What Causes Anger

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Anger is a strong emotion of displeasure caused by some type of grievance that is either real or perceived to be real by a person. The cognitive behaviour theory attributes anger to several factors including past experiences, behaviour learned from others, genetic predispositions, and a lack of problem-solving ability. To put it more simply, anger is caused by a combination of two factors: an irrational perception of reality ("It has to be done my way") and a low frustration point ("It's my way or no way"). Anger is an internal reaction that is perceived to have an external cause. Angry people almost always blame their reactions on some person or some event, but rarely do they realise that the reason they are angry is because of their irrational perception of the world. Angry people have a certain perception and expectation of the world that they live in and when that reality does not meet their expectation of it, then they become angry.

It is important to understand that not all anger is unhealthy. Anger is one of our most primitive defence mechanisms that protects and motivates us from being dominated or manipulated by others. It gives us the added strength, courage, and motivation needed to combat injustice done against us or to those that we love. However, if anger is left uncontrolled and free to take over the mind and body at any time, then it becomes a destructive force.


Internal Sources of Anger


Our internal sources of anger come from our irrational perceptions of reality. Psychologists have identified four types of thinking that contribute to anger:

  1. Emotional reasoning. People who reason emotionally misinterpret normal events and things that other people say as being directly threatening to their needs and goals. People who use emotional reasoning tend to become irritated at something innocent that other people tell them because they perceive it as an attack on themselves. In the long run emotional reasoning can lead to dysfunctional anger.
  2. Low frustration tolerance. All of us at some point have experienced a time when our tolerance for frustration was low. Often stress-related anxiety lowers our tolerance for frustration and we begin to perceive normal things as threats to our well-being or threats to our ego.
  3. Unreasonable expectations. When people make demands, they see things as how they should be and not as they really are. This lowers their frustration tolerance because people who have unreasonable expectations require others to act in a certain way, or for uncontrollable events to behave in a predictable manner. When these things do not go their way, then anger, frustration, and eventually depression set in.
  4. People-rating. People-rating is an anger-causing mode of thinking where the person applies a derogatory label upon someone else. By rating someone as a "bitch" or a "bastard," it dehumanizes them and makes it easier for them to become angry at the person.


External Sources Of Anger


There are a hundreds of internal and external events that can make us angry, but given the parameters of a negotiating situation, we can narrow these factors down to four general events.

  1. The person makes personal attacks against us. The other side attacks you along with the problem in the form of verbal abuse.
  2. The person attacks our ideas. The other side chops down our ideas, opinions, and options.
  3. The person threatens our needs. The person threatens to take away a basic need of ours if they do not get their way i.e. "I'll make sure you'll never work in this city again."
  4.  We get frustrated. Our tolerance level for getting things done might be low or affected by any number of environmental factors in our lives.


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"After losing my temper I’d be in tears and apologise, but also had to say, ‘I can’t tell you it won’t happen again because I know it will’. I knew I was out of control."

Florence

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