Anger in the Age of Entitlement

Cleaning up emotional pollution

Anger Problems: What They Say about You

Do you see anger or resentment in the mirror?
Anger is the primary protective emotion, designed to protect us from harm or from loss of something of value. The most physical of all emotions, anger sends action signals to the muscles and organs of the body to prepare us for one purpose and one purpose only: to neutralize or defeat the perceived threat.

Two factors go into the formulation of anger: current vulnerability and magnitude of the perceived threat. Relatively little threat will cause anger when vulnerability is elevated, for example when physical resources are low - you're tired, hungry, sick, injured, depressed, anxious, stressed - or when self-doubt is high, making you more easily insulted.

Problem anger (that which leads you to act against your long-term best interests) is caused by high vulnerability. It is the most self-revealing of emotional states, pointing directly to a powerful cause of vulnerability: a sudden drop in core value.

You experience a state of core value when you think and behave in accordance with the most important things to and about you. It includes a sense of authenticity (you feel genuine) and self-regard, which, together, lower self-doubt and vulnerability to threat.
.
For instance, if it is important to you to be fair in your dealings with others, you will regard yourself well as long as you are fair, and feel guilt and shame when you are not. If you use the guilt and shame as a motivation to be true to your core value, i.e., to behave more fairly, your self-regard will instantly improve; you will act with conviction and not need anger for defense.

See All Stories In

Anger—It's All the Rage!

Anger is possibly the most misunderstood emotion. And it's on the rise in American life.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

But if you blame your unfair behavior on someone else - a spouse or boss or the IRS - you will become angry or resentful and utterly powerless to restore genuine self-regard. That's right, while angry or resentful, it is nearly impossible for you to restore self-regard on your own, because now it requires that someone submit to what you want. The best you can hope for while angry or resentful is a temporary sense of self-righteousness.

When out of touch with your deepest values, you are more likely to act on ego - how you expect other people to regard you. Once again, your self-regard will depend not on what you do, but on the regard of others (who are likely to be preoccupied with their own self-regard.) In short, you will be become more vulnerable. Because it is controlled by others, ego requires manipulating the impressions of others to preserve and lots of resentment and anger to defend. Preserving and defending your ego will usually lead to violating your deepest values.

Problem anger comes in many forms, e. g, any resentment, restlessness, impatience, agitation, irritability, or sarcasm that motivates behavior contrary to your best interests. But the experience of these unpleasant emotions can be invaluable guides, if you use them like a gas gauge. They tell you that your current state of core value is too low and that you need to fill it up, that is, act according to your deepest values. If angry about the unfairness of someone else, you must be sure that you are being fair. Otherwise, you will merely react to a jerk like a jerk.

In your core value, you will act with conviction to achieve fairness, which is likely to be in your long-term best interests. In anger you will devalue others - at least in your head - which is unlikely to be in your long-term best interests.

Overcoming anger problems requires much more than managing the emotional feelings and physiological arousal of anger, as anger management classes strive to do. Eliminating anger problems depends on a choice of what kind of person you want to be - an angry, resentful person who struggles to manage negative feelings and arousal, or one who lives securely in your core value.

Steven Stosny, Ph.D., treats people for anger and relationship problems. Recent books: How to Improve your Marriage without Talking about It, and Love Without Hurt.

more...

Subscribe to Anger in the Age of Entitlement

Current Issue

Love & Lust

Who says marriage is where desire goes to die?