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Anger: A Valuable Source of Information

19 August 2010

± minute read

    Anger: A Valuable Source of Information
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Have you ever found yourself feeling angry after attending a pointless meeting, being caught in a traffic jam or because the power went out just as you were about to watch a World Cup Football match? We all experience anger, caused by different triggers and experienced at different levels of intensity, but underlying each event triggering anger is a theme. Research by Paul Ekman suggests that there is a very simple reason for experiencing anger: it is because something got in the way of what you wanted. Experiencing emotion tells ‘us’ as well as ‘others’ something about our experience in a particular moment. So if someone cuts in front of you in a queue at a store, or skips the queue at a 4-way stop (I am sure you can list many examples which have a specific meaning to you), you are likely to experience anger because someone or something got in the way of what you want. This sounds primal, but through years of human existence this emotion has helped us to mobilise or gear ourselves up to meet the challenges of life influencing the way we think and the way we behave. There is also research that suggests there are universal emotions (across cultures) which are expressed through facial expressions. So no matter where you are in the world, narrowed eyes, flared nose, clenched teeth and compressed lips usually indicate that someone is angry (Ekman, 2003). What does this mean for you? Well emotion communicates valuable information to both ourselves and others which if you understand can help you to create self- as well as interpersonal awareness regarding your interactions with others. The next time you feel angry ask yourself: what is it that you wanted and what/who got in your way? This will help to contextualise why you are experiencing anger. Also, look out for the signals, specifically your facial expressions. This will quickly remind you what you are communicating especially if you are trying to hide your anger from others. To effectively manage your interpersonal interactions it may be worthwhile to ask yourself other questions such as: is it worthwhile based on what I know to remain angry? Could I do without it (whatever it is that you wanted)? If I really need it, is anger going to aid me in getting what I want? Other emotions such as being happy, sad, scared, surprised, disgusted provide us with other valuable information which if we know and understand can help to make significant difference in how we manage ourselves in our interactions with other. Ekman, P. (2003). Emotions revealed: recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life. New York. Henry Holt & Company. Gareth Hallett JvR Consulting Psychologists

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