resentment, annoy, irritate, infuriate, incense, enrage, madden, exasperate, rile, animosity, enmity, gale, hissy fit, huff, mad, pique, storm, tantrum, umbrage, vexation, violence. They synonyms show the range of intensity that can be classified under the emotion of anger, from irritation to full out fury or rage.

So What Is Anger?

Anger is a complex reaction to things going on around us or to any hurt, mistreatment, or opposition against us or when we are faced with something that is preventing us from achieving our goals. It is normal to feel anger as it is a reaction to any threat – either real or perceived – aimed at ourselves, those we care about, our property, our reputation, or our character. Whenever we feel anger rising within us, it is an indication that something is wrong.

The Experience of Anger

How we experience anger varies with the experience and with the many components feeding into the experience that triggerd the anger. It can also vary from one day to the next, so that the same set of traffic conditions may only cause a mild irritation on one day while it sends us into a major case of road rage on another day. This is what makes the emotion so complex. There are so many variables, triggers, and past experiences that may be playing into the current attack of anger.

How easily we become angry (the anger threshold) also varies from one person to the next and depends, at least in part, with how comfortable the person is with their anger. Some people rarely get angry, whereas others get angry quite frequently. People even vary in the awareness of their own anger, with some people quite aware of it and others failing to recognize their anger. People vary in how often they get angry. According to some anger management experts, the occurance of some level of anger occurs about one to three times a day on average, though other experts suggest that it may be more realistic to suggest that the average is probably closer to fifteen times a day. The basic consensus is that anger is a normal and unavoidable occurance.

Types of Anger

There are three types of anger. Anger at ourselves for messing up, making a mistake. It could be as simple as being late for work because we overslept or unintentionally hurting someone else’s feelings. Anger at other people because they intentionally or unintentionally hurt us, because of something they did or said against things that are important to us, or perhaps because they failed us somehow – the contractor that doesn’t finish the job right or on time, a friend who acciedently spills a private communication or tells a lie about us. Anger at our circumstances. Let’s face it garbage happens, and it frequently happens at the worst possible time - like accidents blocking traffic when we’re already late for work.

All of these types of anger stress us out which can cause us to wrongly dump our aggravation onto others who don’t deserve it. Our anger at others, though, adds the potential for anger directed specifically at the person who triggered the anger.

Mechanisms of Anger

There are three mechanisms involved in anger – physical, cognitive, and behavioral. The physical reactions begin with an adrenalin rush that rases the heart rate and blood pressure and tightens the muscls (fight or flight response). The fight or flight mechanism of anger can be a good thing, providing us the energy when we need to stand and fight. The cognitve comprehension of anger is how we perceive what has made us anger, the person or event that triggered the anger and why we feel it was wrong, unfair, or undeserved. The behavioral component is the manner in which we express that anger – angry expression, getting red in the face, yelling, going silent and brooding, slamming doors, or storming off. On the other hand, since we can’t hit or fight everyone, we may choose another way to handle the anger by telling the other person that we are angry and why, then asking for time to cool off, followed by apologizing for our part in the problem and asking for an apology from the other person, and finally asking for the change that we would like to see from the other person to keep the hurt from happening again.

Is Anger a Healthy or Appropriate Response?

Anger is a normal emotion, it’s one that we all feel from time to time. Anger is an appropriate response when we need stand up for ourselves or our loved ones, or when we need to correct injustices. Well managed anger provides us the energy we need to make necessary changes in our lives, to change what we don’t like about our lives and take steps in the right direction.

Unhealthy anger works against our purposes. In this case, the anger is frequently extremely intense to the point of getting out of control, is aimed at the wrong people or the wrong places, and can cause a person to be excessively forceful or even violent. It leads to poor problem solving skills and making bad decisions. It creates more problems than it solves and can alienate friends and loved ones or even destroy the relationships that are most important to us. In the long run, left unchecked and unmanaged, anger negatively affects the person’s health.

Anger Management

Anger management offers techniques to cope with the events and people that have triggered our anger and to find the healthier ways of dealing with the emotion of anger as well as the way we express it. Anger management is not about bottling it up or stuffing it down. It’s not about avoiding the people and situations that trigger anger. Anger management is about dealing with the causes of, expression of, and the emotion of anger.

Whatever triggered our anger may have affected us directly, but how we express it will affect, not only ourselves, but everyone around us. So it is in our best interest to learn ways of coping and dealing with it. Whenever necessary, it may be good to seek psychiatric help for anger management issues. Otherwise, there are groups and classes for anger management as well as books, CDs and DVDs that teach coping and management skills. Most anger management skills revolve around finding ways to calm down, getting centered, discovering the actual cause of the anger, and finding healthy ways working out those issues. The coping and management usually boil down to the cause or trigger of the anger. Once those are understood, management becomes easier.

Resources Anger. Anger.

PBS This Emotional Life. What Is Anger?

Mental Health. What Is Anger?

Self Improvement Advice. What Is Anger Management? Types of Anger and Its Causes.

Agreements for Venting Anger


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    • joanwz profile image

      Joan Whetzel 4 years ago from Katy, Texas

      Yeah, I know, that seems like a lot. I guess if you count things like frustration as a milder form of anger, then it adds up.

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

      Up to 15 times a day! That seems like a lot of anger. I wonder sometimes if people call themselves angry when they are really feeling frustrated or disappointed. I think those are different emotions that we experience. I will have to pay attention and count, but I can't imagine I come close to getting angry 15 times a day. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones. Interesting discussion here.