.What I Am Feeling
Below is an excerpt from an article by C. George Boeree of Shippensburg University where he does a spledid job of describing anger. I have placed his writing in italics and will have my comments about my own emotional state intersperced in "non-italic" letters. I am emotionally distraught at the moment because an elderly loved-one is quite sick. This person is sick but because of tests the "doctors" want this person to have, they are refusing to offer any treatment to alleviate discomfort, pain, or suffering until after the tests. And yet, the tests themselves would in no way be altered by the administration of antibiotics and pain-relieving medication. It angers me.
Anger: A Phenomenological Sketch
By C. George Boeree, Ph.D.
The following phenomenological sketch is based on the work of several Qualitative Methods classes, using self-generated protocols and analyzed by means of the "workshop" method.
Precursors of anger.
It is common for us to be in some sort of "bad mood" prior to getting angry. Often, we have had a bad day, have been overworked or are overtired. Perhaps we aren't feeling well physically. Quite commonly, we have been drinking -- it seems clear that alcohol somehow opens us up to anger and other emotions, perhaps by loosening our usual control over ourselves.
My thoughts: All true, all true. But in case and point for today, the anger that I feel is due to fear and dread. A dear, dear relative is quite sick currently and I feel like hell because there isn't a damn thing I can do about it and the physicians who CAN do something about it are taking a "wait-and-see" attitude. It frustrates the living hell out of me.Another thing that can set us up for anger is our personalities or temperaments. Some people are predisposed towards dealing with all problems with anger. I find that people who are relatively self-centered (as opposed to "other-centered") fall into an emotional response to problems more easily than others.
My thoughts: I do not think I am self-centered, and I hope that I am not. I do feel predisposed towards anger at times but it seems to be when I feel I cannot control or help in a situation. I am saying I am damn angry at the moment, but I am only writing it here and feeling these emtions internally. I am not lashing out at others (although it is tempting to do so at the assinine doctors). I am simply angry and trying to cope with the helplessness I feel in not being able to help a loved one.
The environment or setting may play part as well. Certain settings are more conducive to anger than others: If things are noisy, confusing, or exiting in general; if you are a witness to anger or aggression; if you're in a place even associated with anger or aggression; if anger is in some way encouraged....
Mood, personality, and setting, while important variables, are not essential to anger. However, a mood based on internal problems or other problems can become anger when triggered by some small but immediate problem. When this happens, we often notice that "that's not what you're really angry about," i.e. the small problem isn't the real one.
Words used to describe the "triggers" of anger include being wronged, lack of justice, betrayal, mistreatment, resentment, being dumped on, having one's space or person invaded, having social norms violated, reputation hurt, being made to feel helpless, frustration, blocking of goals, lack of control, and so on.
My thoughts: Yes... I have experienced all those triggers today - being wronged... it ticks me off that I cannot get a doctor to resolve this medical issue now before it becomes life threatening, a severe lack of justice... I feel the injustice is in not being able to get a doctor to listen, betrayal... doctors are supposed to care, mistreatment... my elderly relative should not have to go through this pain because of a doctor not giving appropriate treatment, resentment... at medical personell, being dumped upon... resenting that I am the one who must always work through this person's many illnesses, but feeling guilty for feeling that emotion, but also being angry that other family members do not help enough, having one's personal space invaded.... it effects my every waking moment, having social norms violated... the normal routine is destroyed until the problem is resolved, reputation hurt.... I cannot concentrate on work or anything other than my worries and concerns about my elderly relative, made to feel helpless... pretty obviously my whole state of being at the moment, frustration.... again, ditto.... my whole state of being, blocking of goals... what, goals are a thing of the past it seems, lack of control... yes, 100%.The commonality (essence) among all these events is that there has been a violation of expectations, of the order of your reality, especially in reference to one's personal order, i.e. one's identity. In other words, we respond to a situation with a sense that this shouldn't be happening, especially not to me. There is a certain way things should be: I have rights, I have my pride, my reputation; what I do is my business, I should be able to complete it, it should work out as I expected it would; this is the way things are done in this society, and certain variations introduce chaos and cannot be permitted; the world has a certain lawfulness to it, including perhaps a justice that is above any merely social law, and you or this event violates that lawfulness.
My thoughts: I cannot state my own emotional construct any better than that above. I want to run, kicking and hollering. I want to punch my fist through walls, I want to take a hammer and destroy something. I will not do any of these things, but it is how I feel at the moment. It is clear, though, that not everyone responds to these situations with anger. We might also feel fear, and run away, or sadness and make an effort at adjusting ourselves to the violation.
