Why do we get angry?

Although my education is in biology, I believe an answer with the science is ultimately useless. I believe a moral/philosophical answer will serve the OP better.

Essentially this:

You desire justice; justice is a good and know something was done wrong. Consider the account of the Gospel where Jesus seeing his Father’s house set up as a marketplace. Let us read from the second chapter John’s account of the Gospel:

13 And the pasch of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

14 And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting.

15 And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew.

16 And to them that sold doves he said: Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic.

17 And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.

This is anger considered rightly. This is anger with a good and justice object (zeal for his Father’s house). The rest of us faulty humans rarely can so purely seek justice, but regardless let us consider this act of anger in respect to all other acts of anger, just or otherwise.

We mentioned at the start that anger is a reaction to a lack of justice. Justice is a certain kind of equity in respect to something that is due. In the case of the money changers it was the due worship and respect owed to the temple of God. Sometimes its something as small as someone not performing certain civil niceties when they see you in the morning. Sometimes it is something large such as desertion from the armed forces of your native country which you swore to protect.

Sometimes however, as is obvious with any experience of human nature, anger goes wrong. There are two ways that anger can be perverted. Firstly, anger can be inflamed against a perceived offense, but the offense was not in itself actually unjust. Perhaps the person annoying you is earnestly not trying to do so on purpose. Perhaps it is not a proper thing to be become angry over. In such a case, the reaction against the perceived injustice is actually an unjustice in itself. It is quite paradoxical, but altogether human, that someone can react against a perceived issue of injustice and have the reaction be unjust itself. This is the essence of all bickering and tattle-tailing.

Secondly, anger can be inflamed against a perceived offense, even a just one, but the reaction can be inappropriate. Consider if Jesus, instead of braiding a whip of cords and driving out the sellers and money changers, seized the weapon of a temple guard and proceeded to kill the sellers and money changers. Aristotle says that virtuous actions are a balance on the Golden Mean between doing something too much, and too little. Consider eating. Eating itself is morally neutral, but can be perform immorally either by eating too much (gluttony) or too little (anorexic self-hatred). Same with anger, we can react to an injustice too much (vengefulness) or too little (apathy).

Thus we see anger for what it is and in how it arises in the human soul. It has been said that anger is actually one of the least moral faults that a man can have. Anger is really just a misplace sense of justice. With the grace of God this can be amended. Consider St. Paul, that before he became a premiere apostle of the Lord, most zealous for the kingdom, he justly aspired to kill the followers of Jesus. At its core unjust anger is merely a lack of discipline in one’s reactions. There is hope for you too.

19 Replies to “Why do we get angry?”

  1. Here is an article I wrote to help you with this. You can find some more here.

    Eliminating anger involves seeing the true nature of reality

    When you realize the nature of reality you can no longer divide it into real bits. Within this undivided realm the interdependence of all phenomena is clear and you can no longer identify individual causes or results. Here there is no anger because it is impossible to identify a clear source or cause of the situation.

    There is a Buddhist story illustrating this…

    A man in a crowd was hit by a stick. He cursed the stick. Someone said to him, “Do not curse the stick. It is only a piece of wood and cannot act alone. If you want, curse the hand that holds the stick. The man agreed and shouted at the hand. The onlooker said, “No… not the hand itself, rather the person whose hand it is. The man agreed and vented his anger on the man holding the stick. “No, no, no said the onlooker… curse all the factors that caused this behavior of the man”. But then he was lost. This was completely impossible.

    Eliminating anger involves no more than seeing the true face of reality. Then life is easier.

    You can also contact me if you need more.

    Warm regards,
    Jonathan

  2. I’m not sure what you’re asking: triggers for anger vary widely. Some people will fly into a rage if you dog-ear their books.

    Perhaps you mean why is it still around? According to evolution, the trait must have survival value, or we would have lost it along the way.

    Anger is our interpretation of the physical and emotional feelings aroused by the light-or-flight response, and as you can imagine, anger and fear are quite closely related. The physical feelings—blood pumping more strongly, heart rate accelerating, focus of attention narrowing to the person/animal/object that is the trigger, along with a feeling of having greater strength: all that is common to anger and fear because all of that is part of the flight-or-flight response. We interpret the same feelings differently depending on context. (The proximity of the two emotions is why people hide fear with anger and hide anger with fear.)

