By peace | January 12, 2007
For every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness.
Chronic anger may have roots in early childhood experiences. In classical psychoanalysis, the id, the primitive, inborn self, is the source of aggressiveness. The superego, the moral self, comes into being as a result of socializing experiences. The moral self may not develop adequately because of ineffective parenting. In such a case, the id has too much influence on the adult personality and expresses itself too readily. Thus, the individual who manifests chronic anger is sometimes seen in psychoanalysis as a case of arrested emotional development. This is evidenced in familiar commonsense statements such as “He’s just a big baby” or “I wish she’d grow up” or “She’s just a brat”.
The psychoanalyst Karen Horney theorized that victims of chronic anger may not have had their emotional needs met in infancy and toddlerhood. This led them to suffer from an underlying condition called basic anxiety, the unverbalized impression that the world is unsafe and threatening. One way an adult can defend against basic anxiety is by repressing it and converting it to anger. Threats are anticipated and dealt with while they are still far away on the psychological horizon. Thus, Horney looks on much chronic anger as a defense against emotional insecurity.
Longitudinal studies by developmental psychologists on traits of temperament suggest that these traits are to some extent inborn and relatively stable. Some children are more aggressive than others, and this is just their basic disposition. Although this is not an explanation of chronic anger, such a trait of temperament, if present, may interact with other causes and amplify chronic anger.
If a child grows up in a family that allows itself frequent irrational outbursts of anger, then observational learning can play a role in a tendency toward chronic anger. The adult may be imitating the behaviour of parents or older siblings. The individual was given tacit permission as a child to express aggressive impulses without sufficient restraint.
It is possible that the angry adult was a verbal or physical bully as a child or adolescent. Such behaviour often intimidates others and may bring short-term psychological payoffs. If so, the behaviour is reinforced and tends to become a trait of personality.
The aggressive adult may have been a hyperactive child. (Aggressiveness and hyperactivity are often linked in children.) One factor that appears to play an important role in childhood hyperactivity is minimal brain dysfunction (MBD). MBD is not gross damage, nor does it impair basic intelligence. However, it appears to be related to a problem in the brain center that controls arousal. Although it is commonplace to say that hyperactivity is something that will be outgrown in adulthood, it is possible that hyperactive tendencies carry over to some extent in some persons, and in turn, magnify normal anger into chronic anger.
Chronic anger may be aggravated by interpersonal problems. Here is an example. Mabel is married to a man who is a whining, clinging, sorry-for-himself individual. His constant self-indulgent laments leave her feeling frustrated. Mabel has an aggressive temperament. Consequently, it is not much of a wonder that she makes her husband the target of hostile remarks. She is angry, in a constant state of emotional irritation, and she expresses herself accordingly.
A basic way to understand anger is to refer to the frustration-aggression hypothesiss, which states that aggression is a natural response to frustration. Frustration is a state that occurs when the motivated individual is unable to
1. attain a desirable goal or
2. to escape from , or avoid, an unpleasant situation.
If you intensely desire a promotion and it goes to someone else, you will be frustrated and in turn angry. If you feel trapped in an unhappy relationship, again you will be frustrated and in turn , angry. Chronic anger may result when an individual believes, correctly or incorrectly, that life presents a constant stream of frustrating events.
The psychiatrist William Glasser, father of reality therapy, makes the point that anger is, to a large extent, self-induced. It is not only a reaction to a situation, it is a voluntary action. A person creates anger by his or her evaluations and choices, and thus needs to take responsibility for the anger.
People, like pins, are useless if they lose their heads.