Monday, May 31, 2010

General Causes of Anger--Part I

General Causes of Anger--Part I
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist for over
twenty-five years, I run into eight conditinos every day.
These include problems with relationships, assertiveness,
self-esteem, anxiety, depression, employment, divorce and
anger management. This last area touches all the other
areas if not understood.
This is Part I of a two-part series of aricles on anger
management. It addresses some of the basic theories
psychologists have written about for the last fifty years,
and then approaches more current thinking. Please read
this article before reading the next.
According to some psychologists, some people really
are more "hotheaded" than others. They get angry more
easily and more intensely than the average person.
People who are easily angered generally have what some
psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration;
meaning simply that they feel that they should not have
to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or
annoyance. They can't take things in stride, and they
are particularly infuriated if the situation seems
somehow unjust; for example, being corrected for a minor
There are also those who don't show their anger in
loud spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and
grumpy (heading towards Type II pathology in my nosology).
In these cases, easily angered people don't always curse
and throw things. Sometimes they socially withdraw, sulk,
or get physically ill (hence the term “conversion” in conversion
hysteria). Type II anger folks are much more likely to
transmute anger into one of the feelings that causes
withdrawal or dampening of overt reactions; like hurt or
What makes these people this way? One cause may be
genetic or physiological. There is evidence that some
children are born irritable, touchy and easily angered,
and that these signs are present from a very early age.
In rare cases there are elevated androgen levels.
Another reason may be socio-cultural. Anger is often
regarded as negative in other countries. People in other
cultures are sometimes taught that it’s all right to express
anxiety, depression, or other emotions--but not anger.
As a result, they don't learn how to handle it or channel
it constructively.
Psychologists have long recognized that family background
plays a role. Typically, people who are easily angered come
from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at
emotional communications. The fruit does not fall far from
the tree.
There also are psychological tests that measure the
intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger you are and
how well (or poorly) you “handle” it. But most of us
already know these things, either intuitively or just from
the feedback we get from others. If you are reading this
article, chances are someone recommended it to you, or told you
about your moods or your behaviors.
To start managing anger, you first have to take a long
look at yourself. What are the factors that cause YOU to
“lose it?” Please read Part II of this series of articles.

-Dr. Griggs

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