- Chapter 13 -
ANGER AS CONTROL
t is hopeless to say, "Never get angry." Anger is such a normal human emotion that even the Bible recognizes this as a fact. The important point is how the anger is handled by the individual, and there are a variety of ways to do that.
One aspect of anger is that it can be an effective method of control, that is control over situations and control over people. It can overpower the opposition, and it can create timidity and even fear on the part of other people so that they dare not cross or disagree with the angry one. But this kind of behavior can be harmful, and even devastating to relationships. It also brings about an unhealthy situation in which other employees, friends, or family members get together to plan how to circumvent the problems created by the angry one, which means that he or she is detrimentally excluded from councils which clearly are of the utmost importance.
In many cases, it is wise to consider the person more than the issue. One may win an argument, but the other individual may be hurt and alienated. People frequently get so involved with the subject at hand that this is a fact which escapes them. Children complain about an angry parent, and, in later years when they look back, they hardly remember the issues, but they do remember the anger.
It is tragic when a person is afflicted with what is called floating hostility. This is hostility which is on the surface or just below the surface and which frequently erupts. It can spew out on a family member or a fellow worker, or on the people one comes in contact with every day: the waiter, the gas station attendant, or the salesperson. The angry one justifies his or her anger by the event, "He deserved it; look what he did.", ignoring the fact that it causes hurt feelings. The angry one either does not realize it or does not care.
There is another interesting aspect to floating hostility, which relates to the Type A person, as described by cardiac researchers. They found that certain people with identifiable personality characteristics were more prone to heart attacks. They analyzed them as being individuals who work hard, are conscious of time, are ambitious, and who become angry easily. With time and further research, however, some researchers concluded that floating hostility was the most important factor in causing premature heart attacks for Type A's. It does something to the insides.
On occasions, anger can serve a useful purpose. When a person has something stuck in his or her craw, it should come out, and it may take anger for the person to spill it. If it is followed by an exchange of emotion and a rational follow-up, though, it can be beneficial.
At various times, as there are cyclical swings in the field of psychiatry, patients are encouraged to express their anger, to "let their feelings out." A pat phrase is, "My emotions should be validated." Clearly, if one's feelings are bottled up and the person does not have reasonable freedom to express them, the situation should be addressed, and many a person has been helped by therapy in this regard. But we have also seen situations in which the "Express-your-anger" concept has been overdone, and has been taken as a license to let fly, to the detriment of relationships. This questionable method is frequently used to control other people, perhaps unconsciously.
Can a person modify one's excessive anger and floating hostility to benefit relationships? It depends on how much he or she values the relationships. But, even more, it depends on the ability to identify the problem and the willingness to change. People have such a capacity for self-anesthesia that they often are not aware of some of the things they are doing in life. Individuals with floating hostility continually justify it by citing the situations that confront them, rather than realizing it is their attitude that brings them trouble.
Centuries ago Aristotle said it best, "Anyone can become angry - that is easy. But to be angry at the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not easy."
Some people justify their actions with the classic inevitability theory: "My father was angry. I was born angry. I am angry. I will continue to be angry." However, with the identification of the problem and the desire, behavior can be modified. After all, there are people who formerly got angry very easily, and who do not any more! And there are those who dropped other unfortunate characteristics which their parents had, such as overweight, excessive drinking, and unfaithfulness and which they at one time thought were dictated by birth. Despite what some people think, such personal traits are not irrevocably inherited.
It is an interesting fact that some people mellow in life and others become more cantankerous. It shows that change either way is possible.