Roger Police

See, also, Family Violence - Legal Remedies.

"Arrrgggghhhh!"

Two notes of introduction are in order. First of all, we use the word "anger" with some trepidation. Academics, social workers, therapists and counsellors have come to use the word in a clinical sense whereas common English usage is more to reflect a very normal emotion: synonymous to aggravation or frustration. By that definition, even the Pope must occasionally experience anger. The academic use of the word "anger" is closer to what the common folk would call "rage"; uncontrolled or disproportionate anger. It is precisely this latter concept which is addressed in this article.

Furthermore, many of you may wonder "what the heck is a legal information resource doing with an article on "anger." The answer can be found in our commitment towards crime prevention. It is my unshakable belief that anger, or "rage" if you will, has a profound effect on the crime rate. We go further than that: we believe that "anger" or "rage", as a human condition, is one of the single most important causes of crimes against the person; crimes such as assault, murder or rape. It is also one of the least studied and certainly the most under-rated of all the causes of crime.


Ira furor brevis est.

("Anger is a short madness", Horace, Roman Philosopher 65-8 BC)

Suddenly, and sometimes without warning, some men (and some women) "lose it", spitting venom at loved ones or strangers, some ready, if rebutted, to come to blows. Anger, expressed in criminal or emotional assault, is explosive, extremely destructive one of the biggest causes of crime in modern society. Men are by far the dominant gender in prisons and women commit but a very small proportion of crimes which cause personal injury.

Just imagine a world without anger; conceivably, a world without war, prisons housing only the true psychopath.

Anger can be described as:

"... a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism. It suggests neither a definite degree of intensity nor necessarily outward manifestation. An emotional reaction to a perceived injustice."

angry manThis article is not concerned with anger in the sense of an expression of annoyance, disappointment or frustration but rather with the extreme, disproportionate reaction. For example, someone suddenly swerves in front of your vehicle. For just about everybody, this may very well justify a burst of internal annoyance. But the distinction is clear between a widening of the pupils, a frown or a private "did you see that" as opposed to a blow on the steering wheel, a honk of the horn, a display of your middle finger, a vulgar "you fucking asshole" and a few hundred meters of tail-gating the culprit. Angry individuals seem to have this rage which is always just under the surface, ready to rear its ugly head at the slightest provocation.

Anger displays itself in physical or sexual violence although it can also be exhibited in a more sophisticated but just as objectionable power and control methods. Some examples are intimidation, emotional or economic abuse, isolating someone, denial of abuse and blaming the victim for it, using children as pawns, enforcing male privilege or using coercion or threats.

Many factors can underlie unreasonable anger responses. The most common is family of origin issues. Countless studies have shown that criminal offenders come from broken or high-stress families or are the offspring of parents who were themselves violent. Even more prevalent is the presence of a father figure that respond in like fashion: aggressively and with emotional or physical violence in the home.

If it were possible to arrest or control anger before or as it is happening, the world would be a much kinder, gentler place. And this is the trick to eliminating anger: each person with an anger problem has a trigger, a button if you will, that once pushed acts as a steam release lever and they fly off the handle. For some, it may be being called "stupid" or "goof". For others, it may be any trivial "injustice" or something as mundane as just missing a bus.

Some individuals add fuel to their personal fires by abuse of alcohol or lack of sleep. Alcohol deprives the body of deep sleep and has a noticeable affect on persons. Colloquially called a "hangover," the post-alcohol symptoms include irritability and impatience: two of the biggest precursors of anger. Put in other words, lack of proper sleep gives you a more raw personality, less willing towards consideration of others. Sadly, the deep-rooted family of origin issues cause personal turmoil from which alcohol provides temporary relief. But alcohol is a treasonous mate. Not only does it eliminate personal time that sufferers should be spending with themselves, sober, but it also triggers, in the worse sufferers, explosive and even murderous anger. Many, many violent crimes are caused while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

According to some contemporary psychological theories, anger is self-defeating because it interferes with the pursuit of personal goals. If you are caught up in anger, you get nowhere. You may get what you want in the short term, but in the long run, others end up resenting you or holding you in contempt. If you are busy blaming others or "the world" for your troubles, you are not spending time on personal growth.anger

One theory on anger suggests that it always results from a cycle of events or as part of a predetermined system as follows:

  1. A situation occurs which causes a stressor and provokes thoughts. Each individual reacts differently to each situation. What may cause you stress may not cause stress to another. We each have our own baggage of past events which conditions our responses to different situations. We all attach different meaning to events. But each person can look for these anger-causing situations and try to identify the common variables within them. The first step in controlling anger is to identify the constellation of events which triggers it in you. The triggers are often related to family of origin issues. For example, you may discover that you get angry with a child when the child acts in a way which sub-consciously triggers a negative sensation to that behavior because of childhood experiences.
  2. These thoughts cause sensations which ...
  3. ... bring rise to emotions.
  4. These emotions drive action such as rage or fury and ...
  5. causes reaction.
  6. Sometimes the cycle ends with promises or commitments not to do something and then ...
  7. a de-escalation period intervenes until the next cycle.

This new and highly successful theory suggests that once the components of the "makes me angry" system are identified, a person can intentionally change his input into that system, which will change the outcome of violence. The idea is to see the trigger coming and to sidestep it at just the right time.

Some techniques to break the system down include doing something out of character; different. For example, intentionally slow the process down by going for a walk by yourself. Take some space. Move your body. If necessary, take some weird, unreasonable action. Laugh where you would usually swear. Close your eyes and imagine a peaceful scene. Just do something out of character at that precise time. Break the pattern and not just this one time, but every time it re-occurs.

Recourse can always be had to time-honored techniques which not only relieve stress but which can also destabilize and disconnect your anger cycle:

  • Avoid coffee and sugar.
  • "It's your party" and you can cry if you want to.
  • Stop the anger-building self-talk.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise relieves anxiety.
  • Humor. Rent funny videos, avoid the violent ones.
  • Write in a personal diary. Express your feelings in ink.
  • Experiment with relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing or Yoga.
  • Talking about your pain or family of origin frustrations.
  • Romance and sex. There's nothing like loving intimacy to keep that testosterone under control!
  • Music.
  • More sleep.
  • No alcohol or mind-altering drugs.
  • Spend at least 15-minutes with yourself every day, just enjoying the simple fact that you're alive.
  • Explore and develop your own spirituality.

The non-violent ideal can be described as follows:

  • Talking and acting so that others feel safe and comfortable expressing themselves. No threats during arguments. Don't say things which are so aggressive that the other person is obliged to fight back.
  • Listening to others non-judgmentally. No name calling such as "you are stupid." No interrupting and stay on the same eye level. No browbeating or finger-pointing. Don't use the words "never" or "always." Give the other person time to collect their thoughts before responding.
  • Stay in the present tense. Deal with the here and now; not the past.
  • Respecting the right of others to have their own though different feelings, friends, activities and opinions;
  • Accepting responsibility for your own actions including open and truthful communication. be honest even if it hurts. Take responsibility for the way you feel. It's not the other person's fault. Don't say "You make me so ..." Say: "I am mad," instead.
  • Being a positive non-violent role model for children;
  • Making family decisions with a spouse and doing a fair share of family work;
  • Seeking resolutions to conflicts that are satisfying to both parties. This includes accepting change and being willing to compromise. Approach arguments as problem-solving challenges. There are no winners or losers; only differences to resolve.
  • Increasing your frustration tolerance level when circumstances do not go the way you want them to. Remember: things do not always have to go your way. The world does not revolve around you.