Anger is a universal emotion that we all experience, whether we want to or not. A survey compiling data from previous studies found that most people report becoming mildly to moderately angry anywhere from several times a day to several times a week (Weiblen et al, 2021). Anger can be associated with irrational decision making, saying things you may regret later, and an inability or unwillingness to understand or share another person’s point of view (Weiblen et al, 2021). This expression of emotion can be categorized in three ways (Williams, 2017):
1) Anger-in: anger is internalize
2) Anger-out: anger is externalized through physical or verbal aggressive behavior
3) Anger-control: anger is acknowledged but managed with calmness
Anger does not occur in a vacuum. Beneath every emotional experience lies a reason for that expression such as something that is happening around or inside you (Miceli & Castelfrachi, 2017). Many articles and studies on anger liken it to an iceberg (The Gottman Institute, nd). An iceberg is very misleading from the surface because most of it is hidden under the water. As with many difficult emotions or behaviors, it is helpful to consider what might be going on that we cannot or do not see or what hides under the water. It is important to consider the factors that may be contributing to create this anger instead of looking at angry behavior on the surface.
Consider a time when you have gotten angry at another driver on the road. Maybe they cut you off, veered into your lane, or were following way to close. Now consider where that anger inside you comes from? Probably from fear because they could have caused an accident. Maybe you were feeling a little offended and irritated that they did this to you. Their behavior has affected you, and is causing an emotional response in you. Reflecting on the three categories, this scenario is determined as:
1) Anger-in: feeling mad and scared about being unsafe on the road.
2) Anger-out: Laying on your horn or shouting at the driver.
3) Anger-control: Acknowledging the immediate feeling, but able to move on without getting really upset.
Now consider you are the driver who swerved into someone else’s lane, cut them off, or followed too close. What is happening in you? Are you frustrated that you are running late? Is there an emergency that you need to get to? Are you angry and frustrated about something completely unrelated in your life and this is a way of putting your anger out?
Anger means different things to different people. Some of us are more comfortable with it than others. Regardless of how we experience anger, our anger expression impacts others, and theirs affects us. Being able to reflect on how we as individuals express our own anger, and improving our ability to consider what may be happening in others that causes their anger expression, can improve our ability to cope with challenging dynamics in all areas of our lives and how we relate to others.
If you are having trouble managing your anger and emotions, Well-U’s Behavioral Health Partners is here to help, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
Benson, K. (nd). The anger iceberg. The Gottman Institute. https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-anger-iceberg/
Miceli, M., & Castelfranchi, C. (2017). Anger and Its cousins. International Society for Research on Emotion. 11(1), 13-26. https://doi.org/10.1177/1754073917714870
Weiblen, R., Mairon, N., Krach, S., Buades-Rotger, M., Nahum, M., Kantske, P., Perry, A. & Kramer, U. (2021). The influence of anger on empathy and theory of mind. PLOS ONE. 16(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255068
Williams, R. (2017). Anger as a basic Emotion and Its role in personality building and pathological growth: The neuroscientific, developmental and clinical perspectives. Frontiers in Psychology. 8(1950). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01950