Anger is the hardest emotion for most of us to deal with. It can turn inward as impotent rage or outward blasting those around us.
It can challenge our sense of control to the extent that people often describe ‘..being beside myself..’ as if it had a life of its own. But what can cause such a volatile response? Where does it’s power come from?
Some psychologists do not see anger as a primary feeling but a secondary one. A primary feeling refers to our initial or immediate emotional response to information or an event, anger is one of the (secondary) responses that can be triggered. We sometimes resort to it to hide our more vulnerable feelings and protect ourselves when we feel most exposed.
Why do I get so angry at small things?
It is a reactive emotion that flies a kite above such feelings as disgust, rejection or despair. The more powerless we feel to respond to these the more likely we are to show anger where we can.
It is made more uncomfortable by its profound physical effects on our bodies. It is a visceral reaction, a gut-rooted bodily response that changes the chemistry of our bodies as well as our brains.
Like other forms of hyper-arousal (such as fear or anxiety), it engages our primitive survival mechanisms often described as ‘fight or flight’.
Simply put, neurotransmitters in our brain set off our alarm system and instruct our adrenal glands to flood the body with stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Our hearts race, palms become sweaty, muscles contract ready for action and we can become singularly focussed. People often describe this as a red mist.
With such power behind it it’s not surprising we can fear acting on it. We have probably all said something in the heat of the moment. As Ambrose Bierce put it “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret. ..”
Yet when we don’t find a way to address it, it can lurk like a storm waiting to strike. Talking about it needs to look not only at how we manage it, but also to address its primary roots.
Failure to do so does more than hurt ourselves and others but leaves us open to manipulation. As Mussolini observed we “..suffer the great injustices of life and avenge the slight ones”.