What Causes Anger?

The first step to dealing with Anger is to understand what is causing it.

There are a number of different causes of anger. 

1) Frustration

This happens when we are prevented from achieving a valuable goal, though it can also occur when we get something we do not want. Frustration can be something relatively small such as when someone jumps the queue in front of us, or it can be a major event such as losing out on your dream home. The cause of the frustration might be another person, a situation, an organisation or indeed, yourself. Nevertheless, frustration need not develop into problematic anger and can be adaptive if we were to consider that we simply wished that the frustration had not happened. 

However, according to Wessler and Wessler it does become problematic when we demand that the frustrating situation should absolutely have not happened and that it is a tragedy that we have not got what we wanted, and we curse the cause of the frustration.  

2) Breaking Personal Rules

Beck suggested that another common source of anger is when personal rules are broken. Personal rules might include such things as expecting to be treated with respect, with equity, in a reasonable way, with politeness, consideration and so on. Someone who holds such rules would expect that they be observed at all times and so if someone treated them rudely, with indifference, or unfairly, they would be likely to become angry. Nevertheless, it is not realistic to expect that everyone they meet will treat them in their prescribed way. It is more realistic and adaptive to prefer to be treated in this way but not to always expect it, and to come to terms with the fact that there will sometimes be exceptions to these personal rules.  

3) Self-Defence

Dryden described another cause of anger which he called ‘self-defence’ anger. This occurs when an individual’s self-esteem is challenged by the responses of an organisation or another individual. Their anger serves as a self-defence mechanism to protect them from a negative evaluation of themselves.  

If you imagine that a team of football players are told by their manager that they are not putting enough effort in but one of the players comes forward to angrily claim that he is. In this case, the player’s response serves to protect him from the other possible thought that he was failing which is unthinkable. If he held the belief that failing in his role as a player meant he was a failure, then he might think that the manager was actually saying that he was a failure as a person and so no wonder he becomes angry. Such a person would find criticism very hard to take.

People who express this type of anger are often considered to be ‘touchy’ or ‘defensive’. They will often shirk responsibility and point the blame at others. They cannot accept responsibility for mistakes or poor performance since that would mean accepting that they were failures or somehow worthless.

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