The main causes of anger
According to the Cognitive Behavior Theory, anger is a consequence of many causes
such as cognitive, social/or behavioral models that we have learned from others,
the lack of social skills and problem solving strategies, and several biological
factors. The main cause of anger is represented by our irrational perceptions
and evaluations of situations when our rights and goals are apparently broken.
Put in simpler terms, thoughts are the underlying factor of anger.
According to the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), introduced
in 1955 by Albert Ellis, irrational evaluative beliefs such as "Things
must be the way I want, or "Others must do what I tell them to do,
combined with a low-frustration tolerance (LFT) (e.g. "if they dont
do it I can't stand it) cause anger and lead to aggressive behavior. To
describe a belief as self-defeating or irrational is to say that:
It distorts reality (it is a misinterpretation of the reality) or it
involves some illogical ways of evaluating yourself, others, and the world around
you: awfulising, cant-stand-it-itis, demanding and people-rating;
It prevents you from achieving your goals and purposes;
It creates extreme emotions which persist, cause distress, and immobilize;
It leads to behaviors that may harm yourself, others, and your life in
On the other hand, by disputing these irrational beliefs we can
forcefully replace them with rational but irritating beliefs. Such rational
opinions are signaled by behaviors indicating preferences for certain outcomes
(I prefer others to do what I tell them to do but they do not have to comply
to my request) and high tolerance to frustration (I can tolerate these situations
or this state). A belief is rational when:
It is based on reality;
It emphasizes taking things as they really are, keeping their badness
in perspective, tolerating frustration and discomfort, preferring rather than
demanding, and self-acceptance;
It usually leads to goal achievement and personal satisfaction;
It creates emotions you can handle;
It helps you behave in ways that fit your goals and ensure survival.
We are not talking about the so-called "positive thinking". Rational
thinking is realistic. It is concerned with facts - the real world - rather
than subjective opinions or wishful thinking. Realistic thinking leads to realistic
emotions. Negative feelings are not always bad for you. Neither are all positive
feelings beneficial. Feeling happy when someone you love has died, for example,
may hinder you from grieving properly. On the other hand, to be unconcerned
in the face of real danger could put your survival at risk. Realistic thinking
avoids exaggerations of both kinds - negative and positive.
People with anger problems often have simple explanations for
their problems - they believe that other people cause their emotional upsets.
However, this approach raises two questions:
How can an external event create an internal reaction?
Why is it that one person can be disappointed but calm in the face of
a circumstance to which another reacts with rage?
Events and circumstances alone do not trigger anger. This feeling
is a direct consequence of how people perceive reality. Experts have identified
four types of thinking that typically lead to dysfunctional anger:
1. Inferential distortions such as mind-reading, fortune-telling,
filtering, and emotional reasoning lead people into misinterpreting the facts
and thereby classifying normal events as goal-threatening. People affected by
such distortions are more prone than others to interpret events or other people's
actions as threats to their goal achievement or as attacks to their dignity,
rules or property. Such distortions result in increased levels of irritation
and/or frustration and ultimately lead to dysfunctional anger. Misinterpretations
are followed by self-defeating evaluations.
2. Awfulising and discomfort-intolerance (often called
Anger frequently results from anxiety and violence often represents an attempt
to ward off perceived threats. REBT suggests that such threats may be of two
perceived threats to well-being (discomfort anxiety);
perceived threats to self-image (ego anxiety).
3. Expectations held as demands.
Demands typically lead to low-frustration tolerance - a key cause of dysfunctional
anger. This kind of behavior can manifest itself in different ways, such as:
a tendency to moralize people on how they 'should or 'should not
the presence of a deeply rooted belief that the world or ones circumstances
'have to or 'need to be exactly as expected.
4. Global rating of other people.
Labeling a person as a 'bitch, 'bastard, or applying her/him some
other all-encompassing makes it easier to be angry with that person.
Anger management books