    And emotions in general are essential to how our brains and minds work. Read Descartes' Error by Antonio Damasio for more information. He found, among other things, that emotions are essential to the making of a decision. He had patients who, because of a brain injury in a particular region, could no longer experience emotions. They also, and apparently as a result, no longer make decisions.

    In my view, emotions are a primitive (pre-language) communications channel, which can communicate from person to person (obviously: and even animal to animal, since this communications channel is from long before language evolved. In addition, and why decision-making became difficult, it’s the communications method used by the unconscious to communicate to the conscious self. You get a weird feeling that you just don’t trust the person you’re talking to, even though you just met and have been chatting for only about 10 minutes. That, in my view, is the adaptive unconscious sending an emotogram to the conscious mind. (I think it’s obvious that those whose unconscious read trustworthiness more accurately would have a better chance of survival than those who too often trusted someone they shouldn’t have and also those who too often failed to trust someone they should have: give that a thousand or two generations and you pretty much filter out the unconscious algorithms that don’t work.)

    For more on this line of thinking, I highly recommend Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy Wilson.

    Note that cause and effect is unclear in the flight or flight response: the physical changes can be interpreted as emotions, or you might say the emotions triggered the physical changes.

    I can imagine that the view of a tiger running at you will of itself start the physical changes, this mechanism being at a very low evolutionary level, from our most primitive ancestors. Once the changes start, another part of the adaptive unconscious recognizes/interprets them and passes along what it knows by using its communication channel: imparting an emotion.

    But it definitely has survival value and that’s why we (still) have it.

    Another good book: The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge: Matt Ridley.

    And one more: Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

  3. Anger more often than not comes from one single emotional inside you. Read on
    Think about some simple triggers and answer the following questions for yourself.

    Why am I angry, what triggers my anger?
    If you ask yourself at the moment you are fuming, here are some of the words that you may say to yourself
    – Because he is not being independent
    – Because he is pushing work back to me
    – Because he did not finish the work that he has said he would
    – Because she cannot be responsible
    – Because he was being mean 
    and so on.

    If you notice, all of these can be clearly categorized as something someone  else did that (s)he shouldn't have. It is someone else that is the cause  of your anger, how can you control it?

    When the storm abates a little,  go back to the above reasons, here's what you will read-
     
    – Because (s)he is not being independent
    Despite  my trying to teach him, he will not learn to be independent. His not  being independent makes me teach him the same thing over and over. What a waste of "my" time and energy
     
    – Because he is pushing work back to me
    I have no dearth of things to do. With this one more thing "I "am going to get overwhelmed.
     
    – Because (s)he did not finish the work that he has said he would
    He committed to me and he wont keep his promise. It makes "me" get behind on my goal

    – Because (s)he had a mean tone
    I had a hard day and then here's how she talks to me. She should have been kind to me

    Looking deeper, you are angry because your "I" feels wronged, manipulated, not treated well.
     
    It is not the other person's behavior, it is your feeling that "I was wronged" that causes you to get angry.

    The  irony is that in all of the above rationals we were thinking about  "myself" but we were expecting the person we are trying to blame for our  anger to be thinking about "me" and not themselves:)
    The truth is  that "just like me" they are also thinking about themselves. Whatever  they are doing is to help themselves, save themselves some pain and not  to hurt us.
     
    So what are we really angry about?

    All  of the initial reasons that triggered the anger never existed and were  never true. All our emotions in their response were baseless too. It was  like a ghost chasing another ghost oblivious of the fact that they are  both mere apparitions.

    I hope we keep this front and center that there is no need to feel "I was wronged" and "I was manipulated" and get into this endless cycle of anger that sucks the life out of us.

    Please share your thoughts about what makes you angry and how do you make your way to the source of anger.

  4. A person usually becomes angry when things do not go his way, when he is misunderstood by another person, or when his viewpoints clash with another's viewpoints. We become angry when we are accused of being wrong, when we think we are right. Our perception causes us to believe that we are right. According to the other person, he believes that he is right. Because we do not know how to reason and because, we have no foresight or intuition, we become angry. When we are insulted, we become angry. We become angry when we incur a loss. In protecting our pride or our greed, we experience anger. If one is to become free from pride and greed, he must have awareness (spiritual). Say for instance, your son-in-law broke your china tea set, would you not control your temper? If your servant were to do the same thing, should you not control your temper in this situation as well? Our reactions vary in different situations (from situation to situation).

  5. ANGER is involuntary. We cannot control the rise of anger but we can definitely know that we're getting angry.

    WHEN YOU KNOW THAT YOU'RE ANGRY

    DON'T REACT.

