Why Anger Isn’t Irrational
Anger is the natural emotion created in a fight-or-flight situation by the physiology of your mind and body. When you sense a threat your mind generates fear and anger. The fear you generate is part of a flight response from your physiology. Anger is the emotional energy you generate for the fight against that perceived threat. What can be confusing is that your mind creates fear and anger even when the threat is just imagined.
Emotions like anger are natural and real. Even if the threat is imagined the anger you create is just as real and powerful. However, the reasons you generate anger aren’t always real. If you aren’t aware of how your mind is imagining scenarios of hurt your anger will appear irrational.
Real vs. Imagined Anger
It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish a real threat from an imagined threat because they can happen at the same time. For example, someone is cutting you off on the freeway and a car briefly maneuvers in a way that could cause an accident and possibly injure your body. There’s a natural fight-or-flight reaction to your emotions and you create a combination of fear and anger. The reality of this harm usually passes very quickly and so do your emotions.
However, your imagination may take over and create worse scenarios. You begin to consider that you or someone in your car might be hurt or killed. You might recall similar events from your past, project those into your mind, and add more emotion. After the real physical threat passes your mind still projects scenarios in the imagination. If more than 90 seconds have passed from the danger then your emotions are responses to those imagined scenarios.
Even later that day when you replay the event in your mind, your emotions respond to the imagined version. The emotions you create from your imagined scenarios are no longer based in anything real. Because of the natural response of emotions to what you imagine you can amplify fear and anger to the degree that they become out of control. However the fear and anger are natural consequence of the imagined scenarios. The problem is that the imagined scenarios in the mind are out of control and no longer based in reality.
If you are not aware of how your imagination is projecting these scenarios you will blame other people unnecessarily for your emotions. Understanding how your mind dreams images and scenarios of outcome is critical to understanding your anger and other emotions.
The initial moment of fear and anger resulted from a very real scenario that could have caused you harm. However, most often the anger and fear people generate are sourced from their uncontrolled beliefs and imagination.
Anger is Rational – the imagination isn’t.
Anger is the natural emotional response designed to protect us from danger. It is part of our instinctual system for protection and preservation. Notice how a dog growls and bares its teeth in response to a threat to its territory. A mother bear will also go into ferocious anger if you were to come near her cubs.Anger is a force of energy that we project in order to push away or combat a threat. However, anger ceases to be a form of protecting your life and becomes a means of destroying your life and relationships when the threat isn’t real.
Your emotions respond the same whether a threat is real or part of your imagination. Anger itself is a completely rational emotion to have when you perceive the thoughts and scenarios in your mind. There is nothing irrational or wrong with the anger from imagined scenarios and beliefs. Your emotional response system is working properly. The problem is with the thoughts, beliefs, and scenarios in your mind that generate an anger response. The scenarios the mind projects are often not rational at all.
Other problems are created when you do not have the awareness and will power to refrain from outbursts of your anger. These reactions and consequences often distract us from the root cause of the problem. It’s easy to assume that your anger is the problem because it is what you notice. It is the outbursts of anger that we see and that cause destruction. The assumptions and interpretations in the mind are less noticeable amidst this emotional drama. However your emotions of anger are just a natural response to what the mind imagines. If you perceive and believe what the mind imagines you will create emotions as a natural response.
If you accidentally touch a hot stove and burn your hand you will feel pain. Naturally you would want to pain to stop, but the pain in your hand isn’t the problem. The pain is just a natural response to touching a hot stove. The physical touch on the stove is less noticeable, but yet it is the real problem. Touching the hot stove is the cause of that pain. The pain won’t go away until you take your hand away from the hot stove.
The same is true for your emotions such as anger. You may want to stop your anger, but anger is just a reaction to something else. Anger is the natural emotional reaction to what the mind and imagination are doing. The way to overcome anger is to change how the mind imagines stories and how much you believe them. When the mind imagines painful scenarios you naturally produce anger. To reduce and eliminate the anger it is necessary to shift the stories that the mind imagines.
To effectively reduce or eliminate the anger in your life, change the core beliefs, assumptions, and interpretations of the mind. You can find the steps to do this in the Self Mastery Courses.
The Reaction to Emotional Pain
Your mind can generate anger and fear even when there’s not a physical threat of pain. Your emotional response mechanism can generate anger just as easily by imagining a scenario involving the threat of emotional pain. When your mind is out of control imagining scenarios of emotional pain, your anger goes out of control. For anger to happen the emotional pain doesn’t even have to occur. If you just imagine that you will be hurt in the future, you can become angry before anything has happened.
Example of Misplaced Blame
Here’s an example to help you understand anger. Jack and Jill are in a dating relationship and have been for a while. During an evening out to a business party, Jill observes Jack interacting with other women. There is no physical threat or harm to Jill in this situation. There is not even a direct emotional threat. However, through indirect mental scenarios Jill can still generate fear and anger.
In Jill’s mind, she might compare herself to one of the other women Jack is talking to. In that comparison the voices in her head might conclude that she is not as attractive, not as thin, not as funny, or not as smart. In her mind, she creates a mental image of being less than, or not being good enough in some way. Jill’s mental stories are self judgments that attack her self image. These self criticisms result in a hurtful emotional pain. One of the possible reactions to this type of emotional pain is to create anger to push away the cause.
If Jill isn’t aware of how her mind creates a self judgment and emotional harm, she could easily blame Jack. She might assume that Jack has hurt her feelings by disrespecting or insulting her by giving attention to other women. Jill notices that Jack is laughing and talking to someone else and that she feels hurts. Her mind draws a simple relationship between Jack’s action as the cause and her pain as the effect.
Without awareness Jill overlooks the emotionally damaging self judgment her mind created and only notices the trigger of Jack’s behavior. In order to push away the cause of her pain, Jill directs her anger at Jack to punish him for his behavior. Not only could this potentially end the relationship, but it doesn’t address the real cause of the pain. Even if Jill goes on to another relationship she will bring her self judgment with her and create her pain again.
Anger In Each Person
There are other possible sources of Jill’s anger. Instead of creating a self rejection, Jill imagines a scenario of Jack running off with someone else. In her mind she will likely interpret this as a rejection and imagine a scenario in which she will end up alone. By imagining these scenarios and believing they will happen Jill can generate painful emotions of abandonment and loneliness. The natural response to this threat of emotional pain is to create anger as a defense and push the cause away.
Without self awareness Jill is likely to misconstrue the cause of her pain. She could make the assumption that Jack’s behavior or possible behavior is hurtful and threatening her emotionally. The result is that she becomes angry at Jack. Jill might also become angry at other women Jack interacts depending on her assumptions. . These conclusions ignore the fact that Jill’s mind is generating the threatening scenario of abandonment and painful loneliness. This dynamic of jealousy can completely destroy her relationships and happiness.
With self awareness Jill has the opportunity to see that the cause of her pain lies in the stories of her imagination and what she believes about herself. As Jill gains awareness of the core beliefs behind her stories lf and changes them she can overcome the real cause of her anger.
For practical steps in identifying and changing core beliefs that cause anger, listen and practice the exercises in the Self Mastery Course. They will help you understand your anger and make changes in what your mind is doing. You will also find more on understanding your emotions by listening to the Free Audio Podcasts1