Forensic Psych

Managing Anger: Anger is a Choice

This is a paper I wrote based on 3 interviews I did about anger, aggression, and anger management. As always, this is my work so please do not steal. Thank you! There were no outside references for this paper.

Managing Anger: Aggression Is a Choice

            As I interviewed three people on their beliefs about aggressive behavior and how they handled their anger management style, I was struck at how similar they all believed, but how differently they handled their own anger. Every one of my three subjects, who I will call “Max,” “Lynne,” and “Robin,” said that they believed that people were fundamentally good, but that a person’s environment helps shape who they are. They also told me as a whole that they believed that they each had some aggressive tendencies. I know all three of these people quite well and I do not agree that they are aggressive. I asked each of them how they would define aggression and none of them seemed to believe that aggression was only about physical violence or desire to harm someone else. Aggression is generally defined as an intentional action that is meant to cause physical or psychological harm. My interview subjects suggested that aggression was when people over-exerted themselves, used force to get their way, or attempted to hit another person. The consensus was that aggression could be a number of things. Based on all of these definitions, none of these three individuals are aggressive. However, they can get angry, as any human can, and I discussed this with them. I would like to discuss two of my interview subjects and reflect on their anger management styles.

Max told me that he believed he had some aggressive tendencies, but overall he is not an aggressive person. He also mentioned that he does get angry or frustrated easily, but he believes he is a rather patient person nonetheless. He finds himself more easily angered or frustrated at the end of the day or at the end of the week because of the emotions he holds in throughout that time period. He does not take his anger out on others. When Max is angry or frustrated, he becomes quiet, goes to the gym to work out, vents to someone, or goes to sleep. When he does vent, he waits until he is ready so he does not say harmful things. Max believes that his anger management is a learned coping skill from his mother and father and that he has handled his anger in this way for a long time. What is interesting about the way that Max handles his anger is that he handles it in such different ways. I am curious as to how he decides whether or not he goes to the gym or if he sleeps or if he verbally vents his problems to another person. Does each situation warrant a different response? His methods for handling anger are very good methods, though, because they are not aggressive or violent. He has developed passive coping skills rather than lashing out. This is actually quite a good thing. Many people say harmful things when they are angry, so when Max stays quiet it is a useful way to gather his thoughts and to keep cool when angered. However, his silence could frustrate or anger others. While Max is trying to be quiet, some people could believe that he is being stubborn and ridiculous when he is just simply trying to keep calm and stay rational. He may want to make sure he at least informs people that he needs a minute so that others do not also get frustrated.

By working out Max is also handling his anger well. He is reducing the tension that anger causes him by lifting weights or running. When the tension is reduced, he is most likely calmer and will be able to think straighter. When anger rises up within me personally, it is a very tense feeling in my muscles and when I can release that tension I feel much better. When Max is working out, he is releasing all of that stress and tension that has built up. This is a much healthier way of handling his anger because he is getting exercise that his body needs, and he is not taking out this built-up tension on another individual. If Max has aggressive tendencies, I do not see them in his responses or from my personal experience with him. He shows signs of wanting to be calm before addressing the issue behind his anger and he wants to keep quiet in order to avoid verbally hurting someone. Instead of taking out his anger on another person or on an animal, he goes to the gym to work it off. There is no intent to harm anyone physically or psychologically. I would suggest that he exercise in the evenings and especially on Friday evenings because those are the times when he feels most on edge. If he can work out some of the stress from his week before he has the chance to get angry, this would be to his benefit.

I would also like to discuss Lynne as well. Lynne is quite similar to Max in that she believes that she also has some aggressive tendencies and she likes to work with her hands and walk away when she has been angered or frustrated. The reason I would like to address Lynne is to give an example of how she handled a situation in which she got angry. Recently, Lynne had made a fresh batch of soup and her husband carelessly picked it up and half of the soup spilled out all over the inside of the oven. This made her angry, but instead of yelling or getting violent she simply walked away and went to look for something that she needed in her garage. On many occasions she will go out and trim tree limbs or go on walks in order to reduce the stress and tension these situations cause her. These are healthier ways to handle her anger because she held her tongue and kept from saying anything that could have hurt her husband. I do not believe that she is aggressive either because she has no intent to harm anyone verbally or physically, which is why she silently walks away elsewhere.

All three of my interviewees believed that an individual’s environment can shape his or her actions, but ultimately each person must decide how to act. They believed that people can change and can be whatever they want to be. Two of the three subjects grew up in abusive environments and yet, while having this predisposition, both of them now choose passive ways of managing their anger instead of lashing out verbally or physically and harming another person. Each person has some choice about how to handle their anger, and to me these two individuals are evidence of the ability to make this choice. They could choose to be aggressive, but they do not. Instead, they manage their anger. Ultimately, aggression is a choice.

