All the proffered reasons for anger are based on flawed human judgment - a knee-jerk reaction, which triggers blindness to another viewpoint. Originally a primeval reaction to a territorial threat, anger views the opponent as an enemy. Blindly following this view, the emotion applies escalating hostility to solve day to day problems. Being a self reinforcing emotion, anger foolishly yells louder and louder to achieve its objective. Both its initiation and its relentless escalation are not within conscious human control. It seizes your mind and takes you on a ride, starting from indignation and resentment leading finally to rage and self destruction.
Anger spreads discord. It damages the fabric of society itself by using the vast resources of the human mind to produce a legion of warped reasons to justify aggression. An observer can only ask “Why get so angry about it?” Reason and compassion are incomparably better tools for achieving objectives. Once you fall into the clutches of anger, only practiced self awareness (or your opponent's self control) can rescue you. Brutish instincts are the reasons for anger.
Flawed Reasons For Anger – The Effects Of Anger
The raw responses, which simulate anger, are triggered by the hypothalamus, one of nature's earliest defense mechanisms. This organ activates the sympathetic system, which heightens emotional arousal by controlling the reproductive, vegetative, endocrine, hormonal and visceral functions of the body. Cortisol production is increased, the heart beats more rapidly and blood pressure rises, breathing becomes faster, the sympathetic nervous system diverts blood from the liver, stomach and intestines to the heart, central nervous system and the muscles.
The hypothalamus spreads the effects of anger throughout the body. A man, with severe brain damage, which spared the hypothalamus, reacted with howling, growling, and baring of teeth in response to simple sound or touch stimuli, or even if approached. The self reinforcing mechanical responses of anger are inbuilt. Anger initiates a frame of mind, which prepares the body for action. The mind enters an excited state and prepares for violence.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – Crude Pattern Recognition
The hypothalamus is activated by the amygdala, a one inch long bundle of neurons, which triggers the fight or flight responses in animals. Inherited and acquired memories determine the choice between anger and fear by the amygdala. The initiation of anger by the organ bypasses the more prudent higher level evaluation, using a “quick and dirty” circuit.
While the pragmatic evaluation of an event by the prefrontal regions takes 300 milliseconds, the amygdala reacts in just 20 milliseconds. The mere photo of an angry face can trigger anger impulses. Without knowing the reasons, people can become angry about a sudden noise, an interruption of their work, or even a facial expression. Then, anger searches your memories to find reasons to justify its needless aggression.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – Unrelated Body Signals
Instead of being a response to territorial threats, unrelated signals from the body blind you to another viewpoint. The amygdala signals anger on receiving any distress signal from the body.
Signals from a range of physical conditions can trigger irrational hostility and aggression - over-tiredness, hunger, sexual frustration, hormonal changes due to puberty, pre-menstruation, menopause and child birth, physical craving for addictive substances such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine or other drugs, intoxication, physical illness, or living with chronic or acute pain. None of these conditions justify aggression against a neighbor, or a passerby. Yet the brain will locate a reason for rudeness or violence.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – Common Sense Looks Away
Anger has become an instinctive tool, which seeks to confront and overcome social challenges. The angry response is almost mechanical. In a recent study, a majority out of 160 tested subjects instinctively moved a joystick to bring an angry face closer, if the process changed the angry face into a submissive fearful face. An angry approach is instinctively believed to enforce submission. People, who are prone to anger, are seldom aware of their tendency to resort to angry responses. For them, anger is the only available response for any upsetting event.
A belief in anger as a social response has tragic effects. The conviction blinds the prefrontal regions, which can effortlessly suppress anger. Those regions can see other viewpoints. Even as that policeman looks the other way, a second network adds fuel to the fire. The brain has a mirror neuron network, which senses and reflects the emotions of the opponent. While the system normally enables empathy and intimate dialogue, during any confrontation, the neurons sense and reflect back the fury of the opponent. Not balanced by reason, imitating the emotions of the agitated opponent, anger builds even more reasons for its own justification.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – Raised Cortisol Seeks Trouble
A calm approach is needed to deal with an angry person. But if you become angry, the resulting hormonal changes will increases the tendency to reciprocate anger. Those changes cause your mind to focus on angry faces and to ignore people, who are normal, or even fearful. Cortisol and testosterone levels increase with anger.
