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Feeling angry: Why do we feel the emotion of anger

When you hear the word "anger" something negative cooks up in your mind- something unwanted and undesirable.

Why is that? Is anger really a bad emotion?

We've been taught from a very young age from all possible sources that anger is bad, something that we should avoid and we are usually made to feel guilty if we express it. It is as if nature made a mistake when it installed the program of anger in us. But it’s far from the truth. In this post, I’ll explain what causes anger and dispel the common myth that anger is something bad.

What causes anger?

Anger is an emotion that gets triggered when:

1) We think that injustice has been to us i.e. our rights have been violated in some way

2) Things don’t go the way we want

3) Something reminds us of an emotional wound

4) We are afraid

Violation of our rights

When we feel that our rights have been stamped on or something or someone has caused injustice to us, the emotion of anger gets triggered in us. In this case, our mind sends us the feelings of anger so that we can take action to defend our rights. This anger is a way our mind says “No, Thanks!” and motivates us to fix the injustice done to us.

For instance, if someone treats you very badly, you might become angry if you feel it’s your right to be treated in a decent way. In this case, the anger that got triggered in you wants you to preserve your right so confronting the person who treated you badly and asking him to apologize can be a good way to get rid of your anger because then anger will have served its purpose. It’ll no longer be there.

Not the way we want

We also get angry when things don’t go the way we want. Suppose you are a CEO of a major corporation and you gave an employee of yours an important task to finish before a certain deadline. If the task did not get completed in time, you might become very angry with the employee. In this case, the feelings of anger are motivating you to show your employee that this kind of delay is unacceptable.

Emotional wounds

Emotional wounds are wounds that got inflicted on our psyche somewhere in our past. They can be likened to the wounds that we get on our body, the difference being that most bodily wounds heal themselves even after some time but emotional wounds don’t go away unless we cure them. Now how are these emotional wounds related to anger?

Sometimes, we become angry because something in our environment touches a pre-existing emotional wound that we have inside of us. For example, if you believed that you are unattractive, then receiving a negative comment about your looks can cause you to become angry and over-react.

Even seeing attractive people on TV can remind you of your emotional wound of 'not being attractive' and you may find yourself criticizing them for no reason just to release your stored anger!

This explains why different people get bothered by different things. Pay close attention to situations in which you tend to over-react and get angry by petty things such as playful insults, pranks or mild negative comments. These can reveal what kind of emotional wounds you might be carrying.

Emotional wounds can be healed by first identifying them, tracing them to their origins in your past and finally taking suitable remedial measures. Taking the previous example, if you thought you are unattractive then this wound can be healed by figuring out what caused you to develop this belief and then working on changing it.


If you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize that anger usually stems from some kind of fear.

If a child fails in an exam, then his parents will become angry at him because of the ‘fear’ that his career will be ruined.

If your employee doesn't complete his tasks within the stipulated time, then you may get mad at him because of the ‘fear’ that your company’s sales may go down

If someone treated you very badly in front of others, then you might become angry because of the ‘fear’ that others will look down on you or lose their respect for you.

The above cases clearly show that anger has some very useful purposes. It’s there for a reason and that reason is reason enough- allowing you to defend your rights and maintaining your psychological well-being.
feeling angry

It should be borne in mind that anger can also (and usually does) result in unwanted consequences, especially when we misjudge a situation and get angry because of our own false perception.

Therefore, when you become angry, you need to evaluate the situation completely, check whether your anger is justified and if it is, try to figure out how best you can express it assertively without any undesirable consequences.

Anger shouldn't be suppressed but it should be channeled in such a way that it causes zero or minimum possible harm. That’s the hard task.

Anybody can become angry- that’s easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way- that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy.
- Aristotle 

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