Personal Growth: The Faces of Anger

To develop as people, one thing we should all have is a good handle on our emotions, and particularly we should be able to control our anger. Almost all of us could stand to understand and control our anger better, and in doing so we would be able to improve our relationships making ourselves more pleasant to be around, improve our decision making and reasoning, and even improve our health. Understanding the ‘faces of anger’ then, is crucial for personal growth.

But what is meant by the ‘faces’ of anger. Well essentially this refers to the fact that there are different types of anger. Different things can set us off and this often results in the anger being slightly different in nature. Many theorists and psychologists have tried to explain the various types of anger, and one particularly popular way of conceptualising them is with the four ‘I’s. These are: injustice, injury, invasion and intention.

Here injustice means you are angry because you feel that you have been wronged or cheated, or because what you perceive to be an important rule has been ignored. This results in a very volatile anger where we feel a sense of desperation to get the injustice at least acknowledged if not revoked. Injury meanwhile is when you feel ignored, insulted or assaulted. This is a self preservation response and often we feel the need to even the odds, or to protect our dignity by lashing out. By responding to injury we hopefully prevent future injury. Invasion then is when your freedom or personal space are disrupted. It might be that someone tells you that you can not do something when really they have no right, or when they impose upon you. This is the sort of anger you might feel towards an unreasonable boss or parent. Finally ‘intention’ refers to the intention that follows to do something about the anger, at which point the anger is now self perpetuating.

However this alone does not really adequately describe anger. Of course there are many other forms or ‘faces’ of anger, such as the anger we feel when we stump our toe – which can only be described as simple frustration, or the anger we feel out of desperation when we are held up in traffic, or the anger we sometimes feel when we read opinions we do not agree with or see someone do something stupid. All these are faces of anger and each one is too unique to capture in a theoretical model. At the same time the depth and range of anger varies drastically from mild irritation to intense fury. Another model, the ‘multifaceted model of anger’, looks at anger as being ‘purposeful’ or ‘spontaneous’ and ‘constructive’ or ‘destructive’ – examining the difference between outbursts of destructive rage and simmering intentions to change the status quo due to dissatisfaction.

While no model will completely capture the enigma of anger, it is possible for us to examine our own anger. We all have ‘types’ of anger we experience more often than others and y recognising and examining the nature and the cause of that anger we can learn to control, overcome and at least identify it. Perhaps the above criteria can help – is your anger spontaneous? A result of injustice?

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