Researchers discovered that raised cortisol levels increase the sensitivity of the brain to neural stimuli indicating angry faces, while reducing sensitivity to ordinary faces. The hormones triggered by anger proceed to seek out trouble. While the emotion may be triggered for any number of reasons, the raised hormonal levels search the environment to discover the cause of a threatened feeling. Aggressive animal behavior also seeks to provoke the threatening opponent. By provoking retaliation, anger seeks to draw out the enemy for its violent elimination.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – The Working Memory
Anger degrades the working memory regions of the brain. Those regions assemble varied viewpoints for evaluation to enable alert and positive thinking. Amishi Jha, an eminent neuroscientist, writes that activity in those regions prevents distraction and emotional reactivity. The regions enable quick and considered decisions and action plans. Just a momentary degradation makes it difficult to add 12 to 23, or to size up another's problems. Experiments show that unpleasant states such as anger, disgust and fear degrade working memory capacity. With a debased working memory, anger presents the mind with its own meager options, all pointing to aggression.
A driver cuts into someone's lane and causes a scrape. Just as indignation flashes, the offender screams curses. Anger sees “legitimate reasons” and degrades the working memory. Common sense responses - to recognize and quiet the natural indignation, ignore the rudeness and follow up on insurance claims – are ignored. Without space for reasonable responses, the victim's displeasure rises to resentment and then escalates into the vindictive destruction of road rage. The working memory has no room to store and evaluate the consequences of rage.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – The Least Force
Most people, who switch easily to anger expect to win through aggression. Threat displays and intimidating thrusts settle the majority of conflicts in the animal kingdom. Display of body size, antlers, claws or teeth are typical signals. Vocalizations including bird song; chemicals; pigments, and aggressive facial expressions also settle such conflicts without a need to resort to violence. In tight confrontation situations in modern life also a strong backup, along with a show of force, is necessary.
Goleman, the emotions expert, writes that in the crime prone environments of New York city, the best police officers use the least necessary force. They approach an abusive motorist calmly and attentively in a professional manner. They remain unruffled and respond firmly to abusive language. Goleman reports that this strategy has a better chance of getting people to comply. The traffic policemen in the city, who use the least-force approach report the fewest incidents of escalating violence with angry drivers. The objective of subduing threats through hostile aggression is a flawed reason for anger.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger – Righteous Indignation
Righteous indignation has historically been a reason for anger. Indignation concerns anger aroused by something unjust, mean or unworthy. Usually, someone, who has breached a moral code is disliked, leading to avoidance behavior. But, some groups recommend the expression of vehement indignation in condemning a breach of a particular moral code. These groups also share their anger. At their meetings, they tend to remember and focus on angry thoughts. They are more likely to respond to “they should be taught a lesson,” than to “those people may have problems.”
Nurtured resentment builds to hate and thoughts of vengeance. The thrill of getting revenge becomes a pleasurable activity, where dopamine releases increase energy and alertness. Once on this path, vindictiveness follows, which seeks ingenious and laborious means to give pain to the 'immoral” groups. The end result is usually destructive. Righteous indignation is merely territorial hostility expressed in self-righteous words. Their reasons for anger are warped.
Flawed Reasons For Anger –The Antidote
The driver ahead of us is driving too slow, too fast, cuts us off, or makes some other awful error. Expecting them to do "the right thing" just sets you up to be frustrated and angry. You waste time and energy by expecting a different world. The perception of the actions of the driver ahead triggers anger, which plunges you into dissatisfaction. The key to viewing his action as if it were “just a bird in the sky” is self awareness.
Developing self awareness is a process of becoming intensely aware of any emotion, which disturbs you. Fear, anger, envy, jealousy, and guilt are all emotions, which cause the amygdala to trigger stress within your body. It takes practice to know that the misbehavior of the driver causes discernible stress within you. But, when you have learned to identify the symptoms of stress, your prefrontal regions take control. The wisdom of millions of years will immediately inform you of what is not important. If the driver ahead of you misbehaves, you will become more cautious and alert – not indignant.
The Flawed Reasons For Anger –Alertness, Not Anger
The events, which trigger your anger may need to be dealt with sooner, or later. Your reasons for anger may have legitimate causes. Your opponent may need to be completely destroyed for your own survival. You need to be alert and have all your senses around you. Giving in to anger in such cases merely incapacitates you.
In his famous novel, James Clavell outlines the strategy of Lord Toranaga to conquer his last powerful rival and become the Shogun of Japan - wait patiently until “one day, he will make one mistake and then, he too will be gone!” That requires an unparalleled level of clear sighted vision, not blind rage. Whatever your reasons, anger is not the solution.
This page was last updated on 01-Jan-2014
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