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Angry? Listen Up!

January 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Health


Angry_ManYou wake up with a guttural groan and smack your alarm clock into submission. Round 1 ends in a knockout. The shower blasts you with cold water, inspiring a ghastly shriek filled with indignation. But just before you tell the shower head where to go, you hear one heck of a descriptive curse word echoing from the bedroom: your wife just stubbed her toe. That bedpost had it coming for a long time.

The drive to work begins innocently enough, until the driver in the car ahead of you suddenly decides he is going to turn left at the last second, leaving you trapped and helpless at the intersection. Oooh, this guy’s really asking for it! Then you turn on the radio for consolation only to be walloped with five straight minutes of commercials. On every station!

You finally make it to work, only to find that the parking lot is under construction. Don’t worry, there’s other free parking available – and it’s only two blocks away! Of course, you forgot to bring your umbrella and it happens to be pouring out. You scour the backseat; no hat, no newspaper – not even a lunch box to cover your head! You spent all that time getting your hair to look just right and now you have to go through the whole day looking waterlogged and ridiculous.

You get the picture.

Without question, we live in a world that is fast-paced and stressful with a lot hanging in the balance. Even watching the nightly news can be an exercise in frustration. An older and wiser uncle of mine who arrived in Toronto during the carefree days of the ’50s recently told me that we used to turn the television on to laugh. Now it makes us cry.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.”  – Buddha

But no matter how real or justified we imagine the stimuli to be, anger ultimately comes from within us. And we all have to deal with it on a minute-by-minute basis because life’s challenges never take a day off. Just remind yourself that you’re the one who is in the driver’s seat at all times. You control the steering and the speed. You also control the brake. Ease up on the gas, take a safe detour, and you’ll arrive there healthier and happier. This yellow-light approach should be applied to the big issues you face in life, and also the small ones that fill your daily routine. When you receive an upsetting e-mail, for example, you should wait before you respond. That way, you can take a step back and cool off, before you respond in a regretful way.

Anger can also act as a positive emotion that evokes change. Take protestors or politicians for instance. Whether as individuals or as part of a larger group, many have risen to achieve noble deeds and affect great personal or social change when driven by anger born from inequality or injustice.

Let’s take a look at what some famous thinkers have said about anger.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.”  – Buddha

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer

“It takes two flints to make a fire.”  – Louisa May Alcott

“When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.”  – Mark Twain

“A man is about as big as the things that make him angry.”  – Winston Churchill

“Speak when you’re angry – and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.” – Laurence J. Peter, writer and educator

Have you ever wondered why some people get angrier than others? A new year marks new findings in the ambiguous area of anger.

University of Toronto sociology professor Scott Schieman contributes an important chapter in the International Handbook of Anger to determine the origins of anger. Schieman documents data collected from 1,000 Americans aged 18 and up over a span of 15 years. His focus was on key social patterns of anger across the most influential social statuses: gender, age and social class.

Below is a summary of Schieman’s findings from “The Sociological Study of Anger: Basic Social Patterns and Contexts,” published in the International Handbook of Anger.

▶ Anger is one of the most frequently reported and recognized emotions.
▶  Anger is often an interpersonal event that involves negative appraisal of self or society.

Social Patterns of Anger
▶  An individual’s social position determines the “type, frequency, and intensity of emotions that will be directed toward him or her or aroused in him or her.”
▶  Age, gender and social class are the most influential factors.

Age and Anger
▶  Average levels of feeling annoyed, angry, yelling and losing temper diminish with increasing levels of age, especially after your 30s.

External Versus Internal Factors
▶  Most emotion-related experiences are linked to relationships in work or family (particularly in partner and parent-child relationships).
▶  Parents’ nagging and criticism evokes opposition and anger in children.

Gender and Anger
▶  Anger is more of an “acceptable emotion” for men rather than women because it is viewed as a masculine emotion linked with status and power.
▶  Women are conditioned not to display anger or risk being labelled “hostile,” “neurotic” or “unladylike.”
▶  Women think about their anger more and take longer to stop feeling angry.
▶  Women are more likely to suppress anger, while men are more likely to verbally or physical assault the target of their anger.

Social Class and Anger
▶  People with higher education, better income and work conditions tend to show lower levels of anger, yelling and losing their temper.
▶  Better-educated people are more proactive about dealing with the sources of their anger; economic hardships contribute to anger – as do feelings of being underpaid or unappreciated at work.


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