What is the function of anger?


ANGER!! (Photo credit: Za3tOoOr!)



It is an instrument for attracting someone’s attention– like I yell at my dog to show my anger and startle it to keep it from eating my cat. I can show anger in lots of ways, such as a lawsuit, or removing property or damaging it, or physical aggression– though aggression (like hunting or ranching cattle) may not really involve any personal anger, right?



Angry Sphynx

Angry Sphynx (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Anger implies that I care about a particular target of the anger- a person or group or even some dog that threatens my cat. That also implies that I care about whatever is being defended or protected.




Maybe the threatening dog is one that I call “mine” and maybe not, but if I perceive that a dog is threatening a cat that I seek to protect, then anger is a predictable response. I could also try to distract the dog with a bribe (a treat), which serves the same function as anger- to interrupt the dog’s prior process.

So, why ever repress anger? Because sometimes it is ineffective or even dangerous.



postcard - Minor Threat - band sitting on stai...

postcard – Minor Threat – band sitting on stairs (b&w) – MTBWFELSS4IM (Photo credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL))

Sometimes a perceived threat is so great that, rather than attempt to attract attention, I prefer to avoid attention. So, I may feel the fear, feel the arousal of the impulse to protect (feel the anger), then I may consider that rather than interrupt a threat, I may seek to direct the threat toward another target (“yes, I played poorly today in the game, but Pat played even worse. We should target Pat for our rage, right everybody?”).

Biological Threat Reduction

Biological Threat Reduction (Photo credit: SandiaLabs)



I may seek to use humor to “de-escalate” the situation. I may look for ways to retreat rather than confront a perceived threat. Or, I may keep my anger and nurture it, considering ways that would be more effective of an attack than just an impulsive, open, direct confrontation. Maybe I can entrap someone or sabotage them… if I cannot simply escape.

Government a Threat?

Government a Threat? (Photo credit: Third Way)

What if being angry at someone is also a way of investigating whether I can trust them- whether they care about my interests? If it is possible that anger is functional, how could it be functional?

Two people in a heated argument about religion...

Two people in a heated argument about religion when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)







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