What Happens When We get Angry

When we get angry, the heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone production increases, cortisol (the stress hormone) decreases, and the left hemisphere of the brain becomes more stimulated. This is indicated by a new investigation lead by scientists from the University of Valencia (UV) that analyses the changes in the brain’s cardiovascular, hormonal and asymmetric activation response when we get angry. 

“Inducing emotions generates profound changes in the autonomous nervous system, which controls the cardiovascular response, and also in the endocrine system. In addition, changes in cerebral activity also occur, especially in the frontal and temporal lobes”, Neus Herrero, main author of the study and researcher at UV, explains to SINC. 

The researchers induced anger in 30 men using the version that has been adapted to Spanish of the procedure “Anger Induction” (AI), consisting of 50 phrases in first person that reflect daily situations that provoke anger. Before and immediately after the inducement of anger they measured the heart rate and arterial tension, the levels of testosterone and cortisol, and the asymmetric activation of the brain (using the dichotic listening technique), the general state of mind and the subjective experience of the anger emotion. 

The results, published in the journal Hormones and Behavior, reveal that anger provokes profound changes in the state of mind of the subjects (“they felt angered and had a more negative state of mind”) and in different psychobiological parameters. There is an increase in heart rate, arterial tension and testosterone, but the cortisol level decreases. 

Asymmetries of brain activity

Nonetheless, “by focusing on the asymmetric brain activity of the frontal lobe that occurs when we experience emotions, there are two models that contradict the case of anger”, the researcher highlights. 

The first model, ‘of emotional valence’, suggests that the left frontal region of the brain is involved in experiencing positive emotions, whilst the right is more related to negative emotions. 

The second model, ‘of motivational direction’, shows that the left frontal region is involved in experiencing emotions related to closeness, whilst the right is associated with the emotions that provoke withdrawal. 

The positive emotions, like happiness, are usually associated to a motivation of closeness, and the negative ones, like fear and sadness, are characterised by a motivation of withdrawal. 

However, not all emotions behave in accordance with this connection. “The case of anger is unique because it is experienced as negative but, often, it evokes a motivation of closeness”, the expert explains. 

“When experiencing anger, we have observed in our study an increase in right ear advantage, that indicates a greater activation of the left hemisphere, which supports the model of motivational direction”, Herrero points out. In other words, when we get angry, our asymmetric cerebral response is measured by the motivation of closeness to the stimulus that causes us to be angry and not so much by the fact we consider this stimulus as negative: “Normally when we get angry we show a natural tendency to get closer to what made us angry to try to eliminate it”, he concludes. 

Every emotion is unique

This is the first general study on emotions and more specifically on anger that examines all these different psychobiological parameters (cardiovascular, hormonal response and asymmetric activation response of the brain) in a single investigation to study the changes caused by the inducement of anger. In addition the results of the study are along the same lines as previous investigations and defend what has been noted by Darwin: that the emotions, in this case anger, are accompanied by unique and specific (psychobiological) patterns for each emotion. 

References: Neus Herrero, Marien Gadea, Gabriel Rodríguez-Alarcón, Raúl Espert, Alicia Salvador. “What happens when we get angry? Hormonal, cardiovascular and asymmetrical brain responses”. Hormones and Behavior 57: 276, marzo de 2010. DOI:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.12.008 

Source: FECYT – Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Why We get Mad

Why We Get Mad

Dr. Jerry Deffenbacher, an anger researcher at Colorado State University, helped us answer that question in a 1996 book chapter, Cognitive-Behavioral Approaches to Anger Reduction, where he outlined a model of how and why we feel anger when we do.

In this article, he defined anger as

“an internal affective experience that may vary in intensity and chronicity and can refer both to the experience of the moment (state anger) and to the propensity to experience state anger across time and situations (trait and situation-specific anger)” (p. 33).

In other words, anger is an emotional experience that can be sparked by a variety of experience.  For example, he described four main types of provocations, what he calls “precipitants”:

  1. External situation: Being cut off while driving
  2. External situations that trigger memories: Being insulted may remind you of a time when you were insulted as a child.
  3. Internal states: Continuing to ruminate about an event well after it has happened.
  4. Immediate preanger state: What the person is feeling and thinking when the experience the precipitant.