My thoughts: Yes, I feel all of those things. I feel the fear, the desire to run away, the anger, the saddness.... the violation... I feel them all simultaneously.There is good reason to believe that, if we look carefully, anger is not the first feeling we have, that some other feelings come before it. First comes a distressed awareness of things being out-of-joint. Anxiety might be a good word for it. It is also a possibility that anger comes before sadness, that even those of us who readily accept things and learn to live with them have some experience of anger before we accept. So, one thing that distinguishes anger from other responses to problems might be its position, i.e. second.
More concretely, anger involves an active response to the problem. Anger sees the problem as "out there" rather than "in here," and it sees it as something to be confronted, rather than run away from.
Although most of our anger comes from people, we can become angry at just about anything. We can become angry at things, such as when we have a flat tire. It prevents us from doing what we want, it takes away our control of our own lives, and therefore makes us angry.
We can also become angry at ourselves, as when we do something stupid. You can only do this when you can separate yourself as victim from yourself as cause, i.e. if you can "externalize" one part of you, so that you can blame "it" without acknowledging your own need to adapt. It's always a "stupid mistake." If you push someone who is angry at themselves, they will quickly become angry at you. If it is fully accepted, it becomes sadness instead.
We also experience vicarious anger, that is, we get angry at things that happen to others, even when these things don't impact on us. This may be just a matter of, again our own sense of justice being violated; it may also be due to our ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes (sympathy, empathy, compassion...).
One person put it nicely: He said that anger comes from your soul, i.e. from your identity, from who you are. Despite all the physical and behavioral effects so easily associated with anger, it is basically "from your soul."
The bodily correlates of anger are clear, even when we are only a little angry. The heart rate changes, predominantly upwards, and the heartbeat seems louder. Breathing is labored and faster. The hairs on the body often stand up, giving us "gooseflesh." The body, and especially the face, tend to feel hot, flushed, and we may redden. We may feel light-headed, or that our blood has collected in our heads. Our skin, especially the hands, can become clammy. Our eyes may tear. We tend to get a light (and sometimes severe) stomach upset,olften described as "a sinking feeling." Our mouths and throats often seem dry, and our throats feel constricted.
Our muscles become tensed. This is often felt as a build-up of pressure, a feeling like we are about to explode. We may become "hyperactive," pacing, touching and handling objects restlessly, grinding our teeth, clenching our fists, tapping our feet. Our speech tends to become louder and faster.
All this tension can make us tired, give us headaches, neckaches, backaches, and the like, especially if we are "holding it in." But generally, we feel as if we have a great abundance of physical energy, as if we were stronger than usual.
We also become hyperalert, at least to events relevant to our anger. That is, we are ready, or set, to perceive some things and not others. Our attention is, of course, focussed on the object of our anger, as if it were likely to be a source of further trouble. It has become dangerous.
We also focus on the anger itself, dwelling on it. Our thoughts spin, "feeding" it by recalling other injustices. It has a "snowballing" aspect to it, with a real sense of loss of control. The anger runs us, not the other way around. We are "consumed" by it, it "eats" at us.
There is a sense of the animal in us when we are angry. It has an reflexive or instinctive quality to it, which we expect others to understand. If someone were to ask us, especially while we were angry, why we were angry, we tend to be put off: Wouldn't anyone get angry in this circumstance? The anger is felt as a violation of a universal rule, not just our own particular need or desire. (Hence, it is very hard to reason with an angry person!)
Our focus is narrowed, like tunnel vision. The rest of the world "vanishes" or at least becomes insignificant. If the world -- especially other people, even friends -- forces itself on us, we address our anger at it as well. For example, if a friend tries to calm us down, we may push them away or tell them to shut up. We are not terribly tolerant. And we can't seem to find pleasure in anything.
We lose our perspective -- precisely what we need to regain control -- and begin to see the world as a hostile place, and life as intrinsically unfair. We may become paranoid and interpret all things through the anger. We "see red," see things as if they were too close, intruding on us.
With effort, we may gain some control, but it is difficult, and the anger is always underneath the control ("seething"). Any lapse of attention, and we are angry again. Sadly, at this time when we need our "coping strategies" the most, they are least available to us.
The essence of all this is that we feel as if a certain way of looking at things has been forced on us, that we must see things in this angry way. Anything that might lead us out of the anger is ignored or reinterpreted. We are not ourselves when we are angry.
There is a goal through all this: We desire to return a situation prior to the event that triggered our anger. Basically, this translates into an effort at removing or destroying the person, thing, or event, or anything that approximates removing or destroying, such as diminishing ("cutting him down to size," for example). But anything else is just a substitute. This desire is hard to satisfy: You just can't reverse time.
My thoughts: Yes. All of the above is true. I thought getting this down on paper might help. Thus far it has not. I am still angry as hell, scared as hell, and frustrated as hell. I truthfully hate everything at the moment.