The Causes of Anger: they’re not all ‘out there’
Ask an angry person why she’s so angry and she’s likely to cite a long list of reasons – too much pressure, a nasty boss, a rebellious teenager, a car that’s broken down again, a spouse who’s not helpful, recent weight gain, and so on. The reasons don’t matter; what’s significant is that they’re all ‘out there,’ out of her control.
But while our anger may have triggers outside of ourselves, we often promote our own anger through our actions and habits.
- We often respond with anger when we can’t make ourselves understood. If we make the effort to replace our anger with better communication skills, we can do a better job of explaining our needs, feelings and ideas; if we don’t make the effort, we’re using anger as an ‘easy out.’
- We may respond with anger because our early role models – our parents or caregivers – expressed themselves that way. If we break that cycle by learning better relationship skills, we’ll have less need to communicate with anger; if we blame our parents and cling to those early messages, our anger will assure that we stay locked into unhappiness.
- We frequently feel that our anger is ‘righteous,’ that other people are obviously wrong. We feel justified when we lash out with anger. But by using anger to communicate, we are less persuasive and continually undermine the respect of others that we so deeply desire.
- We may feel that no one respects us or listens to us and that the only way to get attention is to put on a show of anger. Instead of anger, if we treated others with the attention and respect we want for ourselves, our relationships might improve significantly.
Interestingly, when we focus on repairing our own habits of anger, we often experience a dramatic drop in the ‘out there’ reasons to be angry. Healing our past wounds and reversing our habits of anger requires commitment and help. But the rewards – restored relationships, renewed self-esteem, improved satisfaction with life and work – are tremendous, long-lasting and worthwhile.
A skilled therapist can help us identify the triggers for our anger and develop better ways of understanding, validating and expressing our feelings.