Teen Space

Anger: Is it controlling you?

Angry teen girl looking at her laptop
Photo: © Antonio Guillem / 123RF Stock Photo

How did you react when you:

  • were disrespected?
  • were treated unfairly?
  • felt violated or attacked?
  • felt threatened or exposed?
  • were frightened or scared?
  • endured deep physical pain?
  • were interrupted from your goal?

Did you:

  • yell?
  • shout?
  • lash out?
  • cry out loud?
  • throw things?
  • call out names?
  • raise your hand?

Would you say you felt angry? Or upset, annoyed, irritated and livid?

Anger is a normal reaction to something we feel is wrong. And allows us to correct it because we are righteous people wanting to protect ourselves and those who matter to us. However, the justification of anger requires a logical appraisal to whatever it is that we feel was unfair. Otherwise we would be getting impractically angry for any and everything, and those around us would not understand why we’re feeling this way. We’d be labelled hot-headed for no reason.

History of anger

Many centuries ago when humans lived in constant fear of animal attack (which meant imminent death), anger and aggression were survival instincts. Relentlessly and unfailingly, we were subconsciously aware that anything can happen to us anytime. So we had to keep on our toes, be hyper vigilant and prep for combat. Anger always triggers the fight response in the body, and physical fight was important for survival back then. These dangers and threats have nearly vanished today. But we still are as angry as before. Probably more.

Why exactly we feel angry

Anger is not a primary reaction. It is the result of one or many appraisals of a given situation that conclude that anger is justified. The fear of death is an ultimate one. Other threats don’t even fall close in intensity. However, with time our perceptions have changed, thresholds have lowered and tolerance has diminished. So, even though we’re more or less safe, we tend to find any and every event in life threatening. And we react like it is catastrophic; anticipate the worst and feel vulnerable. Just that this time it’s not an animal in the wild; rather it could be a parent, sibling, teacher, friend, neighbour or classmate who arouses this reaction in us.

Here are some possible precedents to anger. Can you identify with them?

Worry and anxiety: Ordinarily we would think that worrying about something would make us sad. But worry as we know it puts us in stress mode and the natural response here is of fight or flight. When we are concerned with an outcome that can be negative, we imagine the worst and get stressed and as a defence we lash out in anger. All anger is not about nervousness but at a younger age, it very often is. When we label our fears and face them bravely, we don’t get into stress mode and we prevent the anger outburst, too.

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Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at drshefalibatra.com.

Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra is a Psychiatrist and Mindfulness Coach. Connect with her on Instagram @drshefalibatra and read more about her work at drshefalibatra.com.