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Radio Interview: Dr. Stosny on Anger


Question: What makes an angry person?

Everyone gets angry occasionally. If you mean someone who is chronically angry or whose predominant emotional state is some form of anger, that is usually a person with a fragile ego, a sense of entitlement or privilege, and little compassion for others.

Question: Are angry people dangerous?

Anger prepares us to fight. In that sense we are all prepared to be dangerous when angry. But the vast majority of people are able to regulate aggressive impulses that accompany anger and are, therefore, not dangerous in most circumstances.

Question: Is anger controllable?

There is no such thing as uncontrollable anger.

Question: How much anger is acceptable?

Anger that devalues, demeans, or threatens is never acceptable. Beyond that the important question is this: “Is my anger helping me be the partner, parent, co-worker, and person I most want to be?” The answer to that is always no.

Question: Why are some people angrier than others?

Angry people sometimes have been hurt more than others and always have developed maladaptive ways of coping, namely an addiction to blame.

Question: How does a marriage suffer when the partner is an angry man?

Angry men can do more harm than angry women in a relationship even if there is no violence and the anger does not devalue or demean. The male anatomy – greater muscle mass and quicker reflexes in general and more flood flow and electrical activity in the muscles during anger arousal – evolved to enhance the physical threat of anger, because males are universally the primary protectors of social animals. At the very least, male anger breaks emotional connection and makes the partner feel isolated. Fear of isolation tends to be greater in females than in the males of all species of social animals.

Question: How can a wife control her partner’s anger?

You can do nothing to control another person’s anger. The best you can do is regulate your reactivity to it by seeing it as your partner’s bad reaction to his own vulnerability and not a rejection of you.

Question: Why do angry people not want to change?

Anger is an attribution of blame, so they usually feel that someone else is causing their problems. Most of the time they will not be motivated to change until they are threatened with loss of marriage, job, or freedom.

Question: Can you please provide some self-help tips to control anger?

The most effective anger regulation involves reconditioning the emotional system to regulate the perceptions of vulnerability and threat that cause anger. Reconditioning takes several week of practice. In the meantime, recognize that anger is not a power problem, but a self-value problem. When you are angry do something that will make you feel more valuable. Think of how you can improve the situation or your experience of it. Focus on understanding the other person’s perspective and working out a mutually beneficial solution.