Anger Management in Cardiff
What is anger?Anger is a basic and normal human emotion that you can feel on a daily basis. Anger is not problematic in its milder form of irritability; feeling angry is nature’s way of telling you that you have perceived a threat, a wrong-doing or an injustice. Uncontrolled and persistent anger however can be harmful. It can be detrimental to the individual’s health, and damage family, social and working relationships. When anger is unrestrained, it can show itself in situations where innocent people can be hurt or even killed. Examples can include road rage, domestic abuse, and individual and gang violence. With anger, property can be damaged with complete disregard.
What happens when you are angry?Anger is a heightened state of arousal that prepares you to deal with perceived threats. When you are angry, stress hormones are released to alter the functioning of your mind. Your mind is alerted to the perceived threat in a distorted way. The rational intelligence normally used to handle situations is swallowed up by a primitive “caveman” logic to either attack or be defeated. Your body also responds to the stress hormones. Adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body, increasing your heart rate and causing your breathing to become more rapid and shallow. Non-essential functions like digestion are de-prioritised. Blood flow is diverted to voluntary muscles as if preparing you to go into battle and strike out. With higher levels of anger you are a machine poised to deal with the perceived threat with very basic “animal” instincts. Not all anger is primitive however. You can get angry and then rationally evaluate the most appropriate response. Even when anger is moderate or calculated, these same physical reactions can still take place. But there is more interpretation and analysis of how the situation is affecting you and how you externally want to deal with it. Cognitive processes help you to assess the injustice of the situation. Behavioural processes consider how you express the anger. It can include changes in your facial expressions and posture. Physical expressions involve acts of aggression towards people and property e.g. slamming doors. Your verbal expression of anger can include speaking more forcefully and quickly, with a raised tone.
Where does anger come from?Anger is a basic human emotion. How angry you are, how you process your anger and how long anger persists after a experiencing a threat can vary between individuals. Your anger level is also influenced by a number of internal, social/cultural and situational variables. Internal factors: Most studies consider anger to be a secondary emotion and a response to pain and fear. Thus it is generally believed that anger is learned rather than something you are born with. However, there is some evidence that pregnant mothers exposed to stress can affect the developing foetus’ own stress response system and influence the child’s own temperament. This would support the view that you can be born predisposed to certain emotions like anger, as if setting up a template of emotion. What you learn after birth will then reinforce this template. Early developmental issues in the young child affect communication skills and can create a general disposition to be angry throughout your life. Being able to verbally express your anger in a calm way becomes a frustrating experience and is replaced by aggression. Social/Cultural factors: Your emotional template is mainly developed from your parents and family culture. How your family deal with anger can teach you what is an appropriate way to express your own anger. This continuous transfer of anger culture would suggest that it can remain in families through generations. Cultural factors can also affect gender differences with expressing anger within the family and in wider social groups. Stereotypically, men are encouraged to express their aggression to assert their masculinity particularly in youth culture, whereas women are discouraged from displaying their aggression to appear more feminine. Women tend to talk about their feeling of anger and stay angry for longer. Hormonal differences may explain some of these gender variations. Situational factors: The specific situation can trigger different levels of anger in different people. Take for example being stuck in a traffic jam. The level of anger you experience can depend on
- The reason for the traffic jam
- The importance of the journey
- Your relationship with the other people at your destination
- Your ability to communicate to those people the reason for your delay
- The disposition and needs of your passengers etc.
What affects the intensity of your anger?When classifying anger, a scale of 1 to 10 is commonly applied to rate the degree of anger felt or expressed. At the lower levels there is irritation and aggravation, at the upper levels hostility, aggression and rage. Revenge (as a form of anger) can be used at all levels. The intensity of your anger is dependent on the history, internal, external and situational factors:
- Your history of anger and history of the event
- Your general disposition and current stress levels
- Background cultural factors
- How much you rate the severity of the perceived threat
- The relationship with the perpetrator and their apparent intentions
- Your analysis of the circumstances surround the event
What can cause you to get angry?Modern living rarely needs the primitive “fight or flight” anger response that our ancestors once used for survival. The threat of survival has evolved into the threat of losing one’s self-esteem. How you define your esteem can mean different things to different people. But modern anger is usually stimulated when there is a perceived threat to:
- Your physical well-being - The aftermath of an attack can create a deep feeling of anger to get your revenge on your attacker and level the score.
