Are You Angry?

Last week someone showed me a finger while I was driving. The person was trying to make a right turn and I happen to be coming in that lane. Clearly I was not doing anything wrong but my fellow human was really upset. His reaction made me angry(automatically) and also curious as to why am I getting angry at angry people? I got better things to do but the almost instant brain response to threat was anger. A complicated threat (it is unknown to my primitive brain as no wild animal was attacking me) made by a hand gesture which was learnt as a theory by my modern brain to be perceived as an attack on ego.

Anger is a is nothing more than a defense mechanism created to hurt others but, in the end, it only hurts one person: Myself.

The Neurological Imperative: Conserve EnergyThrough the process of habituation, a perception of ego vulnerability, repeated over time, consolidates into a presumption of vulnerability, which requires the continual protection of anger. Also by virtue of habituation, the repeated experience of anger in defense of the ego reinforces its sense of vulnerability. The more you experience anger, the more anger you need to experience.
InflationIn addition to needing more and more protection from threat, the angry person attempts to reduce the fear and sense of inadequacy (shame) that go with a vulnerable ego, through a process of inflation. An inflated ego is one whose value depends on downward comparison to the value and rights of others - I'm not equal, I'm better! In addition to temporarily making the ego feel less vulnerable, inflation justifies the motivations of anger to prevail and dominate. It also creates a sense of entitlement - I deserve special regard, treatment, or resources - that is certain to cause negative reactions in others and require a response of still more defensive anger. As if that weren't bad enough, inflation guarantees cognitive dissonance whenever reality smacks against the overestimation of intelligence, talents, looks, shoes, or socks - whatever is used to inflate the ego.

So how do you control anger when people pull your sensitivity strings
(tips below from
1. Their anger is not your business. Remember, this angry attitude is springing from a deep rooted self-importance, a BIG ego, an over-inflated sense of self. You don’t need to teach them a lesson because life will, it always does. Life is very good at sticking a needle at every ego. Adopt this attitude towards people who are clearly on an ego trip and take solace in the fact that all big egos burst eventually. It’s just how things work in this universe governed by the laws of cause and effect.
2. What’s driving this madness?  Its always wise give people a benefit of the doubt, it’s just easier this way. People act the way they feel.
3. Is it personal? It’s very easy to overlook that many times irrational and angry behaviour is not personal.
4. You don’t have to live with it. Yes of course its irritating when people are arrogant and lack mindfulness of others, but then again you have to wonder what a variety of ugly predicaments they find themselves in with this character trait. We have to put up with this “crap” for a minute but someone actually has to live with them 24/7!


There's no shortage of theories about why people get angry. It happens for four main reasons:

1. To harm oneself. Being depressed often results in anger directed at oneself for feeling and being powerless, and represents a wish for self-destruction.
Depression is almost certainly the cause and should be identified and treated.

2. To achieve control. Whether arising from paralyzing fear or merely irritation that things are going differently than we want, anger is often used to intimidate in order to manipulate.
Ask yourself why you feel out of control. Fear is a common reason. Actually lacking control is another. Anger is, fortunately or unfortunately, often a good strategy to regain control in the short-term, and easier to feel than many of the emotions that trigger it. But as it ultimately remains an expression of our unfulfilled need to control (if we actually had control, we wouldn't get angry), far better to identify a means to actually provide us real control rather than the illusion of it. When such control isn't possible, a next best option is to fully recognize what feelings being out of control leads to first, before anger: fear and uncertainty. If we can identify these feelings each time they arise, we at least have a chance to deal more constructively with them—or at least more consciously.

3. To feel powerful. If we feel small, getting others to feel smaller makes us feel in comparison big.
Control isn't exactly the issue here. It's more that we feel small and insecure and have stumbled upon anger as an effective means to feel bigger than those around us. Recognizing this is what's going on empowers us again to interrupt the generation of anger and instead to deal with the feelings of insecurity. Anger that arises from insecurity is particularly efficient at destroying intimate relationships.

4. To fight injustice. Righteous indignation coming from a person's moral center, outrage at an inequity being committed against oneself or others.
How best to discharge this anger? Take action to correct the injustice, whether committed against yourself or someone else.


The goal here is two-fold, your ability to carry out the second being dependent on your ability to carry out the first:

1. Remain in control of yourself. When you find yourself on the receiving end of someone's anger, they're either trying to control you in some way or make you feel small so they can feel big. Or you've done them some kind of wrong. You should seek to understand which of the three it is. You must tell yourself that anger is their strategy and has nothing to do with you at all, unless of course you really have committed an injustice against them, in which case you should make amends.

2. Help them discharge their anger in a way that feels satisfying without causing harm. Responding to anger with anger rarely accomplishes anything positive. If you remain in control of yourself so that another's anger neither manipulates you nor makes you feel small, you have a chance to help them deal with the real issue that triggered their anger in the first place. What tactics work to accomplish this?
- Validate their anger. Resisting a person's anger, getting angry back at them, denying that their anger is justified all do nothing more than inflame it. Even if their anger isn't justified in your mind, what would convincing them of that accomplish? It likely wouldn't give them control over it. Feelings require no justification to be felt.
- Apologize. I told my patient how sorry I was he had such an unpleasant experience. It wasn't my fault, but in commiserating with him, I was able to validate his anger.
- Help turn their anger into language. Get them to express in words, rather than in harmful action, just how angry they are. This is often an effective way to help them discharge their anger in a way that feels satisfying.

Adapted from:
1. Letting go of Anger
3. Dealing with Anger
4. Info Self Development
5. Words Make Anger Worse