A couple arguing. For illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

Highlights

  • What is anger?
  • Can you be born angry? Will an angry child be an angry adult?
  • What happens to your body when you are upset?
  • Practical tips to deal with the rage

Yelling on the road, driving like a maniac, throwing things during an argument. Blurting out unpleasant thoughts without a filter. It’s like a nail scratching the length of your food pipe or a hammer chipping away at the side of your brain. Rage, at its most basic, is a lash of emotion that can stun you - and those around you - with an intensity not unlike fire. And like flames, it can hurt your relationships and your peace of mind. Anger, a human feeling that helps you understand your own displeasure at something, is normal - but if you find yourself suffering frequent bouts of upset and agitation, you may have an issue that needs management.

Do you need professional help? Image Credit: Giphy

We asked the experts in UAE what makes people so angry, and what can one do when faced with the negative emotion.

What is anger?

Anger is a basic emotion Image Credit: Giphy

Dr Fabian Saarloos, Clinical and Health Psychologist at German Neuroscience Center, says that anger is an instinctive emotion. “Emotion,” he explains, “[comes from the Latin [word] referring to a drive regulated by the brain that sets the body in to motion to perform a certain response that ensues survival. Evolutionary, anger arises in situations in which our boundaries are transgressed, and the brain is preparing the body to become active in protecting/defending or reasserting the boundaries.”

Are some people just born angry?

Is it all about a person's DNA? Image Credit: File

“Since the brain's development is coded by our genes, yes, one's genetics can predispose one to be more prone (neurologically) to emotions in general,” says Dr Saarloos.

“However, since the expression of certain genes over others is determined by environmental factors, and the development of the brain heavily depends on the primary caregiver's (mother/father) interaction with the child, the regulation of emotions develops more as a function of safe/secure attachment and parenting,” he adds.

What about expressing that rage?

How do you express your anger at something? Image Credit: Giphy

The expression of anger, however, is a different story: you can teach someone to calmly address a situation or be a volatile reaction to the issue. “Our behaviour constitutes a learnt response,” says Dr Saarloos. In the beginning, [we have] undifferentiated and primitive (crying/shouting, showing teeth, physical activity and fighting), the older and more socialised the individual becomes (in which cognitive and linguistic development are very important), the individual will learn more socioculturally acceptable forms of expressing anger, such as sarcasm, or venting the tension in other expressive ways (e.g. sports, arts, creativity, etc), or [dealing with it through] diplomacy and making concessions.

Our behaviour constitutes a learnt response.

- Dr Fabian Saarloos, Clinical and Health Psychologist at German Neuroscience Center

What happens to your body when you are angry?

Iva Vukusic, clinical psychologist at LifeWorks Holistic Counselling, explains that in order to deal with obstacles, whether real or perceived, the human body begins to take certain remedial measures. “Neurotransmitters and hormones trigger faster heart rates, raise in blood pressure and increased breathing rate. As blood rush to the limbs and extremities, the body feels pumped with energy. [The] body’s muscles tense up, one may become restless and the face may flush. The attention is likely to narrow down on the potential threat.”

How do you know you have a problem?

The first thing to ask yourself is: Are people avoiding you? Short bursts of frequent anger may result in isolation. But it will begin with people noticing your ‘snappiness’. “[An] angry person behaves overly aggressive, whether it is manifested overtly or passive-aggressively,” says Vukusic.

[An] angry person behaves overly aggressive, whether it is manifested overtly or passive-aggressively

- Iva Vukusic, clinical psychologist at LifeWorks Holistic Counselling

Also, your anger may be keeping you up at night. “It can even by manifested through physical symptoms like pain in some part of the body or insomnia,” she explains.

What could be triggering the anger?

Injustice, incompetence and feeling disrespected are three categories that can make a person very, very angry, says Dr Annette Schonder, American Certified Psychologist, Clinical Counsellor, Marriage Counsellor and Hypnotherapist.

What's the trigger? Image Credit: Giphy

Plus anger can manifest as a substitute for other emotions. There is the agitated depression syndrome -“when we treat the depression, the agitation goes away too.”

Treatment then, explains Dr Schonder “is an act of investigation and then intuitively drawing a pool of thought and behaviour and therapy to see what the client needs to do”.

Being away from family puts a lot of pressure on couples here... A lot of people are able to afford help at home, but actual emotional support is not here.

