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Stress, Anger and Family

By Marty Brenner, C.C.D.C. #104227

Anger gave your prehistoric ancestors the courage and strength to kill very large, very scary prey. This powerful emotion causes a cascade of physiological changes that make you strong enough, quick enough to defend yourself when you are in serious trouble. Anger puts the fight in the fight-or-flight reflex humans rely on when in mortal danger. Modern man doesn’t have to struggle against saber-toothed tigers anymore, but he does have to find a way to control stress in his life so he doesn’t burst into a fit of anger during dinner with his family every night. Click here to read more »

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Good Anger

Humans possess a wide variety of emotions, some positive and others negative. Love, affection, safety and respect are positive emotions that make you feel good inside. Negative emotions, such as loneliness, fear and anger feel unpleasant. We are sometimes taught as very young children to express only positive emotions and suppress negative ones rather than dealing with the issues that triggered these responses.

Anger is the emotion you feel towards something that is offensive, dangerous or annoying. You need this emotion to protect yourself against a cruel and dangerous world and to set boundaries with others. An angry outburst is a clear signal that someone has offended you and a sign that you are willing to fight back. People are less likely to continue a behavior if they know the activity will elicit an angry response.

Anger is the powerful emotion that allows you to stand up for yourself or something you are passionate about. When you get angry about something, you send a clear signal to observers that you have deep feelings about the matter and are willing to fight for it. Well-expressed anger commands respect and cooperation from others. You can use good anger to move from a bad or unpleasant situation into a more positive one.

Humans have a natural need to feel safe and secure. Our natural inclination is to always move away from fearful situations and towards our own comfort zone where we feel positive emotions. When your safety is threatened, anger is one of the two emotions that your body uses to defend itself. Fear is the other emotion. This is the classic fight-or-flight reaction – anger helps us fight our way out of danger while fear tells us to run away. If humans did not possess the emotion of anger, we would only feel fear when we are in danger.

Good anger provides the emotional power behind the fight-or-flight instinct. Anger is the emotion of a fighter whereas fear is associated with a victim. Anger gives you the emotional, and sometimes physical, power to overcome the threat and return to a place where you feel comfortable and secure. Anger is a natural reaction to threats, actual or perceived, empowering you to deal with dangerous and overwhelming obstacles that you would not normally be able to overcome.

Healthy anger is a momentary reaction to a negative situation. Once the unpleasant circumstance has been resolved, healthy anger dissipates and you feel happy again. For example, your new puppy nips at your face. You shout at the puppy to defend yourself and display your displeasure. The dog now knows she should not bite and you immediately regain affection for the puppy.
Good anger is a natural and useful emotion that protects and empowers you in dangerous situations. You can use healthy anger to improve your surroundings and mark your personal boundaries. Good anger quickly and effectively changes a bad circumstance into a positive experience.

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Bad Anger

Humans possess a wide variety of emotions, ranging from love to hate and everywhere in between. While psychologists disagree about the exact number of emotions, most would agree emotions are either negative or positive. Love, compassion, respect and happiness are positive emotions, whereas fear and anger are negative. Despite scientists’ attempts to put emotions into tidy categories, human emotions show varying shades of good and bad. Anger, generally considered a negative emotion, actually gives you the emotional power to overcome frightening or overwhelming obstacles, or to set clear boundaries of personal space. Repressed or poorly expressed anger, however, can become unhealthy.

Nature bestowed the emotion of anger to humans as the fight portion of the fight-or-flight response to danger. When you are in mortal danger, your brain decides whether you should be fearful and run away, or if you should be angry enough to fight. Without anger, you would only feel fear in dangerous circumstances and unable to fend for yourself in a fight. While it is a necessary emotion, anger is a bad emotion when expressed excessively or inappropriately.

