Anger is a basic human emotion that is unavoidable. Life may confront us with different stimuli that can be anger-provoking by nature. Anger is an emotional state that varies with intensity. Irritation can be seen as a mild from of anger whereas rage is an intense form (Spielberger et al., 1983). Anger at excessive levels can be perceived as dysfunctional. Anger is labeled as dysfunctional when the individual experiences the anger frequently, intensely and for extensive periods. Intense angry feelings can interfere with judgment and reality testing. Problems with anger can include feelings of guilt and shame about the anger felt, the fear that one’s anger will become overwhelming and control will be lost and the fear of consequences from the environment, if indeed the anger will be expressed (Yrend, 2004).
Anger is an accusatory emotion that originates from attribution of blame. The attribution of blame may be justified, biased or imagined. Anger is associated with negative evaluations such as injustice, error of judgment of behavior and intentionality. Anger can be the product of different cognitive processes, for instance of memory recall, comparison of a present and desirable state and evaluation of behavior. Anger has a function and an aim. Anger communicates to others that certain actions are perceived as threatening or unacceptable. Anger also functions as an internal signal that alerts the individual to possible danger or threat to things that he or she hold as dear such as beliefs, possessions or behavioral expectations. Anger thus rises when an event is perceived as personally significant and it can help coerce, keep order, dominate and preserve rules. Anger can be manifested in many different ways. Anger can be directed towards the aggressor, the environment and expressed indirectly toward others and/or the self (Lazarus, 1999).
At some level, anger grows and stays, because it facilitates something else. If being angry helps one not to confront painful truths than one will prefer to stay angry. Anger must have a certain benefit for it to continue. Anger is a destructive emotion. It eats up energy; the person becomes less constructive and socially isolated. Anger stops development and growth, because it focuses all cognitions and behavior on the destructive force that grows within. It becomes dysfunctional when the level of aggressive thoughts or actions cross the thin line and become revengeful and hateful. The resentment backfires and actually increases the distance between people.
Anger that is directed outwards can be expressed in physical acts such as breaking objects and injuring others. Aggressive behavior stands against all social norms of acceptable behavior. Aggression is a willed and intended behavior that pursues assertion of power, dominance, social status, self-worth or even proving masculinity. There are naturally also people, who are aggressive simply for the sake of hurting others and fulfilling own private and distorted needs. Anger can also be expressed verbally, for example by threats, yelling, name calling, criticism, sarcasm and screams (Spielberger et al., 1995). Another form of anger expression is silence. Avoidance of interaction with the partner communicates anger. Festering anger, pouting, resentment due to conflicts add a toxic component to relationships. Avoidance reduces the opportunity to communicate one’s needs and thereby reducing chances of change. The individual dwells in the anger and other negative emotions. The tension, anger and other unexpressed emotions will continue to underlay in every daily interaction. Emotional withdrawal from a relationship can also be seen as a form of emotional abuse.
Expression of anger that was proven in past experiences as effective will be repeated. Individuals, who have learned that the expression of verbal aggression and physical violence were effective, will generalize this coping pattern in different aspects of their lives. Expression of anger is also culturally determined. Society expects inhibition and repression of anger. It teaches its members how to ventilate anger in a more acceptable manner. Sports, competitions and passive aggressive techniques such as being late or slacking off are examples of a more accepted expression of anger than aggressive acts. One needs to learn to find a balance between expression of anger and its inhibition and control. Extreme forms of both ends of the dimension are threatening one’s psychological well-being.
Lazarus, R. S. (1999). Stress and emotions: a new synthesis.New York: Springer publishing company.
Spielberger, C. D., Jacobs, G., Russell, S., & Crane, R. (1983). Assessment of anger: the state-trait anger scale. In J. N. Butcher, & C. D. Spielberger (Eds.), Advances in personality assessment (Vol. 2., pp. 159-187). Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum.
Spielberger, C. D., Ritterband, L. M., Sydeman, S. J., Reheiser, E. C., & Unger, K. K. (1995). Assessment of emotional states and personality traits: measuring psychological vital signs. In Bitcher, J. N. (1995). Clinical personality assessment: practical approaches. New York:Oxford university press.
Yrend, J. (2004). Cognition, emotion and psychopathology. CambridgeUniversity Press:Cambridge.