Anger – a misunderstood emotion | Page 3 | Sunday Observer

Anger – a misunderstood emotion

10 April, 2022
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock over a joke he made about Smith’s wife
Will Smith slaps Chris Rock over a joke he made about Smith’s wife

Most of us get angry over many issues. What do you do when you get angry? Some people think that venting anger makes things better. Others believe that suppressed hostility can be a cause of illness. That means anger has remained with us from time immemorial as a thoroughly misunderstood emotion.

A psychology lecturer who wishes to remain anonymous says expressing anger is crucial to health and happiness. “One day,” he said, “I was overcharged by a shop keeper and I lost my temper and scolded him. Then I felt somewhat relieved.” Social psychologist Leonard Berkowitz of the University of Wisconsin supports his views. According to him, ventilationists believe that it is unhealthy to retain bottled-up feelings. By showing your true emotions you eliminate tensions, conquer aches and pains and promote more meaningful relationships.

You may have seen people smashing windows, plates and hitting walls when they get angry. They say discharging your feelings is beneficial. Even a well-known psychiatrist such as John R. Marshall of the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Psychiatry says, “People feel that there’s some value in hitting, throwing or breaking something when frustrated.”


Others, however, do not agree with the view that we should give vent to pent-up feelings. They think we need restraint in liberating our feelings. Because of the divergent views, ordinary people do not know how to behave when they get angry. Should they overreact angrily or suffer injustice in silence? In the modern world many people react angrily. In an experiment done in the Florida State University it was found that aggression was cathartic. When you get angry, your blood pressure goes up and you are ready to retaliate against the person who made you angry. If the aggressor happens to be a colleague or a fellow student, you can give vent to your feelings. If the aggressor happens to be your employer or teacher, expressing anger will not be easy.

Men react to anger more than women. If you insult a man, he is likely to express his anger by hitting you. During the Oscars 2022 telecast, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock after the latter made a joke about the former’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. Later Smith issued a statement saying that violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. He said, “My behaviour at the Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable.” Smith also tendered a public apology over the incident.

Psychologists point out that women usually do not get belligerent when they are insulted. For women, any aggression, even towards a classmate, is as arousing and upsetting as aggression towards authority was for men. During the recent street protests women reacted with restraint but men gave vent to their pent-up feelings.

Angry feelings

There is an inherent danger in giving vent to your angry feelings. If you attack someone who irritates you, your reactions will lessen your physiological arousal and perhaps your blood pressure.

By doing so, you will acquire a cathartic habit. In a future encounter you will not get less angry but you are likely to swear at the person or hit him menacingly. This is a dangeroustrend to guard against.

If giving vent to your feelings is going to produce unhealthy results, what will you do? We cannot remain without getting angry but we can learn how to bring down our anger. This can be done by waiting calmly for a long time. During that time your hard feelings will simmer down. Our elders used to advise us to count to ten when we get angry. The classic advice has survived for centuries.

Social Psychologist Leonard Berkowitz who has done an in-depth study of the causes leading to aggression says ventilation-by-yelling does not reduce anger. According to him, when we tell someone off, we stimulate ourselves to continued aggression. Unknown to us, anger and its expressions do not exist in a vacuum. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we make choices about how to talk and behave. We also come face to face with a dilemma. Should we suppress our anger or reveal it? Expressed anger can be harmful and revealing anger can be stressful.


In most developed countries husbands and wives shout at each other openly. In Eastern countries wives keep quiet even when their husbands shout. Couples who are not defeated by rage know two things: When to keep quiet over trivial issues for the sake of civility. They know how to discuss important issues without getting angry for the sake of personal autonomy.

As a leading psychologist put it, the best reaction for anger is to do nothing. Then the anger will pass and everybody will forget it. When you keep quiet, you have ample time to cool down.

If you are a hot-tempered person who gets angry for the slightest reason, learn some yoga techniques to calm down your thoughts. Today even Western psychologists are paying attention to calming down techniques.

Ray Navaco of the University of California is teaching those who are hot-tempered how to manage their anger. He tells them how to think about their anger, how to control arousal and how to behave constructively. Yoga practitioners knew such techniques long before Western psychologists.

Today psychologists teach people how to empathize with the provocateur’s behaviour. Although this is somewhat difficult to do, when you find the justification for it, you will know how to deal with it. You can always empathize with the provocateur’s behaviour by telling yourself “May be he’s having a bad day.”

Humour therapy

Some psychologists have tried out “humour therapy” with success. When I was a child my father used to take me for a film show when he found that I was angry. At the cinema I forgot all about my anger and laughed out loud. Parents can try out this method.

With all such developments in psychology, somepeople still believe that the best method is to get out of your anger by releasing it. Modern research shows that giving vent to your anger will not reduce it. In fact, it can turn out to be a rehearsal. You must remember that anger feeds on itself. It is sure to make you grumpy. However, it may not be possible to keep silent all the time. There are occasions you may have to express your anger.

The decision whether to express or not to express your anger will rest on what you want to communicate and accomplish. If you keep quiet, your anger will dissipate and you will not make permanent enemies. If you cannot do so, discuss the causes of your anger with someone who is ready to listen to you.

Judith Orloff, Professor of Psychiatry, at UCLA has suggested four everyday tips to defuse anger:

* When you are upset, pause and slowly count to ten. To offset the adrenaline surge of anger, train yourself not to lash back impulsively.

* Take a cooling-off period. To further quiet your neurotransmitters take a longer time-out, hours or more.

* Don’t try to address your anger when you are rushed. Make sure you leave adequate time to address what’s made you angry.

Don’t try to address your anger when you’re tired or before sleep. Since anger revs up your system it can interfere with restful sleep and cause insomnia.

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