“Men in rage strike those that wish them the best”
(William Shakespeare, Othello, Act 2. Scene 3).
Anger is a tricky thing to deal with because often a person can feel justified in their feelings of anger, that they are protecting themselves or others around them from inappropriate or unreasonable behavior by another person. It is difficult when you are angry; due to others not having compassion or kindness and then be told that by you losing your temper, it is you who have the problem. Form the origin of anger in human’s – anger was used as a way of protecting loved ones in danger, we now have to recognize that we humans have evolved and with that have become more complex in our emotional and physical needs, because of this the emotion of anger can become a ‘protection of our ego’ as we feel criticized or wronged, this can happen when we receive a perceived insult or feel ignored or are disagreed with.
“I feel angry when people say and do stupid things…which is most of the time! I hate when idiot drivers cut in front of me and I feel like ramming into them as hard as I can but I can’t because I would have to pay to get my car fixed so I just shout and scream. My wife can’t stand when I do this, she starts crying, she’s so over sensitive and that just provokes me more and I ‘explain’ to her that these idiots can’t just do whatever they want, but she just doesn’t get it and that makes me worse and we end up arguing. By the time we get home there is more often than not a stupid argument but I am right, these idiots just can’t do what they want, I have already had stupid colleagues at work giving me their idiotic opinions, I’ve had enough!”
While situations like this are annoying there is no doubt that we cannot control all situations in life, nor can we control HOW they make us feel. We can learn to control our REACTIONS to those all too often unforeseen situations AND the reactions that we experience from those angry feelings.
The trouble with anger is that it is likely to frighten the observer and when we are frightened the likely reactions are to run away, freeze or to fight back. Matthew Mc Kay. PhD states,
“Anger has enormous costs. The impulse that felt so right at the moment, so justified, becomes in the quiet hours another source of guilt and regret. What seemed so worthy of blame passes. What remains are the scars, the hurt and the alienation”.
Anger is a normal emotion, it is natural like happiness, sadness or excitement. There are however, negative consequences to angry reactions, that is – when your anger starts to affect your life and the people around you begin to draw away from you and even avoid being near to you.
Anger becomes a problem when it gets out of control and happens more and more often, when it is explosive and unpredictable. The result is that it becomes negatively impactful on your physical health, as well as relationships with those in all areas of life (work, home, social) and ironically often with the people that you love the most; these will be the very ones that tempers can be lost with the most.
Certainly, anger is an important part of all of us and it is useful and necessary to communicate what we are feeling, in this sense it is positive to be assertive, but this is different to communicating in anger. Further complicating the issue; in order to regulate feelings of anger we need to take conscious control of a feeling that is actually unconsciously motivated; for example, angry reactions have usually become habitual and are processed in our brains which is many times faster than the actual awareness of the angry reaction.
People are often the cause and reason that anger is felt, and yet as we all know, the felt anger is often directed at objects. “He provoked me so much that I kicked a hole in the door”. Here the anger is so reactive that there is no time to think of the consequences and no thought process of picking on the innocent, object. Anger intensifies the original source of upset, it magnifies and makes large, justifies the intensity and for that reason alone, it makes it difficult to drop or take time out of the source. Sources of anger come from a few different places which are interestingly familiar to all humans. Some of these include; when we are not treated in the way that we expected to be treated or a person behaves in a way that is unexpected; when we feel threatened (especially in regards to our own self-esteem); or when something or someone prevents us from doing what we want to do, or get what we want to get. We become angry usually because we feel hurt by another’s words or actions. Frustration can also lead to anger along with injustice and often this is a blaming of others for our own hurt, frustration or sense of injustice. When understanding this aspect of anger, it is no wonder that urges to retaliate, seek revenge or to feel hatred are somewhat inevitable, however these urges are often destructive and do not help any situation. The challenge is then to talk about the anger, admit it, recognize it, and with the help of a psychotherapist:
Learn new, more healthy ways of responding to angry feelings.
Find the source of the problems and identify the times that anger has felt intense.
Learn if you are seeking anger or is anger seeking you, if it is recognize it and learn to walk away.
Learn to admit that all angry expressions, good and bad, are the result of choices that we have made.
Relate to others as equals, by not placing yourself above another person and by not placing yourself in a position of inferiority.
Try not to rationalize your anger, learn to take responsibility for who you are and what you do.
Learn to accept and forgive.
“The best fighter is never angry” – Lau Tzu.
Sutton, J. (1998) Thriving on Stress: How To Manage Pressures and Transform Your Life. pp. 107-116.
Manstead A.S.R. and Hewstone M, et al. (1996) The Blackwell encyclopedia of Social Psychology.
Blackwell Publishers, Oxford.
Mc Kay, Matthew. PhD, Rogers, Peter. D. (2003). When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within.
New Harbinger Publications.
Carter, Les. PhD, Minirth, Frank. MD. (1993). The Anger Workbook An Interactive Guide To Anger Management.