What is Anger?
Imagine at a molecular level chemicals being released into the blood stream from your adrenal gland which is immediately anterior to your kidneys. The adrenal gland in a very simplified discussion is responsible for the release of epinephrine and nor-epinephrine, the two chemicals that are released with stimuli of stress and/or fight or flight. Many of us react very different to stimuli, and this is primarily based on previous experience, learned behavior, coping mechanisms, gender, as well as our physiology. So why then do we see men and women react differently to stimuli and even among each gender? This author feels that anger is very closely related to fear. When we experience fear we frequently show anger. It is clearly more “macho” to show anger if you are a man, then to disclose fear. When we are afraid of the unknown we prepare and all too often that preparation can be displayed by anger. The white man was afraid of the Native Americans, Hitler was afraid of alleged supremacy by anyone who was not of his ethnic background. In both scenarios look at the outcome. There are many different responses to very similar stimuli. Anger, that emotion that is labeled as “bad” and “counter productive to yourself and life in general.” There are anger management groups, therapists are overwhelmed with patients sent to treatment because spouses, employers, and the legal system label them with so called “anger issues.” Do these issues exist and can they be very dangerous? Absolutely, however due to the drama, the making of front page news, and our morbid desire to observe, fights, shows similar to “Cops.” and other violent media venues, well…. anger sells. Money, once again the driving force. Anger has received such a bad label I actually hear many adults that will deny to their death bed they are not angry and…..NEVER get angry. A physician I used to work with stated, God never wants us to show anger and claims he has achieved the ability to never feel anger. This was intriguing to me for a variety of reasons. He is an educated man, knows about the sympathetic nervous system, and is aware of the fight or flight response yet has convinced himself that he never feels anger. Needless to say, we spent many hours discussing this issue and, no he never displayed what I would call anger. Is it possible to deny this normal emotion? Yes, we can learn and convince ourselves of many pathological harmful mis-truths. We rationalize the benefits of alcohol as we down that sixth beer, and we can rationalize the importance of buying that new vehicle so I suppose we can rationalize away the word anger, but in reality the denial of this feeling will get you when you are least aware. The denial of anger, and the non-expression of anger will kick your ass by physiological symptoms and diagnoses such as, ulcers, high blood pressure, increased sugar levels, weight gain and many more.
Anger, when made aware to our conscious can be very, very helpful and can be a huge motivator as well as a creative force in life. This leads us to anger directed at us the individual and externalized anger towards others. Very different and they can have very different outcomes. The unaware soul pulls out in front of you as you slam on your breaks. In that split second our adrenal glands are pumping out epinephrine and nor-epinephrine to protect ourselves and the loved ones in the car. There are many different responses to this scenario as well as judgments. Clearly an angry response is justified, however, does the response lead to following the individual, pulling them out of their vehicle, beating them and going to jail? Does the response evoke you to smile say “no problem” and go on with your day. Both responses are extremes, and both have occurred with many. Factors again that one must be made aware of are learned behavior, how was your day moments before, and what has been beneficial for you in the past? Anger is a common emotion that we as individuals must embrace and learn how to focus it or it’s repression will clearly cause psychological and even physiologic harm. It has even been shown that adult onset diabetes (taking out the hereditary factor) has spiked increases in adults who repress or deny their anger. This is because when the adrenal gland releases epinephrine it also releases cortisol which increases glucose, which the muscles need for fight or flight.
What are unconscious triggers of anger?
There are many life traumas that we experience that we unconsciously and consciously vow we will never experience again. These life traumas can be rape, sex abuse, physical abuse, parental abuse, an experience in war etc. For the majority of individuals we do not respond in an effective manner, or at least in a manner which we would be happy with when these traumas occur. Either we are too young, too un-equipped or we do not know how to cope at the time and shortly there after. We become angry, depressed, and angry again. Many seek treatment and many do not. That experience is repressed on some level and many will not talk about it. This verbal introversion is due to not wanting to relive the moment or many times feeling weak, embarrassed or stupid about how we dealt or did not deal with the incident. For myself, my personal experience with being sexually abused by an older cousin was, in retrospect, a slowly simmering volcano. As I was writing my book, “Above His Shoulders”, I realized it was extremely difficult to truly describe the degree of pain and anger I had experienced in my life.
At the time of life trauma we may or may not be aware of the intensity and the internal pain. This phenomenon is what the psychological population frequently calls a conversion disorder. We fly away in our minds, we go somewhere, anywhere to avoid the feeling of pain, hurt, deception and feelings of inadequacy. This may appear as intense anger, and distrust as we age. As an adult I allowed myself to be victimized by spouses, employers and peers. Giving a great deal of myself, looking for acceptance and allowing pain. Victims know pain very very well. We become co-dependent to perpetrators. Run that around in your brain a few minutes. We clearly become codependent for that is what we know. When we become healthy is when we are aware of the stimuli of anger, understand it’s premise, trust a lover or peer for help, admit our error and work through the anger by motivating us to seek change. Hence, my book, these writing, Peace and Healing.com, and allowing myself to trust others. Recognizing my anger is recognizing my trauma, my errors and moving through it.
What artist, writer, musician has not found creativity through their personal experience with emotions of sadness, depression and most importantly anger. Anger motivates causes, families to seek treatment, marital couples to get better or move on with their lives and motivates athletes to improve. Yes, anger can be destructive and hurtful to the self and others; however if WE DO NOT LOOK AT THE POSITIVES of anger then we are unfairly stereotyping an emotion that was given to us at birth. Why repress or deny an emotion that can be used effectively? Learn not to be scared of anger and you will learn a new path in life and possibly a more creative future.