- Your self-image and social status - This can be defined as how you see yourself and how you believe others see you. A nasty comment that defames you can cause anger particularly when it is untrue. It can have an impact on your reputation.
- Your family - When your child is being bullied at school, anger can be a response to your own feeling of helplessness. Naturally, you would want to protect them from harm, but you are not able to be present in every situation.
- Your social group - A criticism given to the football team you support or pop group that you like can spark a verbal or physical argument. Youth culture is known for having a strong social group identity that links with one’s self image.
- Your property - Your possessions can act as extensions of your identity. The sentimental or monetary value of possessions often defines people. The modern car is an example of how some people like to present their image. Damage the car and you damage the owner’s ego.
- Your boundaries - You like to know the rules that govern what you can and can’t do. When you know where you stand in life, you feel safe even if you don’t agree with the rule in principal. When a change takes place, you can feel angry. A teenager who has a curfew set by their parents can feel angry about the rule change if it does not equate with his/her offence. “It’s not fair” is a common angered response.
- Your privileges - Losing something that helps you to feel special or that gives you some advantage can invoke an angered response. Cuts made in work organisations create “hot” air in the staffroom. The mistake that generates the anger may be caused by taking the privilege for granted in the first place.
Types of angerAnger can take various forms. Some types are overt, but the more hidden forms of passive anger are not always recognised so easily.
- Behavioural anger: This type of anger is used to describe someone who is physically expressive with their anger regardless of the trigger. It includes acts of physical violence and abuse.
- Verbal anger: This type of anger is used to describe someone who is verbally expressive with their anger regardless of the trigger. When this anger is used maliciously, this type of person can be insulting and critical of others, destroying their self esteem. Facial and postural gestures accompany verbal anger.
- Persistent anger: This describes people who tend to be angry with life in general. There is no apparent trigger, just a continuous exhibition of anger. The expression can be verbal or behavioural, intense or mild. You know where you stand with this person.
- Explosive anger: This person would be defined as volatile. They can explode with rage for no apparent reason and then be calm. They are unpredictable and may choose innocent victims. Their anger can be verbal or behavioural.
- Critical anger: This verbal anger aims to judge and others and point out their mistakes. The comments make others feel ashamed and embarrassed about themselves or their abilities. Other people’s self-esteems are destroyed in an attempt to repair their own scarred self-esteem.
- Passive anger: This subversive form of anger uses sarcasm to hide suppressed anger e.g. saying “now what type of brain were you born with?” The angry person tries to disguise sarcasm by saying that the offended person is just being sensitive. Passive anger can also take the form of avoidance to get back at someone e.g. not attending an invitation to a party at the very last moment. Someone who favours passive anger likes to avoid confrontation. Or passive anger can be “expressed” by giving the silent treatment e.g. after a row with your partner. Saying nothing may be the better option than saying something that is offensive. But it is still an indication that you are angry.
- Distressed anger: This anger is a reaction to overwhelming distress in this person’s life. They are not coping with some of the bigger life changes like a new job or a break up in a relationship. They are constantly tense and lash out at people when any extra demands are placed upon them. The anger is a general reflection of high stress levels.
- Vindictive anger: This is probably the most common form of anger. The “injured” party seeks to get “even” after a perceived threat. It can take the form of direct “tit-for-tat” behaviour or by indirect forms of revenge where you withhold something that they may need.
- Self-directed anger: This form of anger accompanies self-blame, self-harm and low self-esteem. A person who uses this anger struggles to be assertive and handle situations confidently. They see view most situations as major conflict. So the only way to turn is inwards directing the anger at oneself. Examples of punishment include eating disorders and cutting oneself.
- Calculated Anger: When someone isn’t getting their way, they use anger as a way to over-power the other people in the situation. They may be defined as “control-freaks” who expect people to comply with their orders. When someone protests about their plans, it intensifies their anger.
- Suspicious anger: This person feels angry because they are jealous of others and are paranoid that other people will take what “belongs” to them. This jealous anger typically surfaces in relationships. The angry person has trust issues and tries to possess their partner. When their partner is seen innocently talking to other people, they are accused of flirting and face accusations of infidelity.
- Constructive anger: On a personal level, this type of anger is about being assertive. It considers the needs of all parties in the situation. Constructive anger emphasises communication and negotiation to resolve situations and reduce any future disharmony. On a group and organisational level, it aims to make positive change from situations, decisions or actions that have been mismanaged. Examples include the formation of movements, unions and associations.