Anger becomes an unhealthy emotion when it becomes part of a lifestyle, or when your anger infringes on the health and well-being of others. Frustration builds when displaying anger does not resolve the unpleasant situation or relieve the negative emotions. Frustration grows more quickly than it dissipates and it seems to increase exponentially – the more frustrated you become, the harder it is to feel happy. Eventually, the pent up frustration bursts into emotional rage. Rage is a potentially dangerous reaction to anger and frustration suppressed for extended periods of time.
An outrageous outburst is an obvious example of bad anger but there are other types of this negative behavior. A person might acquire passive-aggressive anger issues, where he expresses his anger indirectly through counter-productive actions instead of openly communicating his thoughts and feelings. He may agree with you verbally, even enthusiastically, about a project or idea but then procrastinate on deadlines or make a lot of mistakes when performing the task. For example, a husband may agree to help with housework but only does half the dishes and forgets the laundry entirely. He does a poor job of doing housework instead of directly communicating his underlying resentment for having to do chores.

Bad anger becomes a habit and, in a chronic state, will take a toll on your emotional well-being and your body. Anger, as a protective emotion, gives you the emotional power to dominate things you view as unjust or distasteful. Anger can become addictive in the way it gives you a feeling of superiority or righteousness. Left unchecked, a person with chronic bad anger is perpetually in the fight mode of the fight-or-flight response. He begins to view everyone and everything as a mortal threat and responds to all his problems with inappropriate anger.

Bad anger breaks down communication and disintegrates the fabric of trust in both personal and professional relationships. Anger is a protective emotion that temporarily disrupts empathetic and bilateral communication between you and your enemy so that he cannot recognize your weaknesses and attack your emotional soft spots- anger allows you to set clear boundaries. When you employ anger excessively or inappropriately, you erode the foundations of two-way communication. As humans, we are programmed to avoid people who are angry.

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Anger

Humans are complicated creatures. We have physical attributes that set us apart from others in the animal kingdom, like walking upright and having opposable thumbs, but people also possess reasoning skills and a wide variety of emotions. All people are capable of anger, and anger does play an important role in our lives. Stressful or dangerous events trigger the emotion of anger, which results in a variety of physical and psychological effects.

The scientific community debates just how many emotions are common to all human beings, but most would categorize emotions as either basically negative or positive. Emotions are typically happy or sad. Anger falls into the negative category, usually associated with unhappy times. Anger is a perfectly normal emotion, a healthy defensive reaction to an unpleasant or potentially harmful event.
Early man depended on anger to help him kill very large, scary prey and to protect himself and his family from predators and invasions. In today’s world, new circumstances trigger this ancient emotion, like a traffic jam or a stressful work environment. Nowadays, anger is caused by frustration or thinking that others do not respect or care about your feelings. For example, the idiot on the highway doesn’t care that the traffic jam is making you late for the much-needed job where you are already in trouble. A person may exhibit a single angry outburst as a direct result of an isolated situation, or they may develop a pattern of chronic anger in which negative emotions are triggered by “hot buttons.”

You may feel anger internally, inside your head and your heart, but others can see your angst on your face and in your body language. Emotions cause real physiologic changes in your brain and the rest of your body. When you become angry, the portion of your brain responsible for emotion, or amygdala, becomes highly active and wants to respond to the threat. At the same time, blood flow increases to your frontal lobe, the area of your brain responsible for reason. For a moment, these two areas battle it out to decide whether the situation warrants reason or emotion. When the amygdale wins, the brain triggers a cascade of events that empower your body to react angrily to the threat including the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your muscle tension, heart rate and blood pressure.

Some physiological symptoms of anger include grinding your teeth, clenching your fist, a pale or flushed face and sweating. You may feel numbness, muscle tension, a prickly or tingling sensation and temperature changes. Real or perceived threats, born of frustration or poor relationships with others, cause these physical changes but also have psychological affects as well.
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Anger often carries other emotional baggage, like shame, self-loathing and addiction, especially if you do not manage your anger well. Repressing or indulging in angry behavior becomes a defense mechanism that protects you from the uncomfortable threat. Eventually, it will seem easier to build increasingly large emotional barriers and to leave them up instead of dealing with the situation that caused the anger in the first place.

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