Anger: Psychology and Society
We often talk about what satisfies us – but what about the things that anger us? Everyone has certain mental pressure points that, when pressed, make us want to explode. How do we deal with anger?
What Makes Us Angry?
Anger sometimes just happens immediately, and we don’t stop to consider why. Anger, unlike many other emotions, is always triggered by pain of some sort. This might be physical or psychological. Anger is also social in nature; that is to say it always has a target of some sort, be it someone else or ourselves. At it’s core, anger exists as a defense mechanism to protect ourselves from perceived threats. If we’re attacked from behind our body immediately shifts into “anger” mode to protect ourselves and to give us a boost in energy. What makes us angry on an individual level depends on a lot of factors. Some of us have better mental walls than others and rarely get angry. A few of us might go into rage-induced blackouts at the drop of a pin. Different “triggers” exist for different people.
I remember that the week my grandfather passed away, my mother was on a complete rampage. My brother and I got screamed at to know end about the house looking dirty, the trash not being out, and the yard not being cut – this was not normal behavior for my mom. She’s normally calm and compassionate. That week, however, she was nearly unbearable to be around. Obviously we were all going through a lot of grief; but her in particular as she had lost her father. I remember my brother, a few years younger than me, getting ready to yell back at one point. I had to quickly pull him aside an explain that what our mom was going through was grief – she was angry because she was hurting – and that we had to act like men by being there for her and letting her handle the loss however she needed to.
Anger in a way protects us from the pain we would otherwise feel. It creates a mental guard because often it feels better to be angry than it does to be in pain. Anger helps us avoid having to confront the reality of a situation – in my mom’s case the outward grief didn’t come until about a week and a half after my grandfather had passed.
When is Anger Unhealthy?
I think most of us would agree that my mom wasn’t going overboard in being angry. She had just lost her father and was trying to cope in whatever way she could. The line between “righteous” and “unrighteous” anger is a gray one – defined by the people around you, and especially by the way you react. Your boss might empathize with you if you’re treated disrespectfully by a customer for no good reason – but he might not if you react back with the customer and turn it into an incident. Some of your friends might agree that your other friend was rude to you – until you turned and punched him. Anger has a line that changes depending on the circumstances and we absolutely need to be aware of them.
For the most part, expressing your anger privately is usually the best solution. When I worked in the retail world I tried my best to carry a stoic persona – cool, calm, and collected. I had angry customers on Black Friday screaming in my face and it took every ounce of willpower to not to react back. I would, after they left, usually talk to a co-worker or a manager about it just to get it out of my system. In the world of employment, the rule of thumb is to never be rude back with a customer – that’s grounds for quickly losing your job.
Long-Term Anger Issues & Problems
There are people out there that get pissed off very easily and very quickly. They often escalate arguments by raising their voices and, in some cases, getting physical. A tendency for anger may have some genetic background but it’s mostly a learned behavior. Chronic anger usually comes from households where children see parents use aggressive tactics to get what they want. The cycle continues and they believe they will be rewarded by acting angry. Do angry customers usually get their way? Admittedly, from my experience, yes. But we’re talking about people who are screaming over getting a television upgrade or a discounted price. For the most-part, successful people are more socially conscientious than that. They act compassionate and reasonable; they’re the ones getting screamed at by the angry customer after all.
Keeping it in Check
It’s one thing to get upset about something and to need time to cool off – it’s another to flip out and start screaming at the top of your lungs. My perspective is that we need to remember not only when anger can be beneficial and when it can be harmful, but what degree of anger is warranted. This creates a necessity for a great deal of self-control, but in a world that hinges on our ability to make connections and network, it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re flipping out because of minor annoyances, maybe it’s time to look into ways to get that anger out constructively. Sure, there are times when somebody needs to know that you are upset. We also need to defend ourselves when we are threatened. For the most part, though, overt hostile aggression, when in the wrong context, does nothing short of making you look like a child throwing a temper tantrum. Consider ways you can calm yourself and be willing to walk away from the situation before you react. It’s often better than the alternative.