Exploring the basic emotion of ‘Anger’

Anger is an emotion characterized by antagonism toward someone or something, you feel has deliberately done you wrong. While often seen negatively, anger can be a good thing. It can give you a way to express negative feelings, for example, or motivate you to find solutions to problems. However, the excess of it along with an inability to regulate this emotion can then lead to challenges.

Anger is a secondary emotion. Typically, we experience a primary emotion like fear, loss, or sadness first. These emotions create feelings of vulnerability and a sense of loss of control, thereby making us uncomfortable. These feelings are then subconsciously converted and displayed as anger – as a means to cope with the overwhelming flow of the primary emotion.

There are three types of anger that help shape how we react in a situation that may be triggering. These are Passive Aggression, Open Aggression, and Assertive Anger.

  • Passive Aggression – Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them. There’s a disconnect between what a person who exhibits passive-aggressive behavior says and what he or she does. Someone who uses passive aggression may feel angry, resentful, or frustrated, but they act neutral, timid, or even extremely collected. This may be expressed through silent treatment, sarcasm and even taunts.
  • Open Aggression – It is a sharp contrast to passive-aggressive anger, as it’s usually expressed outwardly — mostly in a physically or verbally aggressive way. People who express outward anger often do so with the aim of hurting others or destroying things to retaliate for acts they perceived were wrongfully done to them.
  • Assertive Anger – It allows the person to take control of their situation and tackle the issue that is directly causing their anger. It is a more honest and controlled way of displaying anger that changes a tense and uncomfortable conflict situation into one where there can be a resolution. This is usually
    the best way to communicate feelings of anger because anger is expressed directly and in a non-threatening way to the person involved. A statement such as “I feel angry when you …” is an example of assertive anger.

Causes –
1. Feeling threatened or attacked
2. Feeling frustrated or powerless
3. Being invalidated or perceiving unfair treatment
4. Experiencing a perceived lack of respect
5. Being interrupted when you are trying to achieve a goal
6. Stressful day-to-day things such as paying bills or rush hour traffic.

The arousal cycle of anger has five phases: trigger, escalation, crisis, recovery, and depression.

1. Trigger – This phase is when an event gets the anger cycle started. We get into an argument or receive some information that shocks us. We feel threatened at some level and our physiological system prepares to meet that threat.
2. Escalation – This phase is when our body prepares for a crisis with increased respiration (rapid breathing), increased heart rate, and raised blood pressure, muscles tense for action, the voice may become louder or an altered pitch, and our eyes change shape, pupils enlarge and brow falls.
3. Crisis – In this phase, the body is ready to act. The fight or flight response sets in and the individual chooses either to save himself/herself from the potential (physical or emotional) danger. Rationality and reasoning reduce to a great extent as the anger instinct takes over.
4. Recovery – The physiological and psychological wind-down phase returns a young person to a pre-angry state. This slow cool-down process can take from less than an hour to days, depending on the intensity and length of the anger-related episode.
5. Depression – It is the point when the body enters a short period in which the heart rate slips below normal so the body can regain its balance. Awareness and energy return to allow us to assess what just happened. We may begin to feel guilt, regret, or emotional depression.

While experiencing anger in any form is a natural phenomenon, the expression of this emotion is what needs to be regulated. An extreme of anything can be detrimental and that applies to our emotions as well.
To understand how to cope and regulate the inflow of these negative emotions, get in touch with our psychologists here at Faculty Minds!

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