    JUST WATCH the blood pressure rise and fall. You may feel like crying afterwards but this too shall pass. It's the nature of energy, when you don't react while you're angry, emotions will come out some other way.

  6. Take a look at my little story and you might see one of the many causes that make people angry——-

    I had a physically sapping day today: four classes in the morning, then three hours of mind-numbing subway ride (mostly standing through the whole course), two hours of non stop chit-chat with a friend at table, one hour at a bank waiting for my turn, riding a bike in a hurry to pick up my kid at the kindergarten through the blaring traffic… When I arrived at home, I felt I was only an empty shell, with all my energy having drained away.

    I turned on TV for my son and then hurled myself into the cozy bed, oblivious to all the surroundings that whisked towards me. I drifted in and out of a relaxing dreamland. All went well until my wife came home.

    Hearing that he had to take a bath, my son began to throw tantrum at my wife. He first protested loudly, and when seeing his efforts were to no avail, he started howling, and sobbing. Oh man, what a sob! It was as if the whole world owed him profuse apologies. His eyebrows burrowed, face twisted, forehead crumpled and lips curled downward. Tears were angrily running down his cheeks. He clenched his little plump fists, wailing towards my wife-a tried and true weapon used every time he wants to take the upper hand.

    I faintly mumbled:"Baby, don't cry anymore, as it's girlish to cry. Be a little man". He turned his back against me, thrashing his little arms, ignoring what I had to say. The more I tried to soothe him, the louder his wail became. Then he had a major mental breakdown and let out choked, plaintive gasps.

    I've had enough! Like a savage beast, I sprang up from my bed, directed my giant palm toward his little buttocks and smacked him down. Seconds later, raised red bumps in the shape of my right hand emerged from his rear…I angrily went to another room, tossed myself into bed, hyperventilating, sweating and…crying. I felt the well inside me overflew onto my cheeks, and, as I winked, tears misted up my glasses. I angrily wiped away my tears, already regretting what I had done a minute ago.

    When I resumed my normal breath, I slowly went up to my son, pangs of guilt bubbling. There, he was curled in his mother's arms, still sniffing, but less visible. As his eyes caught mine, he immediately snapped eye contact and looked the other way. I tried to approach him, but he cautiously moved a bit to keep a safe distance from me, his eyes sparkling with residual tears, his face with dried ruts of tears and his dry lips clamped shut.

    I sat on the edge of the bed and softly asked with a tear tainted voice: " Baby, do you hate me?" He somehow collected himself and answered " yes, because you always beat me" He then held his mom tighter.

    His words sent a chip in my heart and this chip, sustaining my great sorrow, further catalyzed into a maze of cracks, and soon, my heart shattered.

    Restraining my urge to cry, I proceeded to ask:" Baby, do you think Daddy is good?" To my surprise,he immediately nodded with a sheepish smile on his face. "But why?" I continued. He then became fully relaxed and chirped:" I don't know either".

    Hearing this, I felt a warm emotional undercurrent was rippling in my chest, so warm that I almost melted. Yes, he loves me! He loves me no matter what, he loves me because I am his Dad! I misted up and firmly cuddled my son in my arms.

    You love me still, Daddy loves you so, my son.

    As you can see, physical exhaustion is a dangerous evil, so if you don't cage it properly and tame it, it will wreak havoc upon your life in the form of anger.

  7. I promise you'll just love this story 🙂

    A Hindu saint who was visiting river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other.

    He turned to his disciples smiled ‘n asked.

    ‘Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?’

    Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, ‘Because we lose our calm, we shout.’

    ‘But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.’ asked the saint

    Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.

    Finally the saint explained, .

    ‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance.

    What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small…’

    The saint continued, ‘When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper ‘n they get even closer to each other in their love.

    Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other ‘n that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’

    He looked at his disciples and said. ‘So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, Do not say words that distance each other more, Or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.’

