Anger - all in the mind?

Hearing criticism from someone, not getting something that you’ve been waiting for ages, facing heavy traffic on the roads, being rejected, seeing something unjust happening… All of these might be vastly different situations but the one thing they all have in common is that they can all incite a lot of anger in us.

The feeling of anger itself is not a bad or negative thing – it is a human reality. It is a part of our life and shows up in various ways, ranging from mild frustration (“why is this app hanging!”) to all-out rage (“I’m so angry I can’t think of anything else”).

But why do some of us get more angry than others?

Typically, it is not because of the event that has happened, but our assumptions about that event - which may not actually be the truth.

A friend or colleague passes by us on the road and does not say hi when we wave and smile at them. We wonder why they did that. We think that maybe they are upset with us because of something we did, and so are ignoring us. This is an assumption. And this might lead us to get angry. “What’s his/her problem? There’s no need to act so rude.”

In reality, the person might not have seen us, even if they were looking in our direction. They might actually have been worrying about something, or in a hurry, and so, not responded to our hello.

Let’s take that one step further. Our anger might not only be based on our assumptions, but also on our perception of the event. So if a friend tells us that they dislike our outfit, it is not the disapproval itself which gets us angry, but what that disapproval makes us feel. In this situation, someone who is competitive in nature would feel put down by friend’s words and react in anger. Similarly, a person who gets frustrated easily may not be able to laugh it off, thereby reacting in anger. Another person can perceive it as rejection and get angry.

That is exactly why some of us get angry more often than others – we might be quicker to perceive something as a (psychological) threat and so react with anger.

It would save us a lot of energy, time, and peace of mind if we could watch out for our (false) assumptions. So, the next time you find yourself getting angry, stop a moment and think about how your perception of the event might be contributing to your anger. And if you need a little assistance, reach out to our counsellors who can help. 

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