Deffenbacher also explains that a person’s preanger state, which refers to both what the person is thinking and feeling at the time of the event and to his or her long-standing personality characteristics, influences the likelihood of getting angry.  For example, someone who is more narcissistic or close-minded tends to become angry more easily.  Likewise, when you feel tired, hungry, or are already frustrated, you are more likely to get angry.

Third, and probably most important is what Deffenbacher refers to as the appraisal process.  When we are faced with any sort of precipitant, we ask ourselves some questions: Was the event blameworthy? Was the event justified?   Should it have happened? Can I cope with it?  The answer to those questions predicts whether or not you get angry and how angry you get.

Negative and Positive emotions cannot co exist in our Mind

Dharmakīrti (ca. 7th century), was an Indian scholar and one of the Buddhist founders of Indian philosophical logic. He was one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism, according to which the only items considered to exist are momentary Buddhist atoms and states of consciousness . When it comes to the mind Dharmakriti said ” The nature of this mind is clear light. Defilements are Superficial”

What it means is that the mind is pure in its form. All other afflictive emotions like Lust, Greed, Anger, Hatred are just emotions which are formed based on our ignorance that our presence in this world is permanent. The mind in its pure form is referred by Dharmakriti as mind of clear light.. When we are born, we are enlightened by nature and equipped with the tools to reach the state of complete harmony of mind. We also have some level of compassion and the intelligence that distinguishes between favorable and unfavorable. If these elements of the mind can be developed then this can become the basis of transformation.

The problem with negative emotions is there is no external means of removing it, unlike a thorn which pierces you. To remove the negative motions , we must clearly see the mistaken beliefs on which is it based. Once we learn these negative emotions do not agree with our basic mental well being, then we can develop antidotes to remove them.

All the negative emotions like Lust, Greed, Hatred need conditions to exist. For e.g. When you sneeze right now, you cannot be angry. Once the condition does not exist, then there will be no negative emotions. The fact remains that negative attitudes or emotions can be separated from the main mind.

At times we might hold on to negative emotions like anger and attachment and other times our mind manifests into detachment and contentment. We cannot feel positive and negative emotions to an object or person at the same time. We have these feelings at different times and even in rapid succession but never at the same time. This clearly shows that positive and negative emotions cannot coexist. They oppose each other and when one increases in strength other decreases.

Does Anger As an Emotion Help

When it comes to emotions there are tow types. One which needs to be expressed for e.g. Depression. If you dont express it or speak to some one about it then it leads to sadness and increases our tendency to do horrible things to our self. The other type of emotion is Anger, Attachment, Lust, Greed which has the tendency to increase when expressed.

If you are angry today on something, then the anger is more likely to increease over a period of time. But when you try to redce anger , it can only weakem. Giving anger the weopon of words and actions is like giving a naughty child some waste paper and matches. If the waste paper is lit then the resultant fire can spread and cause lot of damage. It is the similar case with anger, the fire it causes when armed with words can quickly be out of control. The only way to control your anger is to ask yourself ” What is the value of anger as compared to tolerance and compassion?”

If we dont consider the destruction emotions like anger can cause, then it is most likely to feed on our mind and cause damages for which we can only regret later. If this emotion is not reflected upon then your mind will thin that it is normal to get angry and will not make an effort to control it.

On the other hand those who consider Anger as a negative emotion takes action to reduce it or control it. Sometime Anger might win, but deep down people will try to resist its negative effects. Their inner tolerance will help them reduce the effects, because of their constant awareness that anger is negative emotion.

If you dwell on it, then you will understand Anger has no use. If we get angry with someone what is the result/. Is it good for you or the other person?.The fact remains the Anger harms you more than it does good for you. Another fact is that it is the people who are close to you who have to bear the brunt of your angry behavior.

On the other hand when an unfortunate event occurs which can be handled by you without getting angry then your own being and world becomes better. So anger is many ways is useless. You may speak a harsh word or so to prevent people from doing something, but Anger should not be the primary motive for it. Actions stemming from only Anger has no use in this world.

What is important to note is that anger is a state of mind based on exaggeration of the the object , person or situation in from of you. When you get angry , you make it uncomfortable to those in front of you and those around you. And if that anger gets converted into action, then it can cause additional damage.

Hence anger should not have any place in your life as it can only lead to destruction. And the destruction is that of relationships and friendships. All the disturbances in this world come from the three destructive emotions of Lust, Hatred and Greed. It is better to avoid them.