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Anger and Aggression

Society often sees anger as a negative mood state, but anger can be positive. It tells you when you don’t like something and allows us to stick up for injustices. The issue is when we don’t respond to anger in the most helpful way. When this is the case, anger increases conflict and ends up hurting those we love the most. In fact the people we care about the most are also the most likely to get under our skin. This often leads to yelling, berating, cursing, or hitting the person[1]. Given that these are the people we care about the most, we want to be able to manage our anger better.


What Underlies Anger?

Like all emotions, anger is an evolutionarily adaptive emotion. It alerts us to a threat and activates the “fight-flight-freeze” response. Given that anger is an “approach” emotion, we are more likely to approach a perceived  threat when we are angry in order to protect ourselves or someone we love. The problem arises when we incorrectly identify a threat. We become angry and head towards the threat. Typically, this makes the other person angry and thus leads to fighting, whether verbally or physically. This makes it more likely that you see the other person as a threat and only increases the likelihood that you will become angry again in the future. 

Also, although anger is a primary emotion, it can also be a secondary emotion. Anger is often used to protect oneself from feeling hurt. Recognizing the hurt and pain can actually help you get support, as opposed to pushing the other person away with anger. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. 



The goal of therapy is not to eliminate anger, but to learn how to relate to it differently. It is to help you learn skills so that your anger doesn’t become overpowering and make you do things that you regret. We want to help you communicate better, see another person’s perspective in the moment, and tolerate someone cutting you off on the road. Whatever the situation, we want to give you the tools to manage your anger. 

If this resonates with you then feel free to reach out for a free phone consultation.


[1] Tafrate, R. C., Kassinove, H., & Dundin, L. (2002). Anger episodes in high and low trait anger community adults. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58(12), 1573-1590.

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