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Anger - Some Frequently Asked Questions

Why Do I Get So Angry?

Why do people get angry? The short answer is, because they feel threatened.
Anger is a secondary, not a primary response and, in the human organism, it follows the experience of a threat.

Yet most people I help with anger find that difficult to believe.  They say they don't feel threatened and, not only do they not feel threatened, they believe that they themselves are doing the threatening.  And of course, they are - at least if they express their anger in the external, 'I'm going to do you harm unless you leave me alone', way.

What can be difficult for many of us, is that threat can be experienced without us knowing it has happened - threat does not need to pass through the conscious mind, be weighed up, assessed and thought about.  It needs to be dealt with, responded to, overcome.  And that is the Fight and Flight response that most of us have heard about.

And if a person - let's say it's you or someone close to you -, doesn't know they feel threatened, they won't see the warning signs and they feel the changes in their body as it prepares itself to deal with the threat.

And that’s one reason that people often don't notice it until they go BANG!

Did You Say 'Threatened'?

Yes I did.

The threat must be perceived to cause this response, but that doesn't mean everyone would find whatever it is threatening.  It only has to be experienced as a threat by the person that is being triggered.  And without becoming too technical about the psychology of anger, the threat can come from an internal or an external stimulus - meaning that the person can have the angry response whether there is an obvious threat that you would agree with or whether they have been reminded of something significant (and invariably threatening) from their past.  It can even be something that they are fearful of in the future.

That's where you might benefit from some help from a professional, because identifying the threats and triggers - and resolving them - is difficult to do alone, but it is what sets you free.

Why Do People Deny They Are Angry?

A surprising number of people that feel angry a lot of the time don’t seem to know it.  If you stop and ask, "are you angry?", they are quite likely to reply, "no".  They might even say something like "me? it's you who's angry!".  Or they might use a series of alternative words to describe their feelings - like frustrated, passionate, disappointed, upset, and so on.

The reasons will vary according to the person but a general and reliable rule of thumb is, if there is a reason to disapprove of anger, a person is likely to ignore, supress and/or deny its role in their responses and behaviour.

Why Am I Blamed For Their Anger?

Why is it always 'my fault' that they are angry?  The answer to this comes in two parts:

The first is, to a person that is angry, it does always seem as though it is 'caused' by something or someone outside themselves.  That could be almost anything - a driver going too slowly, the traffic lights changing to stop, noise from the people outside, the lost keys, or the expression on your face or the tone of your voice.

The second is, they do not embrace their anger, they blame it on others - it's part of denying its existence because they do not approve of it.

Can A Person That Gets Really Angry Ever Really Be Calm Again?

Can anyone recover from this difficult and destructive outcome in their lives?  Yes they can.  They have to want to, they have to move their attention away from the 'bad' things others are doing and onto their own responses to it but yes, you can be calm and respond like a 'normal person' does, even if you find you are ragingly angry much of the time.

Is Anger Nature or Nurture?

Is a really aggressive person, just 'like that'?  Truly, our ability to be angry is nature and we should all be thankful for it.  But us feeling threatened most of the time and expressing our responses through anger is definitely nurture - or more often, an absence of nurture and the presence of angry role models.  And because those role models are in our families, it can look like a genetic path that can't be escaped.

I'm Really Really Angry, Is It My Fault?

Being angry isn't your fault.  Feeling threatened isn't your fault.  It is though, your responsibility to do something about it.  There's a huge difference between blame and responsibility.  Taking and holding the blame for what has happened to you is possibly what stops you truly becoming powerful and taking responsibility for your own life and future.