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What Is Anger?

Updated on August 26, 2017
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I became a news reporter for the Marine Corps in the early 70s. I'm now retired and write on a wide variety of subjects in my spare time.

Anger Is An Emotional Response

The term anger is used to describe a number of feelings and behaviors Frustration, irritability, annoyance, blowing off steam, or fretting to name a few. Anger is an emotional response fostered by hostile provocations, real or imagined. It usually happens when personal boundaries are being threatened. Often, some resort to retaliation.

An angry person experiences physical conditions, such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline. Anger can take various forms. For example the “fight or flight” syndrome. It becomes a protective mechanism to hide feelings of fear, hurt, or sadness.

External expressions are often displayed by facial expressions and body language. Even animals have ways to express anger. They make loud, threatening sounds, try to look physically larger, bare their teeth, and stare ferociously.This behavior is a warning to stop threatening conduct.

Physical attacks rarely happen without another participating angry person. Many say its caused by past traumatic events. But a word of caution. Any behavior can be misread due to a loss of objectivity.

Open aggression

Open aggression is what comes to mind when anger is mentioned. Explosive rage, shouting, intimidation, criticism, and sarcasm are some examples. Open aggression is anger committed at the expense of someone else ,and obviously a self centered act. The focus of aggressive individuals are on their needs and feelings. There is little concern for others. Openly aggressive anger is easily identified since it isn't hidden like suppressed anger.

Two explanations can be given for open aggression. Taking an inflexible stand knowing problems are a real part of an imperfect world is one. Some respond by trying to appear physically larger to intimidate those we deem threatening. If feelings are still not being recognized, some resort to becoming louder to be heard. If this fails to provoke a response, stamping feet or pounding on a table might do the trick. As a last resort actually striking another becomes a real possibility.

Like open aggression, passive aggression is used to preserve personal worth. But it operates behind the scenes, not out in public. Passive aggressive people rarely display anger publicly because of possible reprisals.

Passive aggression results by a need for control with the least amount of risk. A passive aggressive fears public payback, so they aggravate others by subtle methods. Passive aggressive expressions of anger are one way of dealing with these feelings. But since it rarely solves anything, it's no more a healthy a choice than suppression or open aggression.

Assertive Anger

Why do we resent being controlled by others? Perhaps we sense those in control feel we can't be trusted. When anger is expressed assertively, it preserves our sense self worth by showing concern for our needs and convictions while simultaneously considering those of others. When anger is expressed assertively rather than aggressively, relationships are able to grow stronger. It's a sign of personal maturity and stability. To some, the word assertive suggests being “pushy,'" but true assertiveness isn't abrasive. It's being willing to state our feelings, needs, and convictions, firmly and fairly. But note, it's with consideration and respect for others.

Two key reminders will help you communicate anger constructively, and assertively. Make sure issues raised are worth it. Don't become bogged down in trivialities. Also, tone of voice can help create a proper atmosphere. The proper way to manage others is remembering you matter, and so do others.

Forgetting Anger

Of all choices to deal with anger, one is simple, but the most difficult to realize. That's to just forget about it.There may be times appropriate communicating convictions can be difficult, yet being assertive might not be the answer. At this point, choose to forget the entire situation. This means accepting the inability to control circumstances and recognize personal limits.This option includes tolerating differences as well as choosing to forget.

Choosing to forget is different from suppression. Suppression represents phoniness or denial whereas, forgetting represents an honest commitment to let go. Anger may be an option, but a cleaner, uncluttered life is preferable.

Anger doesn't form in a vacuum. It thrives on unmet needs. We each have basic psychological needs needing to be met before being able to truly enjoy emotional balance. When they aren't met, feelings of of distress and anger, aren't uncommon. Continued problems with anger may indicate unresolved psychological needs. The most important being love. When love is shown, emotional stability can grow. But when lacking, the possibility of anger becomes real.

Humans become angry when feeling rejected, left out, or misunderstood. The longer these feelings persist, the angrier they become. Left unchecked, they can transform into resentment and depression. Even if successful, anger can temporarily return if warning signs aren't continually monitored. Frequently, it's necessary to continually forgive the same offense over and over.

Those feeling controlled many times have allowed others to take it. Perhaps they were raised believing life holds more obligations than choices. But, control isn't necessarily a bad thing since we need it for organization and structure. However, excessive control creates negatives.

Recognizing Faces Of Anger.

