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The Secret Life of Anger | Nick Wignall

https://nickwignall.com/secret-life-of-anger/

nickwignall.com

The Secret Life of Anger | Nick Wignall
We can all think back on times when anger lead us to poor decisions, regrettable behavior, or hurt feelings. But for some of us, anger leads to far greater consequences-from strained relationships and job loss to chronic stress and legal trouble.

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Dealing with your anger

Anger leads us to poor decisions, regrettable behavior, or hurt feelings. However, some anger leads to more significant consequences, like strained relationships or legal trouble.

The key to dealing with your anger more effectively is to understand how it works.

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Anger ≠ aggression

Anger is an emotion, while aggression is a behavior. They differ entirely in one central dimension - control.

  • You can't control your emotions directly. In the legal system, nobody gets sent to prison for how they felt, regardless of how angry they were. They get punished for what they do.
  • You can influence your emotions indirectly by how you think and behave. For example, when you focus on how terrible all the drivers in your town are, your anger will likely increase. But, if you listen to music and think about how grateful you are, your anger will probably subside.

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Expressing anger

While you can't control your emotions of anger directly, you have control over your aggression, which is a decision to express your anger.

Aggression does not only involve acts of violence. Being overly-critical or judgmental of someone in your mind is an act of aggression, as is replying sarcastically or rolling your eyes at someone.

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Controlling your aggression

Most people assume they should manage their anger, but trying to control their anger only makes it stronger. When they fail:

  • they will feel angry and disappointed with themselves.
  • They will waste psychological resources that they could have spent by managing their aggression.

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Trying to control your anger

This actually makes it harder to control your aggression.

The solution is to turn the relationship around. Acknowledge and accept your anger for what it is. Then, direct your efforts at control toward your aggression.

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Expressing anger

"You have to express your anger to release it" is a myth. Research shows that expressing your anger only makes it stronger. Turning away from it by doing nothing or distracting yourself leads to less intense anger.

Try to address the source of the anger, not the anger itself. For instance, if you're frustrated with your co-worker for being late again with their monthly report, have a respectful and honest conversation to solve the situation.

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Anger as an emotion

It is misleading to think of anger as a negative emotion. A hot pan on the stove isn’t bad or negative just because it leads to you feeling pain when you accidentally rest your thumb on it. It is a good thing because it alerts your body to a dangerous situation.

We think of anger as a negative emotion because it often precedes a negative behavior. Because the behavior is bad or negative doesn't mean the feeling that came before it is.

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Anger feels good

  • Anger makes you feel morally superior. Every time you criticize someone, the implication is that you're better. He’s such an idiot… (but I’m pretty smart).
  • Anger makes you feel in control. It gives you the illusion of control, like you're doing something and making a difference.
  • Anger distracts you temporarily from more painful emotions. This is especially true of men in most cultures for whom anger is a reasonable emotion while fear, sadness, or guilt are not. 

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The Flavors of Anger

  • Impatience. We become impatient when we have a specific timeline in mind for something, and others disregard that timeline. 
  • Passive-aggressive communication. When we want to make someone feel bad but want to appear good at the same time. The most common form is sarcasm - an insult dressed up as a joke.
  • Irritability. Chronic irritability is often a sign of unaddressed anger where you find yourself short with people, overly sensitive to criticism or just agitated most of the time.
  • Resentment. Resentment is like irritability but directed at another person specifically. Address resentment with assertiveness.
  • Frustration. When we have a goal or desire but are thwarted in reaching it for some reason. 

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Anger and Aggression

  • Anger: An emotion felt when we believe we have been wronged.
  • Aggression: is an act of expression of the anger, by our words our actions. Aggression can be insults, sarcas...

Validation and Boundaries

  • We can try and validate the anger felt by an individual by making them know that their anger is maybe justified while putting firm but respectful boundaries on their aggression.
  • We then need to be clear about what type of aggression we are willing to tolerate, setting boundaries on the unacceptable.
  • We may have to put our foot down and be ready to leave the conversation or escalate the issue, without falling into the trap of guilt and emotion.
  • If possible, we need to restart the conversation when things have cooled down, and diffuse the issue in a calm way.

Avoiding Speculative Self-Talk

Unchecked self-talk can easily turn into self-delusion. The stories we create almost always make you look like the good guy and cannot be termed as objective.

  • The way to get out of this speculative self-delusion is to avoid any speculation about other people's anger, at least initially.
  • Make sure to note down the facts of the situation. This can make the story less according to your gut instinct, and more towards the objective reality.

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The Power of Forgiveness

Forgive. Research indicates that forgiveness makes you less angry and more healthy.

Dealing with Anger According to Context

Sometimes suppression is the only thing you can do to avoid an escalation. And sometimes reappraisal can cause you to tolerate bad situations.

But that said, telling yourself a more compassionate story about what’s going on inside the other person’s head is usually the best way to go. 

The Harms Of Holding Anger

Anger Is Pleasurable

Anger Is Pleasurable

Anger and the accompanying feelings of revenge are associated with dopamine and norepinephrine secretion in the brain, which feel exhilarating to us.

The neurological chemical systems in th...

Anger Is Mobilizing

Anger is an emotion that can be harnessed, with collective anger being able to spearhead entire movements and disruptions.

Anger has a strangely energizing effect and helps people deal with trauma and grief. Anger is the one emotion that encourages action.

Anger Is Impactful

People listen to an angry person, making it a salient powerful emotion for interpersonal connections.

Entire movies are made of characters taking revenge as they are angry and resentful due to a reason that the audience loves to hear about.