Misplaced Anger
#1
I'm putting this in the health forum because it's about mental health  ;D

I've been thinking about anger lately, and exploring the deep, dark recesses of my psyche.  I've come up with something about mis-placed anger.  I'm sure everyone else has noticed that from time to time, someone will become very angry, and act out inappropriately whenever there's really no reason for it.  Road rage is one good example, another would be internet forum discussions.  It's like an extreme angry response when a person has suffered no hurt, no trespasses.  Sure, the trigger might be annoying or irritating, but the response is at a much higher level than the trigger.

I notice this quite frequently amongst trads on forums, I'm sure it's everywhere.  People getting all freaked out about your usual suspects.  Priests saying something that hurts their feelings, women wearing pants to mass, etc.  What exactly causes this exaggerated response?

I'm sure there are complex reasons, but I had an epiphany of sorts, and I think there's a main reason.  When we feel angry towards people we deem inappropriate to be angry with.  It could be an authority figure, or perhaps someone we love.  It could be a deep anger that people don't even realize is there because they don't allow themselves to ever be angry at a certain person or situation, and so it remains unresolved.  But as soon as the emotion of anger is triggered, it could be something totally frivolous, all the stored up anger comes raging out, and the person still has no idea what they're really angry at.  They're all too distracted by the current irritant.  And so, this anger remains unacknowledged, and festers, and sometimes gets carried with people until they breathe their last.
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#2
Interesting thoughts.  I've noticed trads can be very angry people.  That's not surprising, considering they feel cheated and victimized and betrayed by what they believe in.  And it can really set them off at things that would seem to be small or odd.  Against each other even.  Personally, I can't understand what it is like to feel this.  I feel too tired and worn out to get angry at anything.  It seems like a waste of effort.  I suppose the things I am concerned about in my life right now don't really allow for it.  If I were younger or older with a family, I think I might be the same way, though.
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#3
I just read a good article about this. The author, a psychologist, says “misplaced anger often masks other emotions like fear and sadness. It is normal to lash out when we feel threatened. Animals naturally respond to threat with either flight or fight. When flight is not an option we feel the need to fight. Anger and hatred of the enemy is one way our minds might try to help our bodies prepare for a frightening survival situation. The problem is that this instinctive response is often poorly suited to our modern world. Misplaced anger is likely to fuel an "us/them" mentality because in a fight situation we need an enemy to hate. Especially when we haven't fully examined the range of our own emotions, we are likely to identify an "enemy" prematurely, and to categorize certain people as the "enemy" so that we can have a target for our anger." – Jennifer J. Freyd
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#4
(06-26-2009, 01:15 AM)StrictCatholicGirl Wrote: I just read a good article about this. The author, a psychologist, says “misplaced anger often masks other emotions like fear and sadness. It is normal to lash out when we feel threatened. Animals naturally respond to threat with either flight or fight. When flight is not an option we feel the need to fight. Anger and hatred of the enemy is one way our minds might try to help our bodies prepare for a frightening survival situation. The problem is that this instinctive response is often poorly suited to our modern world. Misplaced anger is likely to fuel an "us/them" mentality because in a fight situation we need an enemy to hate. Especially when we haven't fully examined the range of our own emotions, we are likely to identify an "enemy" prematurely, and to categorize certain people as the "enemy" so that we can have a target for our anger." – Jennifer J. Freyd


Great quote. I think it might be very true. I'm currently on the receiving end of that and it helps me understand where the person might be coming from. Connects some dots so to speak.

Now I wonder, when I get worked up on forums if I'm doing the same thing, or if there are (and I'm sure there must be) a variety of causes.
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#5
We should keep our anger in check by dealing with our emotions head-on and often reevaluating our priorities. We should stop leaving issues unresolved. I know it's a cliché, but it's good advice: "Don't sweat the small stuff." Defining what is "small" is going to take some practice. But we need to do it so we can put things in proper perspective.

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#6
Misplaced anger is rooted in lack of virtue.  Increase your virtues, and the misplaced anger will subside.

For example:

Someone changes lanes in front of you and goes slow.  You get angry at them and call them a MF.

Why should you be angry?  Did they single you out? No.  Is their intention to mess you up and cause you to be late for work?  No.  So why get angry?

It comes from pride.  We believe we have a right to go the speed we want and anyone interfering with that is deserving of our wrath.  Further, we get mad at the person instead of the circumstance.  THEY have interfered with US.

Fr. Hunter, SSPX, gave a good homily on this one time - differentiating just anger from unjust anger.  SSPX priests fly a lot to get to various Mass sites, so he used the example of when he gets to the airline counter and the plane is late or canceled.  If he were to get angry at the counterperson or act out his anger, that would be unjust.  They have no culpability for the plane being late.  They're just some poor sap trying to do their job.

Likewise, the person who innocently changes lanes in front of us and goes 30 in a 50 zone isn't doing it to mess us up.  Therefore, our anger is not just.  We have no cause to be justly angry at them because we don't know the circumstances:  they may have a busted car, they may be ill, they may be old and are trying to get to the doctor, etc.  Sure, they may just be stupid or not give a crap about people around them, but that would be an assumption and our anger would not be objectively just.

