“Anger is one letter short of Danger” -Eleanor Roosevelt.
Did you watch Inside Out and realised you usually relate to this guy?
Do the events of the daily make you want to choke someone?
Does the casual sexism and/or judgment filled conversations in your family make you want to vomit or punch that adorable stuffed bear in your room?
Has anyone ever told you that you were overreacting or being oversensitive?
Are you on your best days, a spoon drop away from a breakdown?
IF you answered yes to all the questions above, congratulations! You’re a human!
We go through an array of emotions of which anger is just one. After many nights of introspection, I concluded that I get angry extremely easily. It seems my phone also had the same “epiphany” if you will, because one of the mornings after, my social media was filled, with self help ads for anger management; as was my Instagram and Pinterest – with texts posts related to anger; which is why I dived into this topic in the first place.
There is still a debate about whether anger is a positive or a negative emotion. According to the popular “Basic Emotion Theory” which proposes that human beings have a limited number of emotions that are biologically and psychologically “basic” (Wilson-Mendenhall et al., 2013), each manifested in an organized recurring pattern of associated behavioral components, anger is classified as one of the emotions that were said to have evolved biologically as a way to activate our flight or fight response; others being fear, joy, sadness, disgust, and surprise.
But recent theories suggest that anger evolved into a much more complex emotion since parts of our amygdala evolved and interacted to react better to distress. It also suggests that anger became more prominent so we could achieve our goals faster and more vigorously and with greater endurance. Research in developmental psychology has found that there is no distinguishable emotion of ‘anger’ until the the age of 1 where infants start understanding that there is a hindrance to goal attainment.
While anger remains an emotion that evolved biologically, it becomes only more polished and suave as it mingles with culture, society, intra and interpersonal interactions. Here, it transforms into competition, hate, envy, jealousy, annoyance, etc. and leaves the realm of being a basic emotion.
Interestingly enough, the expression of anger is said to be a prerequisite to acquire being able to explore environments, and also in the overall development of personality growth- both normal and abnormal. Having control over oneself and one’s actions, being able to negotiate during conflicts, establishing balance against emotions such as shame or feeling defenseless, assertion of one’s independence/autonomy and even the expression of healthy conceit which are all required to build one’s personality come primarily by the expression of anger.
Which brings me to this – according to one of the most popular theories, anger is said to be a secondary emotion. This change from a primary emotion to anger happens so quickly and unconsciously, that we cannot differentiate between the two. Simpy put, one experiences perhaps humiliation or sadness or a myriad of other negative emotions before they turn into anger to prevent oneself from looking or coming off as vulnerable (a self preservative evolutionary response).
It is truly surprising that we have never been taught a healthy way to deal with anger even though it is such an integral part of our lives. Constantly being angry or getting angry easily is not a great feeling. It is taxing on so many levels but I believe most of us don’t know what to do when this happens.
So what IS a healthy way to deal with anger?
Firstly, it is of utmost importance, that we VALIDATE our anger.
When we get angry, it’s not just a random feeling. It is an indication that somewhere, one has felt hurt or betrayed or that one has a deeper underlying conflict that probably one is scared to address.
Second, take a moment and ask yourself – what made you angry?
For example, if you fought with your partner, what was bothering you? Was it something they said or did? Did you feel disrespected or invalidated? Did you have a bad day and something set you off?
Lastly, the healthiest way to deal with anything to talk about it. Let the person who you are angry with know what bothered you and why you felt the way you did. This not only helps you modify your behavior, but also said person, so they can modify theirs.
Other times, you can do something that makes you feel better or happier – like talking to you best friend, reading or playing that video game you really like – basically anything that gives your mind some space so that you can later think or talk about your conflict.
If you are someone who is dealing with someone who has anger issues, remember that the individual is hurt at a deeper level and try to give them the space they need. Some may be explicit about them wanting some alone time, but some may not. As annoying or frustrating it is, you need to be able to be patient and work along side this individual and be as supportive as you can be; and if you feel you can’t, you deserve your space too. Take a little break and try again!
And remember – any change takes time; and there will be a lot of going back to old habits, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at all. Keep trying!
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