Why We Get Angry And What You Can Do About It

Anger is just like any other emotion we experience. It is a primal instinct that our boundaries are being crossed or respect is being neglected. Which can be positive if it is expressed in proportion to the stimulus. 

We all learn how to deal with anger differently. Some of us are ready to fight and others push it down (which is not recommended either). These come from our earliest experiences with our caregivers. 

Emotions are reactions, which can be further split into positive, negative and neutral. These reactions are often a combination of our subconscious mind and logical mind. However, the subconscious mind usually has more influence and power. The subconscious mind is a library of memories and programming. 

When we are young we don’t understand emotions. We look to our parents to model how to use them and our brain takes notes. 

Let’s look at an example of this: 

Bill (dad) gets highly annoyed when Carol (mom) nags about helping out around the house. She is constantly voicing her opinion about “having to do it all on her own” and Bill has had enough. One day, Carol continues to complain and Bill snaps. He begins yelling at her and throws a dish against the wall. Little Ben watched the whole thing unfold, he was playing with his toys on the carpet in the living room but his brain saw everything. 

Every time Bill yells Ben’s brain activates the pathway associated with anger and that memory. The recorded history says when Carol (or a female) nags, we get angry. 

Now of course there is more complexity to this scenario. Every brain will code this experience differently depending on previous occasions. But here’s what happens next…

Ben is all grown up and he falls in love with a girl named Janice. Janice is lovely and reminds Ben a lot of his mother. She always makes dinner, does the laundry and takes care of the house. One day Janice starts to get annoyed with all the work she is doing. She’s constantly taking care of all the household chores without any help. She begins nagging Ben to do the dishes and get other household chores done. Ben feels the anger inside of him building up until he snaps and gets extremely angry with Janice. The anger continues every time Janice asks Ben to do something. The problem is that now the anger is associated with Janice telling him what to do. Janice reminds him to call his mom and Ben gets mad. 

Now Ben & Janice are in couples counseling trying to understand why they all of a sudden have these issues with each other. 

Now the anger is impacting Ben’s relationship with Janice. 

Any emotion has the capacity to build. When we see an overabundance of sadness we call it depression. When we see an overabundance of worry we call it anxiety. When we have an overabundance of joy we call it mania. You get the point. 

Ben has learned anger is an appropriate response to nagging. Which has become anger is an appropriate response to anything Janice asked me to do. 

Learned behaviour does not always match the stimulus-response. That’s where therapy can help, starting therapy you’ll begin to identify triggers and understand your responses. Self-awareness is the first step in becoming more aware and better able to manage your anger. 

What causes anger? 

Psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher proposes anger to be a combination of a trigger event or stimulus, individual qualities or personality and the individual evaluation of the scenario. 

Personality traits more prone to anger include 

  • Narcissism 
  • Competitiveness 
  • Low tolerance for frustration 
  • Pre-anger states (anxiety, exhaustion, stress) 

Let’s look a little deeper into personality traits and anger. Before we do we need to become familiar with two types of personality traits; neuroticism and agreeableness. 

Neuroticism: (According to Psychology Today) Is one of the big 5 personality traits. Which is defined by the tendency towards anxiety, depression, self-doubt and other negative emotions. 

Agreeableness: (According to Psychology Today) is a personality trait that can be described as cooperative, polite, kind and friendly. Individuals with high agreeableness are more trusting, affectionate, and altruistic and generally display more prosocial behaviours than others. 

Research is now showing that anger is commonly associated with high neuroticism and low agreeableness. However other attitudes listed below may also be contributors: 

  1. Entitlement 
  2. Focusing on things outside one’s control 
  3. External regulation of emotions 
  4. External locus of control 
  5. Unable to see other’s point of view 
  6. Hyperfocus on blame 
  7. Fragile ego 

What are the types of anger? 

  • Justifiable Anger 

As we talked about earlier this is anger that is equal to the stimulus or the trigger. It may be due to witnessing injustice or an abuse of power and the individual is standing up for themselves or others. 

  • Annoyance Anger 

Due to repetitive frustrations build up without an outlet. This may be daily traffic, insufficient funds or money problems. 

  • Aggressive Anger 

Is often used when an individual is trying to assert domination or control over others. This can involve manipulation, physical abuse or harm, emotional abuse or harm and invalidation. 

Looking at other aspects of health 

Cleaning up other aspects of health can also help you get a better grasp on your anger. This may involve reorganizing and prioritizing your sleep schedule to reduce stress and get adequate rest. It may be scheduling time in nature or active days that give you the space you need to recoup. 

These foundational aspects of health are often overlooked and can assist in helping us have a better grasp on our mental health and situation. At McDowall, our integrative approach recognizes the connectivity between mental health and the physical body which is why we also offer naturopathic medicine. 

How to manage anger 

At McDowall Integrative Psychology & Healthcare we have an anger management program designed to help you reflect and understand the pattern behind your experience. Our highly qualified and trained psychotherapists will help you dig deeper into the root of our experience and help you develop new ways of communicating. This development of new coping skills not only will help you with your anger but will also improve your relationships and other areas of your life. 

Individual counseling is also a great way to begin the process of retraining your brain. The 1:1 approach allows you to develop a trusting relationship with your psychotherapist in order to navigate and break the intricate working & patterns of the mind. We suggest the combination of individual counseling and the Anger Management Therapy program for the best results. 

If you are struggling with your partner to get back on track we suggest doing sessions of Couples therapy in Toronto. Having a person in between can help improve communication blocks and misread signals the partners may be missing. When we are highly attached or charged towards a situation it becomes more difficult to look at it objectively. Therefore decisions and conclusions drawn aren’t always accurate. Our therapists can help both parties heal and learn how to communicate properly with their own individual communication styles.  

If you’d like to learn more about our services and how we can help you with anger head over to our website www.mcdowallhealth.com 

Did you know that 30% of people have close friends or family members who have trouble controlling their anger. 10% of people struggle with anger themselves. 25% worry about how angry they sometimes feel. 

20% have ended a relationship or friendship with someone because of their anger. 

Recent Post