Why do we get angry? A simple answer to this question would make life so much easier. There can be few things more damaging that a sudden explosion of anger, no matter what the context. At work an angry outburst can have disastrous consequences including an official reprimand, a loss of personal respect, even the loss of a job. If the work is in a public place there is the added problem of adverse publicity.
Anger rarely arises out of thin air, it could be the result of a perceived insult, a criticism (whether warranted or not), a frustrating episode, some unwarranted interference, something which echoes an unpleasant experience in the past – this list could go on and on. Anger is triggered when something or someone touches an already sensitive nerve. Anger usually carries with it a loss of control which might show itself in words or in actions, and either display of feeling is in danger of generating equally angry responses – anger is infectious.
The danger of this infection is all too clearly seen at sporting events. For example, your team is playing the crucial game of the season. If they lose or draw they will be relegated. The team and all their supporters are on edge, you included. The game is three quarters over and is still a no-score draw when suddenly an opportunity for your team to score arises. You are holding your breath, the opposing supporters are booing, and your striker is tackled, slips and falls. The possibility of the goal disappears. Your striker is furiously angry. He believes the tackle was late and his protest is loud and foul, which brings answering protests from the opposing team. Before the referee can calm things down other players on your team are joining in, supporting their tackled team-mate, and within seconds both teams are fully involved and the angry disagreement has spread to the crowd. The referee regains control on the pitch and makes his decision, but on the terraces things are now out of control. Shouting and swearing turns to kicking and punching, blood pressure goes up, weapons are improvised, people are injured, and the rage continues even after the game is over, spilling out into the streets and onto the buses and trains taking people home. By the end of the day there are serious injuries and damage to property, and the supporters carry their anger for days, weeks or months, perhaps even into the next season.
Where did all this anger begin? You might say that it was in the air from the start as so much was at stake during this game, but the first overt expression of anger came from your striker and was instantly taken up by both teams. Suppose they had all reacted differently, managing to control their rage, stopping their anger from bursting out or even apologising if they had briefly lost control. This would have set a calmer tone and a less aggressive example to the spectators. It could have prevented injuries and damage, lowered blood pressure, made your town a safer place. It wouldn’t have been easy but it would have been possible.
If you want to learn how to control your anger there is help available. Anger management courses and one-to-one sessions are on offer.