 

 

Interview Questions

1. Are people fundamentally good or evil?

2. Is anyone born “evil” or are people born “good”?

3. Are people blank slates when they are born?

4. What are some of the key factors that determine someone’s “nature”?

5. Can people change?

6. Can people be anything that they want to be?

7. What would be your definition of aggressive behavior?

8. What do you believe are the main reasons or main causes of aggression?

9. Why do you believe that is the cause?

10. Do you believe you are aggressive or that you have aggressive tendencies?

11. Do you get angry or frustrated easily?

12. How do you handle this anger or frustration when/if it does happen?

13. Can you give me an example of a situation where you got angry and how you handled it?

14. How do people know when you are angry?

15. Do people see you as a patient person?

16. What kinds of things do you think you say that upset people when you are angry?

17. Is there a typical environment or time of day where you find yourself more easily angered or frustrated?

18. Have you always been this way?

Answers

“Robin”

1. Good

2. I assume you’re born “good” because things have to make you a bad person.

3. No, you have some kind of personality when you’re born.

4. Environment (people they’re around, the things, their experiences)

5. Yes

6. You can do whatever you want. Other people help shape you but you decided what to do with what you’ve experienced. It’s ultimately you who decides how you will be.

7. Anything that you’re over exert themselves and they are really into stuff/intense about things.

8. Physical things can cause you to be more aggressive than other people and it also has something to do with your personality.

9. Physical things can be wrong with you and cause you to be aggressive. Things (who you know, how you act b/c you know those people) effect how you act.

10. Everyone is aggressive about something. I guess there’s probably something I am aggressive about.

11. No

12. I stop talking and think through my issues. I don’t blurt it out or talk to anyone. Sometimes I cry.

13. I normally don’t get very angry, just a little annoyed. I can’t think of an example.

14. Because I don’t talk to them. Facial expressions.

15. I think so.

16. If I do say something, it’s a dig at them even though it’s not really on purpose. Not saying anything may upset people too, though.

17. I usually only get angry when I’m stressed out.

18. I guess so. I think I’ve always been quiet and just dealt with it. I’ve never yelled or anything like that that I can remember.

“Max”

1. Fundamentally good

2. Some people are born evil.

3. No. Through conditioning…they can be taught even in the womb, like when mothers play music, etc.

4. Morals and values.

5. If they are willing, yes.

6. Certainly.

7. When you try to forcefully get your way. Unable to vocalize wants and needs.

8. Fear of the unknown/rejection, etc. Being in control. Fear mainly.

9. Because anger is a secondary emotion and it is always fueled by another emotion.

10. Currently not aggressive, but I do have aggressive tendencies.

11. Yes

12. I verbally vent, work out, or sleep.

13. I was angry at work due to a misunderstanding. I stayed in my beliefs in the situation and didn’t let the other person take power over my emotions.

14. My skin turns green and I get really big muscles…..just kidding…I get quiet and I start really not wanting to talk to people

15. Yes, on some things. I am patient when I am the only one doing the job.

16.  I am quiet until I am ready to talk. I choose my words instead of blurting out.

17. The end of the day or end of the week due to all the emotions that I have held in.

18. It has been a learned coping skill for sure. My father was like this and my mother was the quiet one.

“Lynne”

1. Good

2. We’re all born sinners, but I think that people are born “good” because I can’t say people are “evil.”

3. Yes, pretty much.

4. Their environment

5. Yes

6. Yes

7. Aggressive to me is someone who yells or tries to stick their hands in your faces. Lots of things can be aggressive. Like if someone takes a swing at you, etc.

8. Not enough sleep, having an argument with friend/family/boss/coworker, environment (if they are treated aggressively within family, they have a tendency to treat others the same way)

9. Because if I go without sleep or have an argument, it tends to put me in more of an aggressive mood. Especially in traffic!

10.  Yes

11. Yes, especially in traffic. But, I’m much better than I used to be!

12. If it is face to face, I usually walk away. I go out and work very hard with my hands, I clean…I work it off until I calm down. Sometimes I use breathing techniques too: long breaths to help me calm down.

13. My husband spilling soup in the bottom of the oven. I walked outside into the cool air and looked for something in the garage.

14. I’m sure it comes across my face. When I walk away or get busy suddenly are usually pretty good signs too.

15. Some people would say yes. I guess but I don’t know. I have to have a pretty good amount of patience with the job that I do.

16. I don’t know. I’m sure there are, but I don’t any particular thing.

17. No, there’s no typical time of the day. When I am in traffic I get irritated really quickly.

18. I’ve mellowed out with age. But, I’ve always had some aggressive tendencies.

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