…And what is really behind it.
All anger is, at its core, a dark and cruel wish for harm to come upon the person who hurt you.
The brilliant French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, taught that aggression results as a psychological defense against threats of fragmentation. That is, as infants, we are just a jumble of diverse biological processes over which we have no authority, and our first task in life is to develop a coherent identity which “pulls together” this fragmented confusion. This identity may give the appearance of a unified personality, but it really is just a psychological illusion that hides our essential human vulnerability and weakness. And so, when anything or anyone threatens us with the truth of our essential fragmentation, the quickest, easiest, and most common defense available—to hide the truth of our weakness and to give the illusion that we possess some sort of power—is aggression.
Anger or holding a grudge is so harmful to our health. Health professionals link the following problems linked to anger and grudges:
- elevated blood pressure
- increased heart rate
- tense muscles
- heart attack
- hiatal hernia
- low back pain
- shortened life expectancy
As you can see getting angry over perceived threats or holding grudges is not a good thing for you. And while you may think you are getting back at another person for these perceived insults by another person, you only hurt yourself, not the other person.
Often your anger has nothing to do with the person/s who you think made you angry, but goes back to childhood rage over not getting what you should have gotten or think you should have.
Angry people often blow misunderstandings and minor grievances out of proportion and are more inclined to end relationships with people, even close friends, than work to resolve problems. Other people find their demeanor and mood unpleasant to be around. Consequently, angry people often alienate themselves from others—even their own families.
Before going any further, though, we need to make a clear distinction between anger and feeling hurt or irritated.
We all feel hurt or irritated when someone or something obstructs our needs or desires. Anger, though, is not truly an emotion. In its technical sense, anger refers to the desire to “get even with”—that is, to take revenge on—the cause of the hurt.
Learning to tell someone who you feel hurt over some issue is hard to do. We don’t want to appear vulnerable or weak. Rather we cover that hurt with anger. It is best to learn that telling someone you feel hurt is a much better direction to go and keep your friendships, your marriage and your contact with your children much healthier. It can preserve ailments brought on by anger. It helps you to grow and be a better person.
Unfortunately many people do not recognize this within themselves and need to seek therapy. Becoming self-aware is difficult but the best thing one can do to become whole.
I believe that a deep sense of kindness and respect for others is one of the best responses to another person’s anger. Listen to the hurts of another individual knowing that anger really has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with the other person and their vulnerable selves and their own sense of self loathing and feelings of weakness and loss of power or control.
The Anger Trap: Free Yourself From the Frustrations That Sabotage Your Life by Les Carter and Frank Minirth. Jossey-Bass, 2004.
Dealing With People You Can’t Stand: How to Bring out the Best in People at Their Worst, 2d. ed., by Rick Brinkman and Rick Kirschner. McGraw-Hill, 2002.
When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within, 2d ed., by Matthew McKay. New Harbinger Publications, 2003.