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Anger and Aggression

by Jake Colton

Anger and Aggression

  1. Anger and Aggression – Definitions
  2. Anger Assessment – Frequency? Intensity?
  3. Anger – Triggers and Functions
  4. Drugs, Alcohol, and Anger

How we deal with stress, disappointments, and frustration determines the essence of our personality. Anger may do more harm than any other emotion.

Anger and Aggression – Definitions

Definition of ANGER

1. a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a perceived wrong; wrath; ire.
2. (psych) An emotional state that may range in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Anger has physical effects including raising the heart rate and blood pressure and the levels of adrenaline and noradrenaline.

Definition of AGGRESSION
1. a forceful action or procedure (as an unprovoked attack) especially when intended to dominate or master
2. hostile, injurious, or destructive behavior or outlook especially when caused by frustration
3. Psychiatry . overt or suppressed hostility, either innate or resulting from continued frustration and directed outward or against oneself.

Anger Assessment

There are so many frustrations in our daily lives; one could easily become chronically irritated. Perhaps more important than the variety of things that anger us, is (1) the intensity of our anger and (2) the degree of control we have over our anger.
How much anger do you have? – Ask yourself these kind of questions:

  • Do you have a quick or a hot temper? Do you suppress or hide
    your anger (passive-aggressive or victim)?
  • Do you get irritated when someone gets in your way? fails to
    give you credit for your work? criticizes your looks or opinions
    or work? gives themselves advantages over you?
  • Do you get angry at yourself when you make a foolish mistake?
    do poorly in front of others? put off important things? do
    something against your morals or better judgment?
  • Do you drink alcohol or use drugs? Do you get angry or mellow
    when you are high?

Anger – Triggers and Functions

Anger can be the result of hurt pride, of unreasonable expectations, or of repeated hostile fantasies. Besides getting our way, we may unconsciously use anger to blame others for our own shortcomings, to justify oppressing others, to boost our own sagging egos, to conceal other feelings, and to handle other emotions (as when we become aggressive when we are afraid). Any situation that frustrates us, especially when we think someone else is to blame for our loss, is a potential trigger for anger and aggression.

Younger preschoolers often engage in “Instrumental Aggression” or behavior involving hitting, kicking, or shouting to obtain a desired object. In contrast, middle preschoolers often use “Hostile Aggression” with peers to retaliate for a perceived hurt or a wrong. Hostile Aggression takes two forms: Overt Aggression, which is harming someone through physical injury or threatening to harm someone with physical injury, and Relational Aggression, which damages another child’s peer relationships (e.g., social exclusion or rumor spreading).

Adult aggression is often different than childhood aggression in expression of it, but not in the process of that expression. That is why people often feel embarrassed or guilty after an anger outburst or acting aggressively towards others. They realize their behavior is “childish.”

Alcohol and Aggression

Alcohol and anger can be a dangerous combination. The more a person drinks when he or she is angry the stronger the association will grow. Add on top of that the fact that alcohol is a depressant and increased intoxication results in decreased activity in the frontal cortex of the brain. Guess which region of the brain is the most important in regulating anger and turning potential blow ups into manageable frustrations? Yep, it’s the frontal cortex. In a “blackout” state of intoxication, otherwise frustrated people can turn into angry monsters and in that unrestrained state of being verbal and physical aggression can emerge resulting in irreparable harm to relationships.

Anger and Aggression Treatment

As adults we learn to recognize our instincts, but not act on them. The energy is then released in more assertive and socially appropriate methods. Treatment for people with anger and aggression problems focuses on recognizing anger, managing it, and finding healthy outlets. For people with a serious problem, easier said then done, but the doing is essential in order to enhance the emotional and mental well being of the person with the anger problem as well as prevent the damaging outcomes of aggression and violence towards others.

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