by Marty Brenner
Anger is exciting. An angry episode can transform a boring day into an epic event. Television shows and movies create emotional excitement around anger, where the good guy finally grows angry at the evil around him and takes heroic measures to right the world’s injustices. Anger is a powerful and emotionally charged reaction to a dramatic and life-threatening event. For some, anger becomes the foundation of an exciting life in a phenomenon known as excitatory anger.
When you find yourself in a potentially life-threatening situation, certain sections of your brain light up with electrical activity as you decide whether you should stand and fight or run away. This is known as the fight-or-flight reaction. If the portion of your brain responsible for anger and aggression wins, your brain triggers a cascade of physical reactions that temporarily increases your ability to fight back. Your blood pressure rises, your heart beats faster and you breathe more rapidly. Adrenaline rushes through your system, giving you temporary strength by improving the way your muscles use oxygen and heightens the way you respond to stimulus. This physiological response to anger can feel quite positive, even fun, in somewhat the same way a roller coaster is a pleasurable response to fear.
Adrenaline can be addicting. It is natural to enjoy the adrenaline rush you get from watching a scary movie, driving a car quickly or falling in love. You may even participate in moderately or very dangerous activities to stimulate adrenaline, like skydiving or mountain climbing. If you have a problem with excitatory anger, you find anger to be a pleasurable and exciting experience that you want to indulge in as often as possible. Adrenaline is the drug of choice for excitatory anger addicts.
Like other drugs, you must participate in increasingly angry behavior more frequently to feel the rush from excitatory anger. Your tolerance to anger increases, requiring you sustain higher levels of anger for increasingly longer periods of time and experience them more often. Because adrenaline is a physical stimulant, you feel compelled to express your excitatory anger through aggressive behavior. Increasing your threshold of excitatory anger also increases the likelihood that you will engage in violent behavior.
Excitatory anger blurs the line between pleasure and pain. You probably regard anger as a negative emotion to be used in times of extreme emergencies. Anger is usually associated with painful or unpleasant circumstances. A person who engages in excitatory anger derives a certain pleasure from being an angry state of mind. He may soon confuse the pleasure he feels in a loving relationship with the rush of anger. Left unchecked, he may enter the cycle of “I love you, therefore I hit you” because he can no longer tell the difference between intimacy and intimidation.
While you may prefer a quiet, peaceful existence, an excitatory anger junkie cannot tolerate the boredom of daily life. He will pick fights for no apparent reason and seek out relationships with volatile and unstable people. He is addicted to the adrenaline rush he gets from being angry and needs an ever-increasing dose of anger to achieve a pleasurable state of mind.