Anger: A Primary Emotion
When Anger Isn't Healthy
- When it can be easily triggered by the slightest situation
- When it is used to dominate others in obtaining what one wants
- When it is your normal response to most of life’s situations
- When anger is confused and someone feels as the victim, projecting anger on to others
Is It OK To Hold IN YOur Anger?
However, holding in anger can become unhealthy if this is done too often or for too long. Repression should generally be seen as a temporary solution for difficult situations - not as a general way of managing anger.
If someone represses anger for too long, it can become quite difficult to control your response and things can easily get out of hand. Research has found that not expressing emotion does not cause those feelings to disappear. Instead, your brain finds other ways to express them, like through dreams or with other people.
If you find that you are over reacting to someone, it may be because you are holding in your emotions with others. It’s important to find a way to properly express anger or it can become a real problem – especially if you start directing your anger at everyone and no-one in particular. This is the kind of anger that can destroy relationships and make people turn away.
What Causes Anger?
Anger is one of the most basic and safe expressions of feelings. Often other feelings are involved, but if a person feels unsafe - anger will likely be the felt and expressed emotion. Once a person feels after, they will often be able to identify more vulnerable feelings like anxiety or sadness.
Some theorists claim aggression is an innate response to most threats and some people are naturally more aggressive than others. But other researchers suggest that aggression is a response that is learned from experience. Regardless of how it starts, most aggressive responses are not socially accepted and may have serious repercussions.
Different Types of Aggression
- Natural or positive – when one’s trying to defense themselves from a real threat
- Pathological – when it’s the only response to life’s situations
- Hostile – when the behavior is intended to hurt others
- Instrumental – when it’s aimed at simply obtaining what one wants
Expressions of Aggression
- Shouting and swearing
- Insulting others
- Threatening gestures and non-verbal expressions of anger
- Sending messages through various channels
- Harassment in its various forms (emotional, psychological, physical)
Aggression and Power/Sex
Getting results is not the only reason people use aggression. It can also give people a sense of power and dominance, which can be an addictive feeling. Feeling in control, even for a moment, can be particularly attractive for individuals who haven't been able to obtain this feeling in more socially acceptable ways.
Another expression of aggression and dominance/power can be through sex. Even non-sexual dominance can become sexual for some individuals. For example, getting a promotion at work can promote a sexual response in some individuals. This is often why power imbalanced relationships (such as employer employee relationships) can become sexualized. That is, having a position of power can create a sexual response. There is much to say about this topic, but for this article it is perhaps enough to say that there is a significant relationship between sex and aggression for some individuals.
If you are experiencing anger or an aggressive impulse, it might not be best just to dismiss it. Understanding your emotions and impulses can help you to identify threats and problems in your life and it can give you the energy to make positive changes.
By the Couples Clinic