Jim was a young man in his late 20's. He was raised as a Christian and believed the proverb, “A soft answer turns away wrath." None of his friends could remember when he had ever raised his voice in anger.

His wife Ellen, was another story. Raised in a large family, where screaming was an everyday occurrence, Ellen was never shy about displaying her anger freely, and excessively loud.

These contrasting styles of dealing with anger became a major source of conflict in their marriage. Jim always felt threatened by Ellen's anger. He also developed a self righteous attitude. Jim harped on her need to deal with the problem.

After being constantly lectured on the evils of anger, she decided it was time for a showdown. Once, after reciting his favorite verse of Scripture, she responded with, “Are you saying you never get angry?” “I give my anger to the Lord,” he said. “I'm glad you can be so spiritual and mature.” she said. "We're going to see if you are as righteous as you claim.” At that, she placed a stack of his favorite religious CD's on the floor and stomped on them.

Although Ellen's act was clearly wrong, it's clear Jim had the greater problem. What this couple failed to understand is sometimes everybody feels anger. It's normal.

Is anger good or bad? There are times when anger is incorrectly associated with trivial matters, and times it might be associated with legitimate concerns, but managed irresponsibly. Many have difficulty recognizing the faces of anger. The following list might help.

  • I become impatient easily.

  • I nurture critical thoughts easily.

  • When I am displeased, I become withdrawn.

  • I feel annoyed when others don't acknowledge my needs.

  • Sometimes I walk in another direction to avoid someone I don't like.

  • When discussing a controversial topic, my tone of voice is likely to become louder and passionate.

  • I have a hard time accepting those refusing to admit their weaknesses.

  • When I talk about my irritations, I'm not interested in hearing opposite points of view.

  • It's hard to forget someone who has done me wrong.

  • When someone verbally confronts me, I'm already planning a rebuttal.

  • Sometimes I become discouraged and makes me want to give up.

  • I can be aggressive in business pursuits or even just playing a game.

  • I struggle emotionally with things I feel are unfair.

  • I sometimes blame others for my problems.

  • When someone says derogatory things about me, I begin thinking of ways to defend myself.

  • I may act calmly but I'm actually frustrated.

  • Sarcasm is a trait I use in expressing humor.

  • At times I struggle with depression or discouragement.

  • When I'm in charge, I sometimes speak too strongly or insensitively.

Remaining In The Anger Cycle

Those familiar with faces of anger, have a huge advantage toward managing it. Many remain in an anger cycle. A situation may occur where someone's personal worth has been insulted. Perhaps an important need or value has been disregarded. Such circumstances trigger angry emotions. At this point, some attempt controlling the situation. For example, pointing out errors another has made, or moving to a different part of the house to avoid others. This isn't necessarily wrong, but it doesn't guarantee a healthy release of anger. There's a possibility of increased friction in personal relationships. This returns an individual to the beginning of the cycle.

  1. Anger.It can be painful and destructive. Once understood, decisions about right and wrong can be properly managed it. No two people handle problems the same way. Temperaments and circumstances may vary, but there are five basic choices one can make when circumstances trigger an angry response. Choose to respond by:
  2. Suppressing Anger.
  3. Open Aggression.
  4. Passive Aggression.
  5. Assertive Anger.

Forgetting the anger.Obviously, the first three are unhealthily and only tend to perpetuate the anger cycle. Choices four and five interrupt the anger cycle and lead to effective, healthy anger management.
People who habitually suppress anger have usually learned anger and some emotions aren't normal. They frequently have histories of feelings and ideas, Perceptions may have been invalidated. They fear retaliation if they express disagreement. Their suppression of anger represents feelings of personal defeat. Suppressing anger doesn't eliminate it. It only buries problems where they can fester into bitterness. Suppression is unhealthy and creates dishonest relationships. Suppression of anger is a choice, but not a desirable one.

Anger Is Necessary For Survival

Psychologists view anger as a primary, and natural emotion commonly experienced by most. They point out anger is necessary for survival. It's also seen as a mechanism warning us when something is wrong. It can jump start corrective actions.

However, uncontrolled anger can negatively affect personal relationships and social well being. While researchers have warned against spontaneous, uncontrolled anger, there has been disagreement over its intrinsic value by pointing out possible problems with suppression.

Psychologists view anger as a primary, and natural emotion experienced by most. They say anger is necessary for survival. It's serves as a warning mechanism, signaling when something is wrong. It can jump start corrective actions.


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