    Source- Akash ( Facebook) 🙂

  8. I think anger is an evolved survival mechanism from when humans actually had to survive on a day to day basis. I think anger was a useful "ramp" to enable the fight/flight mechanism to flip to maximum fight mode quickly (Anger and fear being rather closely related)
    I think that the genes for anger survived because those that carried it and used anger to fight opponents successfully (human or animal or other situations) dominated more often. That's not to say it was used solely for survival, but also as a means for deliberate dominance. This also maintained the dominance of the anger genes, or at least reinforced  cultural acceptance of anger and dominance.
    I think we, as "civilised" humans, are left with it.
    I don't believe anger has any use or place in our culture now.
    But I do see our various warping cultures creating more situations where humans are "not in control", which creates anxiety, which leads to fear, which leads to anger.
    Anger is the result of the failure of reason, logic, common sense, perspective and the result of the ever increasing culture of "ME" and fading culture of Community.
    I see anger manifesting in society now and I only see it doing damage,  whether it be in Syria, Iraq etc etc, or in structured business  environments or in personal relationships.

  9. A2A.

    Because we're scared.

    Basically, anger and fear are practically interchangeable – about the only time they are not is when you don't know you are one of either angry or scared.

    Take the top-10 fears;

    01. Fear of flying

    02. Fear of public speaking

    03. Fear of heights

    04. Fear of the dark

    05. Fear of intimacy

    06. Fear of death

    07. Fear of failure

    08. Fear of rejection (my own #1)

    09. Fear of insects

    10.  Fear of commitment

    Chances are they all had something to do with adolescent development, and they manifest in adulthood as "fears", because that is a much more socially accepted for of reaction coping than "anger" — especially if the anger is directed at (or in the vicinity of) our parent(s).

    If you're angry, you're scared of something (which you may not like to face).  And if you're scared, you may be angry at something you may not feel comfortable expressing.   This is basically a large chunk of "Freudian Analysis" — hence the classic question "…tell me about your mother…".

    DISCLAIMER:    I'm not a therapist or shrink.

  10. Anger is a weakness but people think of it as a strength. The person who does not display anger has more inner strength than the one who displays it.

    A person usually becomes angry when things do not go his way, or when the other person does not understand him or when there is a difference in their viewpoints. Many a time we become angry when we are accused of being wrong when we think we are right. We think that we are right because of our perception. According to the other person, he thinks that he is right. Often, it is because we have no idea of what to do next, we have no foresight or intuition, that we become angry.

    We become angry when someone insults us. We become angry when we incur a loss. In protecting our pride or our greed we experience anger. If one is to become free from pride and greed, one needs to have awareness. What happens if your servant were to break a china tea set? And what happens if your son-in-law were to do the same thing? Don’t you control your anger in the latter case? Therefore everything dependants on your beliefs.

    Anger can only disappear if you understand that if someone causes you harm or ruins you, that person is merely a nimit (person instrumental in delivering the effects of your past karma) and that what you are experiencing is the result of your past life’s karma.

    We should maintain awareness whenever and wherever we experience anger. When someone is hurt by our anger, we should repent and ask for their forgiveness and resolve never to get angry again. We must do this because we hurt the other person with our anger and consequently that person will harbor a grudge and bind vengeance against us, so that in our next life we will have to suffer the consequences.

  11. There are 2 possible answers looked from two perspectives. i hope not many of the folks here are devotional to go with one. Since its difficult for non believers of these religions to accept it. So lets stick with the natural phenomena.

    Alright so for the question why do people get angry I’d answer – We as humans have different views and interests on various matters and wish we could move along with our views and perspectives, with our triggers of life etc. All humans have a goal to achieve, a personal to share their feelings (or may be not for some), to uphold them related to anything while in need like as they really mean it.

    Now the anger situation appears not all of a sudden as we know, once when these aspects tend to ‘crack’ or ‘change’ not by our goodwill but by:-

    • someones idiotic circumstances of decision makings (seriously yeah – the way how we feel, or else why in the world would any one feel angry?) and henceforth situation changes.
    • Also while our egos doesn’t satisfy towards the expected comprehensive level.
    • When someone tries to dominate by killing our expectations.

    So thereafter the negative impact which degrades our mentality creates irritation causing hurt for feelings and a fire burn inside at the same time trying to overcome it by fighting back for the perspective you want for.

    No one wants to be dominated by someone’s perspective. In a married life, if everything’s running smooth, doesn’t mean that there’s not an issue among them, but one person might be giving up instead of blowing up a trigger and expecting something. Same as in the case of everything and not just in marriages.

    If family pressurizes for something else due to tradition, and you might feel the pressure, you might have the power of washing out the pressure by taking things in the way you want even without showing an anger posture on yourself. or vice versa by doing what they want and getting out of anger phenomena

    My point is about how anger might affect humans – which is certainly different from personals to personals, and lastly anger can be developed in a family like a serious habitual decease for example – if anything’s late – you trigger out of anger and that’s what your image will be in the family. Even children grow out by being angry like mom versus daughter, son versus dad, spouse shouts to their spouses, in laws versus their in laws etc all these occur habitually since they get regretted for what they cant do or expect.

