Psychology of Anger
IntroductionAnger is a natural and mostly automatic response to pain of one form or another (physical or emotional). Anger can occur when people don't feel well, feel rejected, feel threatened, or experience some loss.
The type of pain does not matter; the important thing is that the pain experienced is unpleasant. Because anger never occurs in isolation but rather is necessarily preceded by pain feelings, it is often characterized as a ''secondhand'' emotion.
Anger, Thoughts, & Social Behavior
- Pain alone is not enough to cause anger. Anger occurs when pain is combined with some anger-triggering thought.
- Thoughts that can trigger anger include personal assessments, assumptions, evaluations, or interpretations of situations that makes people think that someone else is attempting (consciously or not) to hurt them.
In this sense, anger is a social emotion; You always have a target that your anger is directed against (even if that target is yourself). Feelings of pain, combined with anger-triggering thoughts motivate you to take action, face threats and defend yourself by striking out against the target you think is causing you pain.
Anger: A Substitute Emotion
The definition of whether someone's anger is a problem often turns on whether or not other people agree with them that their anger, and the actions they take in the name of their anger, is justified.
Angry people most always feel that their anger is justified. However, other people don't always agree. The social judgment of anger creates real consequences for the angry person. An angry person may feel justified in committing an angry, aggressive action, but if a judge or jury of peers do not see it that way, that angry person may still go to jail. If a boss doesn't agree that anger expressed towards a customer is justified, a job may still be lost. If a spouse doesn't agree that anger was justified, a marriage may have problems.
Benefits and Costs of Anger: Social, Emotional, and Health
Whether justified or unjustified, the seductive feeling of righteousness associated with anger offers a powerful temporary boost to self-esteem.
- It is more satisfying to feel angry than to acknowledge the painful feelings associated with vulnerability.
- You can use anger to convert feelings of vulnerability and helplessness into feelings of control and power.
- Some people develop an unconscious habit of transforming almost all of their vulnerable feelings into anger so they can avoid having to deal with them.
The problem becomes that even when anger distracts you from the fact that you feel vulnerable, you still at some levelfeel vulnerable.