WThe face becomes flushed, and the brow muscles move inward and downward, fixing a hard stare on the target. The nostrils flare, and the jaws clench. The external expression of anger or wrath can be found in facial expressions, body language, physiological responses, and at times, in public acts of aggression.
Anger is like a boomerang!
Anger, like a boomerang, comes back to us. The people we are angry with may or may not be hurt by our anger, but it definitely saps us of our own energy. It is an intense emotional response and involves a strong, uncomfortable and emotional response to a perceived provocation, hurt or threat.
Some are conditioned to react through retaliation as a way of coping. In most cases, the described provocations occur immediately before the anger experience. It is also used as a protective mechanism to cover up fear, hurt or sadness.
Anger can be hasty and sudden, settled and deliberate, or dispositional. It can also be passive and aggressive through dispassion, evasiveness, defeatism, obsessive behaviour, psychological manipulation etc.
Anger management writer, William DeFoore described anger ‘as a pressure cooker’: “We can only apply pressure against our anger for a certain amount of time until it explodes.” It slows down the healing process. High secretion of stress hormone cortisol could be partly responsible. Studies have also linked ill-tempered behaviour, whether brow-beating or road rage, with higher incidence of coronary heart disease, hypertension and stroke, especially among men.
Animals make loud sounds, attempt to look physically larger, bare their teeth, and stare, and this is designed to warn aggressors to stop their threatening behaviour. Rarely does a physical altercation occur without the prior expression of anger by at least one of the participants.
Uncontrolled anger can, however, negatively affect personal or social well-being, and impact those around them. It causes a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objectiveness. Angry people are more likely to make risky decisions, are less trusting, and slower to attribute good qualities to outsiders. Suppression of anger may have harmful effects and find another outlet, such as a physical symptom, or become more extreme. Anger ironically also makes people think more optimistically. Dangers seem smaller, actions seem less risky, ventures seem more likely to succeed, and unfortunate events seem less likely.
Ancient Greek philosophers, Galen and Seneca regarded anger as a kind of madness, but agreed on both the possibility and value of controlling anger. Aristotle, on the other hand, ascribed some value to anger that has arisen from perceived injustice, because it is useful for preventing injustice.
In Judaism, anger is a negative trait. Medieval Christianity denounced wrath as one of the seven cardinal sins, but some Christian writers regarded the anger caused by injustice ‘as having some value’. In Protestantism, anger can serve as ‘a spiritual friend and a spiritual guide.’ In Hinduism, anger is equated with sorrow, as a form of unrequited desire. In Buddhism it is ‘being unable to bear the object, or the intention to cause harm to the object.’ Anger in Islam is considered to be instigated by Satan. To spiritual teacher Meher Baba, ‘anger is the fume of an irritated mind, caused by the thwarting of desires.’
Minor triggers, tragic outbursts
Anger, therefore, is dangerous. Long queues at ATMs without money leads to short temper fuse. A 50-year-old police constable was beaten up by subordinates offended by his refusal to throw them a party at 1 a.m. Mobs beat a director of a Nalanda school to death after bodies of two school children were discovered in a nearby canal.
Grappling intolerance and rage, adolescents are targeting their parents with sudden violent outbursts. Call it momentary madness, but the fact is most kids cannot deal with the emotion of anger. A global trend, one in 12 adolescents in the U.S could be suffering from IED or Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
A 15-year-old girl planned to stalk a boy on the social media site Facebook, after he broke up with her. When her parents tried to talk her out of it, she broke their flat screen television set and hurled a paperweight and pen stand at her mother. A 14-year-old boy killed his mother because she was often upset with him for not doing well in his studies. A 15-year-old boy from Palghar killed his father as he refused to buy him a mobile.
Teens who constantly suppress feelings of anger or lose their temper, are more likely to be overweight by eating to be calm. Unable to express their anger in a healthy way may make them isolate themselves from peers by being withdrawn, and engaging in less physical activity.
With work-life stress on the rise, parents are increasingly venting their rage on their kids. However, they would do well never to hit their child, or publicly humiliate their child, and ask themselves, if their reaction is in proportion to the event?
Conversation is restricted to khaana khaaya, homework kiya, abhi so jao (had your meal?, have you done your homework?, now sleep…)…if parents spend their time after work watching TV, what does this do to their emotional connect between their children and them?
And there is road rage too. In Delhi, a 42-year-old bus driver was bludgeoned to death after his bus brushed against a young man’s bike; a 38-year-old man who brushed his bike against a car was assaulted and killed before the eyes of his two sons aged 11 and 13; an enraged motorcyclist followed his victim home and attacked him, his wife, and brother after the four-wheeler driver didn’t let him overtake.
Celebrity tiffs are a common thing in Bollywood with female fights over hair stylists and jealous male dress designers having a slugfest. In Hollywood, Rihanna called a journalist a ‘menopausal mess’ because her bad girl persona was criticised. Jennifer Lopez once threatened to physically harm a presenter if he made her look bad with gags. Naomi Campbell, to reign in her explosive temper, practices Kabbalah, a spiritual movement rooted in Jewish mysticism.
In the sports world, Virat Kohli is a man in touch with the zeitgeist, and that’s how most players come from the factory of new India these days. Short fuse, ready to display overt aggression, and almost creating an image out of it.
Anger can hopefully be thwarted by the following:
Arguments and conflicts are unavoidable in relationships, but how you fight makes all the difference. That’s anger management for you.