- Hanan Nagi, MA HRM, CEO of HNI,

Hanan Nagi, MA HRM, CEO of HNI, says in the UAE, which is a melting pot of nationalities, expats may go through a cycle of adjustment. "Also people newly moved to the UAE, who have never travelled before, can find it very stressful, dealing with such a cosmopolitan place, people from different nationalities, different religions and all of a sudden they have to deal with all of that. So at least in the beginning they feel frustrated and angry – culture shock – It’s a cycle people go through. Eventually they come out of it and adapt to the new environment," she says.

She also points to isolation as a cause of frustration. "Being away from family puts a lot of pressure on couples here... A lot of people are able to afford help at home, but actual emotional support is not here."

Treatment is an act of investigation and then intuitively drawing a pool of thought and behaviour and therapy to see what the client needs to do

- Dr Annette Schonder, American Certified Psychologist, Clinical Counsellor, Marriage Counsellor and Hypnotherapist.

"Language could be another issue. People who cannot converse with another because of language may find themselves frustrated too," she explains.

Practical tips for practical problems

Adam Zargar, Director and Lead Coach at UAECoaching, says while group therapy can help a person manage their anger, he finds one-on-one sessions particularly useful in figuring out the root cause of the anger-laced behaviour.

Zargar lists having the following tools in your arsenal to keep yourself in a good space.

Try to look at things from another person’s point of view: When faced with conflict, “listen to their [the opposition’s] feelings, their thoughts, without judgement. Give that space. What that does is it calms what I call the chimpanzee mind down, it calms that emotional reaction down and you go into the logical viewpoint. So you’ve give that pause. And you’ve got to remember, everyone’s got a map of the world that is different. So when you understand that you are more open to acceptance.”

Give it a positive twist. Even if your reason isn’t correct, it’ll take you to a more forgiving space. Let’s take an example - road rage. Instead of going someone is pushing right in front of me and someone’s right behind my car, what’s the reason they are doing it [being in such a rush]? And even if it’s not true, it could be the wife’s pregnant, they’ve got to get to the hospital, they are late for a meeting….what that does is it puts the other viewpoint there, and again it calms you down and helps you look at another situation.

We all need some 'me time' Image Credit: Giphy

You need that selfish time to be selfless to people. “Another way is literally have some me-time. Please who have anger management issues generally are juggling a lot of different things and are normally holding a bit of resentment because they see that a lot of people have the time to themselves but they don’t. But actually, that’s under our control. It’s that time that creates that balance for you that is going to help you with your emotions. When you are happy, you’ve the balance, you’ve got the energy to be more patient and understanding with people.

Imagine that someone is speaking to me - it’s just meaningless data to my brain - let’s call it unconscious mind - and I put in my belief, based on my backstory, based on my need, based on the questions I asked myself all of that plus what you are feeling in the day - will delete, store and generalise the data. They get a meaning from you.

- Adam Zargar, Director and Lead Coach at UAECoaching

Say goodbye to the noise. “When you have anger, it’s inside of you; you can’t blame other people for that. Imagine that someone is speaking to me - it’s just meaningless data to my brain - let’s call it unconscious mind - and I put in my belief, based on my backstory, based on my need, based on the questions I asked myself all of that plus what you are feeling in the day - will delete, store and generalise the data. They get a meaning from you.”

If you find yourself using absolutes, ‘always, forever, never’, question the verity of it, and then pose the opposing thought as a question. For instance, if someone says, ‘this always happens to me’…ask them to think of a similar situation where it did not happen.

Try the WISH method. When you do/say ___ it makes me feel ____, so what’s your suggestion? And how does that make you feel? Just with that you are not being passive, you are not being aggressive, you are being confident and you are taking ownership of your feelings and this is very important with any anger management or conflict.

Another thing that may help is hypnosis. “Generally speaking, hypnosis is always a great tool to offload negative emotions like anger, sadness,” says Dr Schonder. “Hypnotherapy delves into the unconscious mind, and we can address the anger too. One simple thing is to first offload the anger and then trying to target areas that trigger anger.”

Can cognitive therapy help?

Dr Schonder says, “There are many different approaches, many different therapies that are labelled in different ways, but at the end of the day I think we are all doing the same thing, we are trying to facilitate that change that people want to make.” And one of the things she points to is cognitive behavioral therapy, which is changing how we think and just using cognitive tools to manage anger. So it’s a new way of thinking when you are in an angry situation.”