By Simon Mott
The topic at a glance
Anger is a natural emotion related to one’s perception of having been treated unfairly, attacked, offended, hurt or denied. Feelings are neither right nor wrong only the behaviour can be. Healthy or unhealthy anger depends on levels and degrees. Also its intensity and frequency – Where and how?
What triggers your anger?
Anger is often a defence that masks the true underlying emotion. We often use anger to cover painful emotions that may leave us feeling vulnerable. One of the keys to working with anger is to find the underlying cause(s) – ‘I am angry, but really I am hurt.’
For Freud, all defence mechanisms, including anger, exist to protect the personality from an attack of anxiety. Anger helps us manage our fears.
Anger and frustration are linked to stress and depression, leading in turn to isolation and low self-esteem. Often fuelling addictions as one seeks to numb or escape the pain by self-medicating.
Different types of anger
Resentment or old anger is often accumulated over a lifetime; however, it can resurface and leads to feelings of self-pity, fear and beliefs of injustice. Process this in Step 4.
Instrumental anger or aggression serves as a means to achieve a goal.
Self-righteous anger: Believing I am right and others are wrong leads to feeling superiority, being entitled and grandiose – these are character defects.
Why do we react the way we do?
Anger is part of the fight or flight (or freeze, fidget, faint) biological brain (limbic system) response to the perceived threat of harm. We act out anger to relieve the adrenaline it creates and protect ourselves.
Anger as a drug: acting out angrily can become habitual as it provides physical and psychological relief. The Rage-a-holic.
Suppressing anger cause toxicosis in the brain and leads to anxiety and depression. Neurochemicals (noradrenaline) are stored up and if not cleared by a healthy process can lead to depression and toxic feelings.
You will not be punished for your temper; you will be punished by it.
Mature defence mechanisms are often the most constructive and helpful to most adults but may require practice and effort to put into daily use. People with more mature defences tend to be more at peace with themselves and those around them.
Frustration mostly related to impatience is a negative emotion that is healthy in many respects. It provides energy to motivate you towards a solution to the problem.
Irritation helps to define boundaries. These include the boundaries of assertiveness.
Annoyance prompts you to speak out about displeasure.
Assertiveness is the emphasis of a person’s needs or thoughts in a manner that is respectful, direct and firm. Communication styles may be considered to be in a range from passive to aggressive, with assertiveness in between these two extremes. People who are assertive strike a balance when they speak up for themselves, express their opinions or needs in a respectful yet firm manner, and listen when they are being spoken to.
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