The response that is difficult but that we should strive to have is to pray for them: "God, if this person be afflicted in some way that is causing them to drive slow, please help them.  St. Christopher, please pray that this person's driving for whatever reason doesn't cause an accident and that they and the others on the road arrive at their destinations safely."

Another appropriate response is to accept the event as penance from the Hand of Christ even if it is just circumstance and not Divine Intervention: "Jesus, thank you for this opportunity for penance, for this test of my patience.  Please send me the graces I need to increase in virtue and my love of you."

Our attitude should be to look at ourselves as well.  If we know that this could happen, we should leave 5 minutes earlier for work instead of blaming others for our lack of foresight.  If we're going to the museum instead of work, we should look at why we think of ourselves so highly that our arrival at the museum five minutes earlier is justification for wishing lightning bolts down on someone else (which is exactly what we are doing if we say "God damn that guy").

The sticking it in one's craw and blowing up after time is just an indication that there is a lack of having the virtue (e.g., of patience).  If we truly held the virtue of patience, there would be no explosion at the end.  So, if we do this, it's an indication we need to do more work to acquire a higher degree of that virtue.

IMO, patience is one of the virtues that is most lacking when it comes to anger (the other is pride).  Instead of acquiring the virtue, we see ourselves doing the following:

Drug / alcohol use to kill the feeling of impatience / anger / pride
Shoving it in our craw to fester and explode
Trying to ignore that which is causing us this feeling
Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside
Etc.

Those things all work temporarily, but our soul is still disquieted and will react the same way the next time something displeases us.  The only way to quiet our soul is through obtaining the virtues and the Peace of Christ.

See The Spiritual Combat for more information.
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#7
(06-27-2009, 05:43 PM)QuisUtDeus Wrote: Misplaced anger is rooted in lack of virtue.  Increase your virtues, and the misplaced anger will subside.
I agree with everything you said except that this opening statement sounds kind of like you disagree with what I said.  Perhaps one way that we lack virtue is by holding back our feelings when we get frustrated at work or with loved ones.  I think one good way to increase virtue in order to combat anger is to talk out our problems more openly with the people we love.  And yes, I totally agree that patience is essential.

I have a feeling that if you were to tell someone who frequently gets angry "you lack virtue, you have to work on patience!" it would get you absolutely nowhere.
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#8
(06-27-2009, 09:21 PM)Inion_Coinin Wrote:
(06-27-2009, 05:43 PM)QuisUtDeus Wrote: Misplaced anger is rooted in lack of virtue.  Increase your virtues, and the misplaced anger will subside.
I agree with everything you said except that this opening statement sounds kind of like you disagree with what I said.  Perhaps one way that we lack virtue is by holding back our feelings when we get frustrated at work or with loved ones.  I think one good way to increase virtue in order to combat anger is to talk out our problems more openly with the people we love.  And yes, I totally agree that patience is essential.

I have a feeling that if you were to tell someone who frequently gets angry "you lack virtue, you have to work on patience!" it would get you absolutely nowhere.

Quis has a point though; Anger is a deadly sin, but patience is its contrary virtue.
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#9
(06-29-2009, 08:49 AM)WhollyRoaminCatholic Wrote:
(06-27-2009, 09:21 PM)Inion_Coinin Wrote:
(06-27-2009, 05:43 PM)QuisUtDeus Wrote: Misplaced anger is rooted in lack of virtue.  Increase your virtues, and the misplaced anger will subside.
I agree with everything you said except that this opening statement sounds kind of like you disagree with what I said.  Perhaps one way that we lack virtue is by holding back our feelings when we get frustrated at work or with loved ones.  I think one good way to increase virtue in order to combat anger is to talk out our problems more openly with the people we love.  And yes, I totally agree that patience is essential.

I have a feeling that if you were to tell someone who frequently gets angry "you lack virtue, you have to work on patience!" it would get you absolutely nowhere.

Quis has a point though; Anger is a deadly sin, but patience is its contrary virtue.
Definitely, that's why I said I agree with everything he said.
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#10
(06-27-2009, 09:21 PM)Inion_Coinin Wrote:
(06-27-2009, 05:43 PM)QuisUtDeus Wrote: Misplaced anger is rooted in lack of virtue.  Increase your virtues, and the misplaced anger will subside.
I agree with everything you said except that this opening statement sounds kind of like you disagree with what I said.  Perhaps one way that we lack virtue is by holding back our feelings when we get frustrated at work or with loved ones.  I think one good way to increase virtue in order to combat anger is to talk out our problems more openly with the people we love.  And yes, I totally agree that patience is essential.

I have a feeling that if you were to tell someone who frequently gets angry "you lack virtue, you have to work on patience!" it would get you absolutely nowhere.

That type of approach would be lacking prudence.  I stated it as such because you asked a question, so I answered it.  If I had to approach someone who frequently got angry I would approach the subject differently.  Most likely, i would be Socractic and ask them questions to allow them to realize on their own the root of their anger.

So, is your question how to approach someone who has a bad attitude, or are you asking about the root cause of the bad attitude?  I answered the latter.

To address the former, I would start by asking "Why are you so pissed at the guy who changed lanes in front of you?"  And go from there...

If the person is unresponsive and/or defensive, they have other problems they need to address before the misplaced anger issue, IMO.  Like humility for example.

Really, my answer is more philosophical than practical, but at the same time all practical solutions are rooted in philosophy / theology.
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