The source of anger
By Robin Scott
No one is immune from feeling angry, and everyone gets angry sometime. Why and when one gets angry is as specific to an individual as a set of fingerprints. Anger is described in the dictionary as a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong, a feeling of wrath. Anger about or toward something or someone may be brief or lifelong. Whether or not a person has control over the depth or life of their anger is a matter of personal belief for some, and matter of fact for others. Some people firmly believe that getting angry and blowing off steam is necessary to maintain sanity while others believe that blowing up at everything that angers them shortens their lifespan.
Common expressions of anger include flying off the handle, spitting bullets, can’t see straight, flipped a switch, flipped a lid, blow a gasket, blow a fuse, frosted, rubbed the wrong way, come unglued, hit the ceiling, hit the roof, have a cow, knickers in a twist, torked off, in a huff, having a tizzy, blood boiling, seeing red, up in arms, going postal, driven up a wall, driven crazy, driven to insanity, foams at the mouth, under my skin, on my nerves, on my last nerve, on my bad side, ruffled my feathers, hot under the collar and bent out of shape.
The source of anger is likely the result of unmet expectations. Whether it’s disappointment coming out of a drive-thru restaurant only to discover that the order is wrong, or disappointment coming out of a broken marriage, the source of anger comes back to the same dilemma. How does one avoid having unmet expectations? One obvious way is to alter or modify expectations. It sounds simple, but it is complicated. The reason it is difficult to modify expectations or alter them altogether is that much of what people expect in life is developed in early childhood training and circumstances in life are often outside the control of an individual.
An expectation is a belief about something, a mental picture of something, or some idea about the future. In today’s world, one might expect, “Today is payday. I’ll be able to pay my bills,” only to find the company they work for is closing. How could an expectation of a continued paycheck for a job well done be altered realistically? No one can reasonably foresee losing a job because their company closed. The high numbers of people unemployed currently across the United States has lead to a great deal of unmet expectations and anger.
Another expectation that could not possibly be altered or changed ahead of time is if a spouse or child or parent or friend dies unexpectedly. No warning of a close one’s death is a devastating blow, and anger is one of the seven steps of grief a person goes through after such a traumatic experience. It isn’t possible for humans to avoid developing relationships that lead to some sort of expectation about what that relationship will bring to their life.
Since modifying expectations may only work on areas in life that one has true or complete control over, other means of dealing with unmet expectations must be considered. Not so surprisingly, one of the quickest ways for a person to get past feelings of anger is by receiving a sincere apology from the transgressor. When people enter into litigation and sue a wrongdoer, a common explanation for why a lawsuit has been filed is that they never felt the wrongdoer felt sorry or had remorse for what they had done. That’s true in cases that end up in small claims court all the way to cases that go before the United States Supreme Court. An apology can go a long way toward easing anger.
The terms used to describe anger don’t actually happen. No one’s blood boils, no one has a gasket to blow and no one can come unglued. What can happen is blood pressure rises, the heart palpitates faster and the pulse quickens. The physical phenomenon that accompanies anger may potentially lead to health issues. When the same physical phenomenon occurs during exercise, the body is prepared and the energy is transferred to the organs of the body; the lungs, muscles and the heart. The body is working to accomplish some task; build muscle, build endurance, build strength. The same symptoms that take over the body suddenly when anger consumes the body are not channeled through achieving a bodily function or task. Often, in order for a person to rid themselves of the uncomfortable feelings caused by the heart racing or blood pulsating and pounding is by engaging in an inappropriate act; saying angry words to others, becoming violent to others or to oneself.
The need to control anger is an important topic. Anger management is offered by specialists, psychologists, pastors, family doctors and others trained to give guidance or medical advice. Anger management not only helps the person who is prone to angry episodes, but helps those in the life of the angry person. Anger management is an effort to teach skills to recognize situations that lead to anger and how to diffuse the physical changes in the body as quickly as possible.
The fact that not everyone displays anger is interesting. Two easy to identify areas in life where people are subjected to the quick anger of others is road rage and anger at receiving the wrong order in a restaurant. Witnessing someone throw a tantrum in a restaurant because their French fries weren’t hot enough or their steak wasn’t cooked long enough is an anomaly to the person who doesn’t have the slightest inkling of anger when the same things occur to them. Road rage is something every driver deals with, especially in areas where large numbers of drivers are on the roadways all of the time. Anyone who has ever been a passenger in a vehicle driven by someone who has a fit of road rage can attest to how unarming it is. For the person who does not experience anger as quickly, the angry person seems foolish and out of control.
Controlling anger is necessary for good physical health and emotional well-being. Demonstrating anger toward something or someone may also contribute to good physical health and emotional well-being because it is a natural human response to every day life. Finding a balance between too little anger and too much anger is key. Take time to smell the roses, blow off some steam, hang ten, chill, take a chill pill, chill out, don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t sweat it, cool your heels, cool off, play it cool, get over it, bite the big one, swallow your words, swallow your pride, let it go, let it ride, let it slide, let loose, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, don’t fight the feeling, and finally, live long and prosper.