Theories About Anger

angerI’m a rather calm person and not easily riled. Recently I’ve been wondering why people get angry so often. What is the general cause of anger in people? Is there some simple core component that causes it? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself lately.

The conclusion I came to is rather simple. I believe the core principle in individual anger is when a person feels an outcome should have been different than the way it happened–that they have somehow been cheated of an outcome they felt they deserved. Much of this resolves around control and not wanting to admit some things are beyond our control. When we can’t control and outcome, and that outcome is one we feel we deserve, then we become angry. It is this central principle of being cheated of a deserved outcome which I feel is the cause of anger.

A typical scenario is someone cutting in line. People in the back of the line can become angry. They feel they have been cheated of something they deserved. They felt they deserved to be served in order established by the line rather than having someone cutting in front of them.

In eastern though–specifically Buddhism–one of the four noble truths addresses this issue in an interesting way. The second noble truth states the the cause of all sorrow/suffering is “grasping”–a failure to let things go. When we hold onto something it causes us to feel sorrow or experience suffering. The third noble truth is happiness can be gained through a “release” or “exhale.” The exact word used is “nirvana” which means to exhale. It is a letting go or release of the thing or idea we were holding on to. Expectations are a kind of “intellectual grasping.” If you expect a particular result to happen in any circumstance, you are trying to control the event and its outcome. A letting go of this controlling nature is a form of “release” or intellectual “exhale.” By having no expectations of others around you, or maybe more precisely, by not having a desire or need to control others, you won’t be upset or disappointed when someone acts in a way you don’t expect. I believe in some ways this is why I don’t really get upset very often. I realize I have no control over others and what they do; I can only control what I do and how I respond to things around me. I can choose to be upset, or not in response to any given situation.

I would be interested in hearing why you become angry and if you feel there is a common cause of anger in people. Feel free to post your responses to my blog here.

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