anger: part ii
Anger can be of one of two main types: Passive anger and Aggressive anger. These two types of anger have some characteristic symptoms:
Passive anger can be expressed in the following ways:
- Secretive behavior, such as stockpiling resentments that are expressed behind people’s backs, giving the silent treatment or under the breath mutterings, avoiding eye contact, putting people down, gossiping, anonymous complaints, poison pen letters, stealing, and conning.
- Psychological manipulation, such as provoking people to aggression and then patronizing them, provoking aggression but staying on the sidelines, emotional blackmail, false tearfulness, feigning illness, sabotaging relationships, using sexual provocation, using a third party to convey negative feelings, withholding money or resources.
- Self-blame, such as apologizing too often, being overly critical, inviting criticism.
- Self-sacrifice, such as being overly helpful, making do with second best, quietly making long suffering signs but refusing help, or lapping up gratefulness.
- Ineffectualness, such as setting yourself and others up for failure, choosing unreliable people to depend on, being accident prone, underachieving, sexual impotence, expressing frustration at insignificant things but ignoring serious ones.
- Dispassion, such as giving the cold shoulder or phony smiles, looking unconcerned, sitting on the fence while others sort things out, dampening feelings with substance abuse, overeating, oversleeping, not responding to another’s anger, frigidity, indulging in sexual practices that depress spontaneity and make objects of participants, giving inordinate amounts of time to machines, objects or intellectual pursuits, talking of frustrations but showing no feeling.
- Obsessive behavior, such as needing to be clean and tidy, making a habit of constantly checking things, over-dieting or overeating, demanding that all jobs be done perfectly.
- Evasiveness, such as turning your back in a crisis, avoiding conflict, not arguing back, becoming phobic.
The symptoms of aggressive anger are:
Usually, those who experience anger explain its arousal as a result of “what has happened to them” and in most cases the described provocations occur immediately before the anger experience. Such explanations confirm the illusion that anger has a discrete external cause. The angry person usually finds the cause of their anger in an intentional, personal, and controllable aspect of another person’s behavior. This explanation, however, is based on the intuitions of the angry person who experiences a loss in self-monitoring capacity and objective observability as a result of their emotion. Anger can be of multicausal origin, some of which may be remote events, but people rarely find more than one cause for their anger. According to Novaco, “Anger experiences are embedded or nested within an environmental-temporal context. Disturbances that may not have involved anger at the outset leave residues that are not readily recognized but that operate as a lingering backdrop for focal provocations (of anger).” According to Encyclopædia Britannica, an internal infection can cause pain which in turn can activate anger.
Anger makes people think more optimistically. Dangers seem smaller, actions seem less risky, ventures seem more likely to succeed, unfortunate events seem less likely. Angry people are more likely to make risky decisions, and make more optimistic risk assessments. In one study, test subjects primed to feel angry felt less likely to suffer heart disease, and more likely to receive a pay raise, compared to fearful people. This tendency can manifest in retrospective thinking as well: in a 2005 study, angry subjects said they thought the risks of terrorism in the year following 9/11 in retrospect were low, compared to what the fearful and neutral subjects thought.
In inter-group relationships, anger makes people think in more negative and prejudiced terms about outsiders. Anger makes people less trusting, and slower to attribute good qualities to outsiders.
When a group is in conflict with a rival group, it will feel more anger if it is the politically stronger group and less anger when it is the weaker.
Unlike other negative emotions like sadness and fear, angry people are more likely to demonstrate correspondence bias – the tendency to blame a person’s behavior more on his nature than on his circumstances. They tend to rely more on stereotypes, and pay less attention to details and more attention to the superficial. In this regard, anger is unlike other “negative” emotions such as sadness and fear, which promote analytical thinking.
A person who is angry tends to place more blame on another person for his misery. This can create a feedback, as this extra blame can make the angry man angrier still, so he in turns places yet more blame on the other person.
When people are in a certain emotional state, they tend to pay more attention to, or remember, things that are charged with the same emotion; so it is with anger. For instance, if you are trying to persuade someone that a tax increase is necessary, if the person is currently feeling angry you would do better to use an argument the elicits anger (“more criminals will escape justice”) than, say, an argument that elicits sadness (“there will be fewer welfare benefits for disabled children”). Also, unlike other negative emotions, which focus attention on all negative events, anger only focuses attention on anger-causing events.