Anger Can Be Poison

angerAnger is an emotion that is experienced by all people everywhere. Anger usually results from an emotional hurt. It is typically experienced as an unpleasant feeling that occurs when we feel injured, mistreated, or are opposed in long held views, or are faced with obstacles to attaining personal goals. Anger varies in its frequency, intensity, and duration. People also vary in how easily they get angry, their anger threshold, as well as with their comfort level with the emotion. Some people are always getting angry while others don’t even recognize that they feel angry. While some experts say that the average adult gets angry about once a day and annoyed or peeved around three times a day, those who work with people with anger management issues suggest that getting angry 15 times a day is average. In any case, anger is a common human emotional which we probably experience more often than we would like to admit.

It should be noted that anger can be constructive or destructive. When well managed, anger or annoyance has few detrimental health or interpersonal consequences; when mismanaged anger can be deadly. There is a difference in feeling angry and expressing your anger. To feel anger is to be human. The feeling contains information that can be of value. Expressing your anger inappropriately or prolonging the experience of anger can be dangerous. Not only can out of control anger damage personal relationships, it can lose you your job, land you in jail, damage your health or even kill you. For example, recent research suggests that men who have poor anger management skills are more likely to suffer a heart attack before age 55 than their more mild-mannered peers. A separate study involving 774 older white men (average age 60) indicated that high hostility levels were more predictive of developing coronary heart disease than risk factors like high cholesterol, alcohol intake, cigarette smoking. Older men with the highest levels of hostility were at the greatest risk for developing coronary heart disease independent of the effects of BMI (body mass index), waist-to-hip ratio, fasting blood-sugar levels, triglcyride levels, and blood pressure.

Anger can alienate friends, co-workers and family members. Your expressed anger elicits anger in others as a defense. Hostile, aggressive anger not only increases the risk for an early death but also the risk for social isolation, which is in itself a major risk factor for serious illness and death.

Anger is composed of the thoughts that trigger the emotion, the bodily arousal a person experiences, and whatever behaviors are exhibited, which are often culturally determined. The goal of anger is to protect or further our self-interests, or those of our loved ones, or uphold principles and causes we hold sacred. Instinctively anger often results in the desire to defend ourselves and strike back at its cause, often aggressively. Behind all anger is some form of pain, physical or emotional. It can start with not feeling well or feeling rejected, feeling threatened, or enduring a sense of loss. The type of pain does not matter; the point is that it is unpleasant and it makes you want to end the suffering. It is when these unpleasant feelings are associated with trigger thoughts that anger erupts. Trigger thoughts are assumptions, evaluations or your interpretation of situations that make you feel like you are being victimized or someone is deliberately trying to hurt you.

Many of our trigger thoughts have their roots in childhood. Often a person will overreact to a current situation because they learned earlier in life to be very angry when they experienced hurt, neglect or abuse. As an adult the person will have difficulty with situations and conflicts that threaten them with feeling unworthy, unloved or unsafe. Any time a situation “triggers” these old feelings of betrayal, the anger expressed will not only be about the current irritant but also about remnants of the pain felt before. When one of these old triggers is unleashed the degree of anger expressed is often excessive for the immediate aggravation. In addition if parental role models use anger to manipulate and control family members the children may learn destructive ways to manage anger. The children learn not only to be extremely angry because of the mistreatment they receive, but also how to express their anger in an inappropriately aggressive manner.