In The Know Zone

Anger’s World

So why do some people choose to deal with the world in an aggressive, hostile fashion?

  • Anger is seductive. It provides its possessor with a physical and emotional rush which masks its severe strain on the body and mind
  • The angry person believes himself to be right, and, therefore, justified in behaving in an angry and oppressive manner to compel others to accept the situation as he sees it.
  • Anger may be a life raft for the self-esteem of a person who otherwise feels powerless. Better to be angry than ashamed.
  • Some people equate anger with aggression, perhaps due to a harsh upbringing, in which they perceived people to be either an oppressor or a victim [11]
  • In the short term, it can be successful

Hostile, angry people often win confrontations because they attach great importance to matters that most people don’t care enough about to turn into major conflicts. They may also imagine that their anger achieved a goal that they would just as easily have been won by a polite request.

However, they set a trap for themselves by their behavior. Their perpetual anger gets them constantly into conflict situations, which reinforce their perception of the world as a hostile, negative place. Anger thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, creating the hostility and rejection it anticipates.

Most of us enjoy the luxury of not having to confront life-or-death circumstances on a regular basis. So what remains to make us angry? Substitute “ego-threatening” for “life-threatening,” and an entire new world of anger-inducing opportunities emerges.

We perceive threats in anything that:

Belittles our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and needs

Threatens the success of an endeavor to which we are strongly committed—financial achievement, reputation, significant personal relationship, etc.

Confirms our paranoid belief that our failures are caused by others

Demands a change that we view as a loss [12]

What all these goads to anger have in common is that they challenge the perception we have of ourselves and our place in the human pecking order. The source of the anger-inducing frustration is the assumption that attainment of our goals requires that others change their behavior or perceptions.

At the root of this assumption lies a failure to see other people as free agents. Instead, the angry person sees them as objects—as means or impediments to his or her goals. Any behavior that thwarts his desires thus becomes a deliberate act of sabotage or an incompetent frustration of his progress. Even the most short-tempered person never gets angry at the people behind him in a traffic jam, even though their relationship to the situation is identical to that of the people in front of him. The angry person’s moral imperative is that people ought to get out of his #&!@%+ way!

Most of us see our goals as something we want, recognizing that those desires take no precedence over those of our neighbors. The angry person sees them as needs, uniquely worthy of recognition and fulfillment. [13]

It would be easy to dismiss this worldview (and its possessor) as arrogant or infantile. But, more charitably, it can be viewed as a learned response to life, possibly born of early trauma and subject to modification.

[11] Adapted from Dombeck, M, An Apology for Anger Management, 2003.

[12] Adapted from Angry Feelings and Aggressive Behavior

[13] Froggatt, W., The rational Management of Anger: An outline for therapeutic intervention,New Zealand Centre for Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, 1997. Accessed 11/15/2004

In The Know: At Risk Pamphlet/ DVD Package
"In The Know: At Risk-Managing Anger, Don't Let It Control You%quot; Pamphlet
In The Know: At Risk DVD Package