Anger – the Innocent Victim

We all probably have, at some point in our lives, reacted extremely or negatively to a given situation and regretted that reaction later. It may seem to stem from a moment of anger. This may not be entirely true, though. The regret is not due to the feeling that we experience in that moment, but about the way we react to it. We may act hastily and recklessly because our reactions are not well thought out. We could even forego basic manners of social conduct and communication, say words we did not mean or that are inappropriate or offensive. At times, we may even turn physically violent. In retrospect, we could try to blame our bad behaviour onto anger, which is, otherwise, a perfectly natural feeling when faced with a perceived threat

Anger is generally frowned upon, and considered a negative emotion due to its negative manifestation and inappropriate expression in most cases. Common reactions in anger also validate this bias because many among us have never been taught how to deal with our negative feelings in a healthy manner. Anger can be directed outward or inward, or even manifest as passive aggression. For some people, violent outbursts as a result of anger can become so frequent and extreme that they hamper their ability to build and maintain relationships.

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The key to anger management is to identify it correctly and distinguish between our body’s voluntary and involuntary responses. The feeling of anger is an involuntary response to a given situation and has nothing to do with temperament or personality traits. In fact, anger might actually be a good motivator in some instances. For example, if you see injustice, being enraged can be a sign of a strong conscience and a principled character. It can then motivate you to take necessary positive action to rectify the situation. However, if you become passively, verbally or physically aggressive when you feel angry, you may no longer remain in control of your actions. The physical manifestation of anger in the form of aggression could cause harm to both you and others around you. Though it may be hard to distinguish aggression from anger, practice makes one realise that aggressive reactions are voluntary and controllable, as opposed to the feeling of anger which remains an involuntary response to a situation.

It is also important to identify the cause of anger. In terms of psychology, anger is often called a ‘second-hand emotion’, meaning that it never occurs without another underlying feeling which could be pain from memories of traumatic experiences, stress from personal problems, responses resulting from social conditioning and culture, or mental disorders. People normally show an angry response as a distraction from the triggering feeling or event. If the cause can be identified and addressed, we will find it easier to express our anger calmly instead of suppressing it or having violent reactions.

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Generally, anger not only damages a person’s social relationships and credibility, but can also have a negative effect on their physical and mental health. An act of passive, verbal or physical aggression can lead to guilt and hurt. If the trigger of the angry response is underlying pain, one should try to come to terms with their traumatic past in order to heal and move on, rather than suppressing or neglecting it. Otherwise, pent up feelings of sadness and anger may, one day, result in an uncontrollable emotional outburst. If there are more immediate causes of anger, such as a financial problem creating stress on personal relationships, relaxation techniques and improved communication could help. If responses to anger become a hindrance in having a fulfilled happy life, a mental health professional can help address underlying problems, suggest anger management strategies and diagnose any mental disorders that could be augmenting the behaviour.

Aggression and intolerance are on the rise around the globe, and therefore, all of us should consider it our responsibility to learn to be calm and control our reactions to anger. We should encourage others around us to deal with their negative emotions in a healthy manner and address any underlying causes before the situation becomes aggravated. If we all could control our tempers and communicate our feelings effectively, the world would become a kinder and a more peaceful place.

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Areeba Ahmad

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