Saturday, March 3, 2012


Pause before you become angry. Try channeling your anger constructively.

Mark is an angry man. He growls at his wife for little or nothing. He is short-tempered with his children and is quickly critical of the slightest infraction of his rules. He is convinced that he is underpaid and overworked. Although he believes that his employer is a hard-hearted Scrooge, Mark himself barks orders unfeelingly to workers beneath him. His wife complains to her sister, "Even when you're pleasant to Mark, you're likely to get an angry response. He seems to see red even when the light is green." In short, Mark lives in a state of perpetual resentment, exasperation, indignation and borderline rage. There appears to be little or no objective provocation for his constant emotional agitation.

Anger is an unpleasant emotional state characterized by high physiological arousal. The pulse quickens, the respirations increase, the pupils of the eyes constrict, blood rushes to the striated muscles of the body, and the adrenal glands pump out hormones. At the conscious level, there are commonly to be found ideas such as, "She shouldn't have said that to me," or "Who does he think he is ?" or "I can't take anymore of this," or "That bastard is always taking advantage of me." From the primitive biological point of view, the angry person is demonstrating a well-known response pattern called the fight-or-flight reaction. In a civilized setting, the angry person can seldom engage in a physical fight or run away. Therefore, an individual such as Mark is often forced to stew in his own emotional juice.

A distinction can be made between manifest anger and latent anger. Manifest anger is evident, and the individual is aware of it. Latent anger is repressed to an unconsicous level, and the individual is not aware of it. Latent anger pays a role in chronic depression. The kind of anger being discussed here is manifest anger.

Manifest anger can be transient or chronic. Everyone is familiar with transient anger. It is normal, appropriate emotion. It is usually a natural reaction to a frustration and tends to spontaneously evaporate in a short time. On the other hand, chronic anger represents a real problem in personal adjustment. It has three key attributes. First, it is pathological. It tends to poison the person's life and may even contribute to physical illness. Second, it is excessive. The anger expressed is out-of-bounds as a response to the frustration experienced. Third, it is irrational. Usually, an idea that is neither logical or reasonable is linked with it.

Other signs and symptoms frequently associated with the principal symptom of chronic angerare:

  • impatience
  • constant hurrying
  • speaking in a harsh, abrupt manner
  • egotistical and self-centered behaviour
  • inability to relax readily
  • high blood pressure
  • inability to play or enjoy vacations
  • verbal aggressiveness
  • free-floating hostility
Some of these signs and symptoms merit comment. Impatience and constant hurrying are both aspects of a general attitude that is called time urgency. It is as if the chronically angry person is in a time pressure cooker. High blood pressure is common in angry people because the body is always on the alert, always ready for action.

Free-floating hostility is characterized by being mad at everybody and everything. The chronically angry person is ready to hurl negative psychological thunderbolts at the slightest provocation. Thus, others are constantly discounted, abused or even insulted. Privately, people are given such labels as stupid, incompetent and lazy.

There is obviously a strong similarity between these signs and symptoms and a pattern of behaviour that was first designated Type A behaviour by the cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray H. Rosenman in the 1970s. Research suggests that one of the most serious components of Type A behaviour is chronic anger!

People who fly into a rage overheat their engines and make bad landings.

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