It could be that so long as nothing pisses you off, you remain outwardly calm. But the anger is always there inside, waiting for a stimulus to come along. I would like to specify at this point that I am not a scary or violent person. It is sometimes scary when I get angry apparently, but I have never resorted to actual violence against anyone (just a disclaimer).
OK, so what are some possible causes of anger. I want to concentrate just on that for now.
- Not liking yourself very much – low self-esteem. This would explain why it is so enraging when someone makes a patronizing comment, belittles or underestimates you, criticizes you etc. Anger is a “fight or flight” response. It is about being scared really, about self-defense. And why is it soooo threatening when someone treads on your toes? Because those toes are delicate ones! I think one of the main things that you can do to be less angry is to concentrate on loving and accepting yourself. The more you do that, the less everything and everyone becomes a potential threat.
- Being bullied. I was fortunately not subjected to hardcore bullying and I always had a small group of friends. However, for various reasons, I was subjected to bullying throughout the whole of school. This of course didn’t exactly help with the liking myself bit (see above). However, I think that because I always stood up for myself, tried never to show fear, tried to defend myself, tried to shout back – standing up for myself became a default, an instinct. So as SOON as I sense that there is a “threat”, my instinct is immediately to defend myself.
- I think that I have become “angrier” as I have got older, because when I was a child/teenager, I expected people to be disrespectful, to bully, call names, make fun of me etc. Because that’s what kids do right? I really thought that when you become an adult, everyone is supposed to be nice and respectful at all times. I thought that with adulthood would come some kind of magical invisible cloak of self-esteem, I’d be a “proper grownup” and nothing could touch me – wrong! With my sense of disillusionment came more anger. Will people ever respect me? Will people ever really appreciate me and take me seriously?
- The truth about self-esteem is that it really truly does have to come from within. Even if you have lots of people in your life who love and appreciate you, that will never really resolve the issue. In fact when those very people who are “supposed to” love you also threaten your fragile little ego, as families and partners often do, then that is doubly hurtful, doubly threatening and makes you more mad than ever.
- And while we are on the subject of those people who are “supposed to” love you .. The first really important people in your life are your parents. And they can fuck you up, no matter how loving and devoted they are, it’s just a fact of life. I think most of us feel incredibly guilty when we blame our parents in some way, unless those parents were actually abusive or neglectful (maybe even then too). But when they are loving, affectionate and provide everything that you need, it is even harder to acknowledge that they affected us in a negative way. The way that our parents speak to us as children becomes our inner voice. If your inner voice is always critical and negative, then maybe that is because you experienced judgemental and critical comments as a child/adolescent. I know I did. My mother is an extremely critical person. I feel bad for saying that, but it’s true. And her mother (my grandmother) before her. And my grandmother’s mother before that. There have been many generations of critical and negative thinking, so it is hard for me to break the cycle. Also, when your family do not support you enough emotionally and do not seem to appreciate you, you become a person who needs constant reassurance, praise and attention. I do not think I am too much like that (I hate people like that, they make me angry!), but when I am expecting support and reassurance from someone and it is not forthcoming – that really hurts and makes me angry.
- Everyone also has personal anger causes, unique buttons that when pressed make us explode with rage. Some of those do not really have a deep inner cause, such as when we are angry at someone for driving slowly in front of us and making us late for work. That’s just irritating. But if anger and irritation is a sort of HABIT, a default reaction – then you are more likely to become angry about this kind of thing. Actually, even though it is quite trivial, the slow driver *is* a threat, they are stopping you from being able to drive as fast as you planned to, they will make you late, it feels like they are almost doing it on purpose! Maybe you are really angry at yourself for not just leaving the house five minutes earlier. I guess the lesson here is stop and think. Why is this such a big deal? What is really going on here?
- We can also examine our own unique anger buttons to find out what that says about us and our mental state. For example, one thing that makes me mad is when I feel patronised, when I feel that someone thinks I am less intelligent than they are. This is because throughout my life, especially when I was in education, being academic was one major source of my self-esteem. I was always that smart kid, the one who worked hard and got amazing grades. I knew instinctively that even though my friends at school teased me for it, they did actually respect me for it too. It was also something that I thought made me a “good daughter”. If someone makes me feel like I am bad at maths, sport, sewing etc – then I don’t care. I think it’s funny because I know I am bad at those things. But if someone makes me feel like they believe I am stupid – then I will not be a very happy person!