Anger is an emotional state. It can be triggered by both internal and external cues. As an emotion, anger is a natural response and serves many purposes. It is based in human biology (as are other emotions) and serves us through the survival drive in its most fundamental form. Anger is a strong protective force. It creates physiological responses that signal us and prepare us to take action if needed by the drive to survive.
Apart from its basic and instinctual purpose, however, anger is also useful in protecting one’s self psychologically and emotionally. Feelings of anger can signal, for example, that one feels taken advantage of, dismissed or violated in some way. It helps us to set boundaries when such conditions have arisen.
Whatever the trigger, the presence of anger implies the perception of threat. A threat may be one that actually endangers physical well-being, giving us the energy to protect ourselves and others. Or, the perception of a threat that is potentially damaging to our emotional and psychological integrity can also ‘ramp us up’ to protect as well.
Anger is typically driven by perception and interpretation of events and situations. Do I perceive danger? Do I perceive threat? These are the unspoken, often consciously unthought-of questions that our anger will answer. Additionally, anger is a subjective, very personal response. What angers one may not even be noteworthy to another. In many important ways, personal history and how we have learned to cope with others and the world will determine whether or not anger is experienced. Similarly, personal history and coping patterns will determine how angry one will be.
Anger becomes problematic when behaviors follow that are harmful to yourself or others. Anger is also problematic when behaviors create the risk of harm to self or others. For many individuals who do not behave in anger to the point of aggression or physical self-harm, anger can be sabotaging enough to create significant problems. For example, anger is problematic if one’s goals and/or emotional and psychological wellbeing are compromised by anger. Similarly, the individual who is chronically angry may sabotage his own goals and/or emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Certainly, anger is problematic when aggression and violence are used to express anger. Harm to others through physical expressions, or threats of such, can have serious social and legal consequences. Ultimately, the feeling of anger and the use of angry behavior can control one’s life. Consequently, negative consequences occur and accumulate. While anger itself is a normal, very human emotion, aggressive behaviors are typically not, when one losses control of their anger and it becomes harmful to themselves or others – this is the behavior that needs controlled. Aggressions, and threats of aggression, are emergency responses, therefore patterns of angry behavior that are ‘out of proportion’ for the seriousness of the triggering event needs intervention.
Managing anger can be learned by attending an Anger Management Program, please visit www.ami-tx.com for additional information.
Anger Management Classes and Anger Management – Executive Coaching available in Houston, Texas.
Gregory A. Kyles, LPC, CEAP, CAMF
Anger Management Institute of Texas