Defining What Anger Is and What Anger
Anger (The Emotion)
Anger is a normal and natural EMOTION
that arises from how we interpret and label thel physical
arousal from the "fight or flight" stress response
we all experience. This stress response is triggered when
we are startled, when we feel fearful or threatened, when
we believe that our expectations are not being met or that
things around us are "out of control," or when
we feel insecurity, uncertainty, inadequacy, or self-doubt.
Anger generally serves as a "protection" against
some sort of emotional or physical pain.
...whenever it is handled effectively and respectfully
A source of discovery
...since it tells you that "something is going on"
that needs to be attended to
A tool to help you clarify and define
who you really are
...and how you are different from others
A means to educate others about
the differences between you and them
...e.g. about your likes, dislikes, wants, and needs
A "warning signal:"
...that a "core hurt" from the past has been
activated by a person or situation in the present
...that your wants, needs, rights, or core values are not
...that you've compromised yourself in some important way
...that an injustice has been done to you or those you
An important part of being assertive
and taking care of yourself
...i.e. setting personal limits and maintaining healthy
boundaries for yourself and by enabling you to cope with
difficult people and situations
A useful release of energy
... since it takes enormous effort to suppress your anger
and the other feelings it often covers; trying to completely
deny your anger only creates stress, tension, and anxiety
A catalyst and a way to tap into your
...that can produce the energy necessary to help motivate
you to solve your problems, address important issues, and
accomplish what you need to do at times
A form of protection
...since anger often surfaces in a destructive fashion
for you and those close to you if it is not addressed directly
A gift to others
...since sharing your anger and the other feelings it hides
involves taking a risk and allows you to become vulnerable,
which can open the door to new information about you and
others and to trust and intimacy in your relationships
If you do not address and handle your anger in an effective
and respectful way, however, and you allow your anger to
build and fester within you, it can lead directly to the
attitudes and behaviors discussed below which are distortions
of anger the emotion.
These are ATTITUDES that consist of mistrusting the
motives of other people and brooding about and focusing
on others' real or perceived injustices toward you.
These negative attitudes lead to viewing the world
as an unsafe place and continually looking for
and expecting others to:
...be incompetent and inadequate
...be inconsiderate, unfair, and untrustworthy
...go out of their way to hurt or mistreat you, take advantage
of you, or "cross" you in some fashion
These attitudes can also involve critical, judgmental,
and shaming thoughts about yourself, your mistakes, and
...i.e. being cynical, disgusted, and demeaning with yourself
These attitudes promote the idea that you are powerless
and a "victim" and that the situation
is hopeless which is never helpful in addressing and resolving
concerns in your life.
These attitudes are best represented by your negative
thought process (i.e. negative self-talk or rehearsal).
When you regularly engage in negative thinking, you are
constantly fueling your stress response and increasing
the intensity of and prolonging your anger.
Chronic cynicism, hostility, disgust, and contempt always
lead to physical and emotional damage and significant
consequences for you and others.
If these attitudes become your way of looking at another
person, other people in general, or the world around you,
they then contribute directly to the violation of
another person's rights or boundaries through the
behaviors discussed below.
Aggression / Withdrawal (The Behaviors):
Aggression involves BEHAVIORS acted
out with the intent to hurt, punish, intimidate, or control
others emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually
as a means to:
...gain revenge for the real or imagined "wrongs"
done to you and/or
...get your way in a particular situation.
Withdrawal involves BEHAVIORS designed
to disengage emotionally from difficult situations.
This can be:
...a punishing withdrawal that is used to hurt and
get back at someone (e.g. sulking and pouting) OR
...a protective withdrawal when you pull back into
yourself if you are feeling uncertain and unsafe (e.g.
becoming passive and "stuffing" your anger).
...A withdrawal may also combine elements of both of these.
These behaviors, used on a consistent basis, will
always eventually result in disrespect and emotional distance
in relationships with others.
© 1987 David J. Decker, MA, LP
Phone: 612-725-8402 or 651-646-4325 - www.ANGEResources.com