Anger is an intense emotional response that involves a strong uncomfortable and hostile response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat. Anger can occur when a person feels their personal boundaries are being or are going to be violated.
There is a sharp distinction between anger and aggression (verbal or physical, direct or indirect) even though they mutually influence each other. While anger can activate aggression or increase its probability or intensity, it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for aggression.
There is a part of the brain responsible for identifying threats to our well-being. Part of this responsibility is sending out alarms when a threat is identified and the body responds in many ways depending on how we have wired ourselves.
For those who are impulsive, in an effort to protect themselves, their reactions override the part of the brain responsible for thought and judgment. In other words, although the brain is wired in such a way as to influence us to act before we can properly consider the consequences of our actions, we also have the option and control of processing our reactions.
Anger instigates physiological responses such as increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline which are stress hormones that our body secrete as a fight or flight response. Also, expression of anger can be found in facial expressions eg clenching of the jaw, body language like clenching of the fist, and at times subtle acts like the eyes becoming red or even a wry sardonic laugh.
Modern psychologists view anger as a primary, natural, and mature emotion experienced by virtually all humans at times, and as something that has functional value for survival. Uncontrolled anger can, however, negatively affect personal or social well-being and impact negatively on those around them. It is equally challenging to be around an angry person and the impact can also cause psychological/emotional trauma if not dealt with.
Characteristics of Anger
- Dispassion, such as giving someone the cold shoulder; Evasiveness, such as turning one’s back in a crisis, avoiding conflict; Defeatism, such as setting yourself and others up for failure; Obsessive behavior, such as needing to be inordinately clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking things; Psychological manipulation, such as provoking people to aggression and then patronizing them, provoking aggression but staying on the sidelines, emotional blackmail, false tearfulness, feigning illness; Secretive behavior, such as stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people’s backs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact; Self-blame, such as apologizing too often, being overly critical, inviting criticism.
- Bullying, such as threatening people directly; Destructiveness, such as destroying objects as in vandalism, harming animals, child abuse, destroying a relationship, reckless driving, substance abuse; Grandiosity, such as showing off; Hurtfulness, such as violence, including sexual abuse and rape, verbal abuse; Manic behavior, such as speaking too fast, walking too fast, driving too fast, reckless spending; Selfishness, such as ignoring others’ needs, not responding to requests for help, queue jumping; Threats, such as frightening people by saying how one could harm them; Unjust blaming, such as accusing other people for one’s own mistakes; Unpredictability, such as explosive rages over minor frustrations, attacking indiscriminately; Vengeance, such as being over-punitive. This differs from retributive justice.
- Blame, Punishment, and Sternness, such as making them feel bad repeatedly and depriving them of some things you see as comforts and calling out a person on their behavior, with voice raised with utter disapproval/disappointment.
- Identify what initially triggered the anger
- Reflect on how you related to the triggering situation e.g., what did you say to yourself about it.
- Identify all of the specific emotional and behavioral responses that followed.
Enhanced Personal Awareness
In order to stay less angry, you must have a clear sense of your anger and other people’s anger
Where and when does the anger occur? Why does anger occur (what events or situations lead to the anger)? What kinds of memories or images trigger the anger? How do you feel when you become angry (emotionally and physically)? What are you thinking when you are angry? How do you handle the situation that made you angry? Do you always behave the same way? If not, why not? What do others do when you become angry?
Anger Disruption by Avoidance and Removal
These techniques lead to interruption of anger by removing you, mentally or physically, from the situation.
Create simple strategies that can disrupt anger and give yourself time and distance to calm down, then approach the situation differently, at a later time. This enhances your self-awareness. Drinking water has a good therapeutic effect and in the Islamic religion, performing ablution is recommended as a remedy.
Relaxation Coping Skills
Anger is often marked by increased emotional and physical excitement. Relaxation coping skills target this excitement and can help you calm down when angered.
Relaxation skills include slow deep breathing, slowly repeating a calming word or phrase, picturing a personal relaxation image, or focusing on muscle tension and consciously letting it go.
Attitude and Cognitive Change
When angry, people often make bad situations worse by the way they think about them. For example, angry individuals tend to demand that things should be, ought to be, or have to be, their way—rather than just wanting or preferring them to be a certain way. Often, they call other people insulting, sometimes obscene, names. The problem situation is often seen as awful or catastrophic, rather than simply difficult, frustrating, or truly disappointing. By thinking about bad situations in this way, natural
Things should not, ought not, or have to be your way. You shouldn’t call other people insulting, sometimes obscene, names. Don’t see a problematic situation as awful or catastrophic, rather, see it as a salvageable task. By thinking about bad situations in this way, natural frustrations, hurts, and disappointments that seem much larger and lead to increased in anger can be dealth with objectively.
Acceptance and Forgiveness
Many things that others do simply can not be helped. For example, children spill drinks; Spouses sometimes forget about issues that are important to their partners.
Thinking that others have intentionally set out to cause problems is almost always wrong. Thinking that they could have acted differently, if they really wanted to, ignores other causes of behavior. Thinking that the bad behavior of others is always intentional just increases anger and does little to solve problems. Understanding that some behaviors are caused by biology or genetics, or normal development, or economic stressors, is more realistic.
Some people experience anger because they do not have the necessary skills to negotiate common interpersonal hassles and conflicts.
Fighting with a spouse, for example, may occur when one partner has a poor negotiating skill and because such persons may also not know how to communicate well about family budgets and many other things, they resort to unconventional methods that may be provocative or aggressive over time. The Anger here has escalated because of insufficient skill at resolving the situation.