Understanding Anger

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Anger is an adaptive reaction to real or perceived threat, and a defense mechanism against the victimizing behavior of other people. It is a defensive behavior shown to eliminate a perceived threat or to put an end to the abusive behavior of another person towards one. Anger can also be caused by undesirable conditions or recollection of an unpleasant experience. Frustrations, annoyance, disappointment, and irritation are all preliminary/early stages of anger; as these emotions intensify, anger becomes more and more perceptible. 

For example, if you are in a hurry to get to work, and you are being stuck in a traffic jam, you have a tendency to get frustrated. And if that traffic jam persists, you are likely to get angry. If you make a bad decision, experience loss in business, or fail an examination, you get disappointed. And if such disappointment is of considerable degree, it translates into anger. Anger may also be caused by a recollection of a painful past such as sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, domestic violence, peer taunting, oppression and victimization, and so on. 

Anger is a spectrum, with slight annoyance or irritation at one end of the spectrum, and full-blown rage or fury at the other end. Some people are more prone to anger than others as a result of several factors, some of which include genetic predisposition, life circumstances, and bitter life experiences. With respect to genetic predisposition, some people have a relatively low tolerance to unusual, unfamiliar, or unpleasant experiences. What Ben may be able to tolerate easily may be quite a big deal for Bruce.  

Now, anger may be directed towards different people for different reasons. For example, you can be mad at other people, angry with yourself, or angry with God (or nature or whatever it is you believe in).

Anger towards oneself

Anger towards oneself stems from feeling disappointed in oneself. You had a particular expectation, but you failed to meet that expectation. You probably think you made a stupid decision, should have been more careful, shouldn’t be making the same mistakes, and so on. Perfectionists are more likely to be mad at themselves, simply because they have high expectations they believe should always be met. And the failure to meet these ideals is interpreted as an exhibition of moral weakness, or a show of despicable indolence. As such, the perfectionist thinks it is okay to be self-critical, and by extension, to be angry with oneself. This tends to lower the quality of his/her life. Although, being self-critical is not such a bad thing, the effect should be mild, and should therefore inspire “Learning from experience”. 

Anger towards other people

You have a tendency to be angry with other people if they happen to be a source of stress, pain, discomfort, and inconvenience in your life. This anger may start as a slight annoyance initially, but will continue to escalate as stress continues to build-up. For people who have low tolerance for insolence (i.e. people who are likely to show anger when their sense of security and respect is violated), their quickness to anger is evident. People who diminish you, victimize you, or treat you with contempt will get you angry because their actions are bound to induce psychological and emotional pains. And like every other hostile emotion, the underlying reason for anger is pain. Any experience in life capable of bringing about pain and distress is likely to get you angry. 

Anger towards God/Nature/Life

People can also be angry with God. Anger towards God is often shown when frustrated people think that they have struggled in vain. People who think that they have been fated by birth to suffer the disadvantages of life (Poverty, oppression, mutation, violence, psychological and physiological deficiency, and abuse) may develop anger towards life in general. Feeling powerless, inadequate, and insecure, these people are more likely to grow up being grumpy and irritable. They are also more likely to direct their anger towards other people

Anger towards the world

The majority of people who are angry with the world are people who have suffered some sort of oppression, discrimination, or abuse in their lives. These people may have had some bitter experiences that tend to trigger emotional pains and depression when recollected, especially if such experiences are re-experienced (perhaps through victimization or abuse). The trigger may propel such people into defensive and antagonistic behaviors, violence and aggression. Angry with their transgressors in the far past, they may develop a system of generalizing; they may think that most, or all, people are as cruel and repugnant as their transgressors. Feeling unloved and insecure, these people will be hostile to other people, and will justify their actions with the belief that other people are actually cruel or potentially cruel, and therefore do not deserve their kindness. 

As stated much earlier in this article, anger may be caused by genetics. Studies have shown that some children are born with the tendency to be more irritable, tetchy, and easily angered than other children. These signs are also quite visible at a very early age. We may therefore conclude that genetic predisposition, life circumstances, and bitter life experiences all contribute to getting angry.