    Final word is Anger grows in every humans seriously – now its about, how should we react with situation to cure anger.

    (by the way don’t forget, even animals feel angry like anything)

  12. We all are angry and at the very same continuum but the expression of it is of different intensities and ways. People get angry all the time for various reasons around them. With emotions overwhelming riding and draining our brains, our perception of reality may be falsified. We are as angry as we feel and the way we perceive the situation. For instance, if you perceive your neighbor to be a bad person, anything, even if useful, coming from their mouth would always be offensive to you.

    Here is a blog that might help you to calm yourselves when the hulk inside you decides to smash.
    Anger Management…promoting personal and professional growth

    Talking about it with a close friend will also help. Here is what i do.!
    Go to http://www.yourdost.com  and talk to online counselors to vent out your deepest problems. Now i understand it is not the conventional kind of friend you were longing for but if you talk to counselors, they will help you in finding the real reason behind the unexplained anger.

  13. First of all you are a human being so its something quite natural that you get angry ( its just one of the emotions ).There may be also reasons such as,

    1. You expect something and if it doesn't happens.
    2. Sometimes, if you are not physically healthy, you may not be able to do things properly and within time.
    At this point of time you will feel low which slowly turns into anger.
    3. Your routine life without any changes will lead to boring life which then leads to frustation and makes you angry for even silly things.
    4. Feeling of loneliness.
    5. Lack of good sleep.
    6. Due to work pressure or something you are not eating properly. Even lack of proper diet (hunger)  leads to anger.
    7. Not satisfied with what you have.

    There are chances anyone could be the reason. Just you yourself try to sort out the reasons so that it will help you to reduce your anger.

  14. I don't have an answer to your question, but wanted to thank you for putting me in introspective mode! It did bust my writer's block and inspired me to blog today…Thought I'd share my ponder.

    Wrath

    Why do I fell it?
    This tremor in the gut!
    These seismic waves
    That swallow things as whole..
    Into the crevices of rage.

    Why do I feed it?
    Throwing thoughts of spite
    For it to munch upon.
    The fiery fangs
    Licking me in..
    Little do I know
    It consumes me,
    Leaving a rubble of remorse.

    Do I plough gall, sow bane
    And foresee boons of love?
    Do I spread grudge
    And anticipate joy?
    Stroke my ego,
    Nurture my loathe
    And expect bliss to unfold.
    How naive, how lame!

    Why do I rip this out..
    This livid anger
    Enraged in emotion.
    What do I seek? What do I sustain?

  15. Angry people are just sad people in the inside, and sadness occurs when reality doesn’t meet expectations.

    Expectations don’t get met due to events out of our control.

    For example, image this scenario: your parents die because of an accident caused by a drunk driver. You get angry at the driver. You had expectations that your parents won’t die any time soon. You had expectations that drunk drivers won’t be on the road when your parents are driving. You had expectation that that day will be just like any other day. You get mad at the police. You had expectations that they’d catch the driving erratically. You had expectations that they’d be pointing a radar gun and catch him speeding or have checkpoints on busy streets. You had expectations that they’d do their jobs since that’s what they’re getting paid for.

    Solution to not be angry: have no expectations. Realize that in reality anything can happen and don’t let terrible things shock you when they do happen because it will happen. It’s plain statistics.

  16. ask yourself instead, why do i allow my emotions so much control over my thoughts and actions. emotions are natural. it is our responses to them that have gotten out of control. perspective is where your answer lies.

  17. I like the "anger is a secondary emotion" theory.

    Once I heard this I began to examine my own anger more and it seemed to fit that I could always trace it to another emotion, though I've seen charts similar to this that had some more specific emotions like "accused".  "Frustration" and "hurt" for example are pretty broad.

  18. The reason of getting people angry mostly depends on a type of personality. Some got it from parents. The happier life a person live, harder she gets angry. But anyway one should deal with it. You can read on “how” here: 7 Techniques to Deal with Anger and Control Your Temper

  19. Anger is very interesting emotion. see these two points :

    1. Most of the people show anger, only where they have no fear of retaliation.
    2. Anger spreads like chain reaction, it goes from one person to another like hierarchy.

    here is an interesting story : गुस्सा कैसे आता है Psychology story in hindi

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