According to The Chamber's Twentieth Century Dictionary (1901), "anger is defined as a strong emotion excited by a real or fancied injury, and involving a desire for retaliation". Later, in The American Heritage Dictionary (2000) the definition reads as, "a strong feeling of displeasure or hostility", and the synonyms mentioned are rage, fury, ire, wrath, resentment, and indignation denoting varying degrees of displeasure. Rage and fury imply intense, explosive, often destructive emotion; Ire is a term frequently used in English literature; Wrath applies to anger seeking punishment; Resentment implies a smouldering anger generated by a grievance; and Indignation is righteous anger at something wrong and unjust.
According to Charles Speilberger, a psychologist, "Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. The group of brain structures which control emotional behaviour is collectively known as the limbic system, comprise of the thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, septum, and portions of the basal ganglia. The limbic system regulates many aspects of behaviour like feelings of pleasure, anger, rage, and pain. It also regulates biological rhythms, sexual activity, feeding and learning. Like other emotions, anger causes many physiological and biological changes, like a rise in heart rate and blood pressure, and raises blood levels of adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. The sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) prepares the body for a "fight or flight" reaction when the integrity of the organism is in danger.
Anger can be caused by external or internal events, and the person usually responds aggressively. Thus, anger is a natural 'adaptive' response to threats, which allows us to defend ourselves when attacked. Within limits anger is essential for our survival. It can be a temporary,self-limiting annoyance or a rage. But when it gets out of control it becomes destructive, and leads to inter-personal problems.
It has been estimated that one out of five persons suffers an anger management problem. Mismanaged anger and rage can lead to serious conflicts and crimes. It can ultimately lead to diseases like high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Other stress-induced "diseases of adaptation" like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis also can occur as a result of chronic stress.
Managing anger is essential for integration of various health components. Health is not merely defined as a state of absence of disease, but a state of physical, mental, social, spiritual and environmental well-being. One must remember that anger is not a matter of chance, but is a matter of choice on our part. Negative emotions precipitate anger, and its altered physiology is similar to that of "stress".
Types of Anger
Anger can be classified in to two types:
1. Righteous anger which is superficial and does not change the biochemistry of the individual. It is positive, creative and self-limiting, e.g, parents and teachers at times have to show anger towards children to make them study or maintain discipline;
2. Unjustified anger which is long-standing, renders one selfish and egocentric, and changes the biochemistry of the individual. Unfortunately, mostly anger becomes insulting, accusing, sarcastic, aggressive and violent. According to Jerry Defenbacher, a psychologist, some people are more 'hotheaded' than others, and get angry more easily and intensely than others. They are more likely to withdraw socially, sulk and get physically ill. They have a low tolerance for frustration, and the cause may be genetic, physiological or psychological.
Anger Control Strategies
Anger exists in our minds, and is the direct result of our negative thoughts. An event itself cannot make us angry. But our interpretation of the event as to how we feel and think about it, leads to anger (From "Programme on Lifestyle and Health - A Mind-Body Capsule" by Dr. H.K. Chopra, Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, 2006).
The following measures are helpful in overcoming anger:
- Avoid haste, as it is the commonest predisposing factor for anger. Nona Walia details "The Slow Movement" in the Sunday Times (TOI) Sept. 23, 2012.
- Avoid places and situations likely to induce anger.
- Distraction from anger-provoking thoughts by:
(a) Taking a few deep breaths from the diaphragm, and not from the chest.
(b) Count up to 100.
(c) Go for a brisk walk.
(d) Drink a glass of water.
(e) Wash you face or take a cold shower.
(f) Divert attention through music.
(g) Change the subject of discussion.
(h) Relax by meditating; and
(i) Undertake yoga exercises to relax the mind and body.
If anger is still out-of-control psychiatric help and counselling is needed.
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