What is Anger? How is it Different From Irritability, Rage and Wrath?

Anger has been defined in many different ways. Most definitions have one thing in common: that anger is a signal or it is a response.

Before we dig further into the topic, it would be appropriate to look in to a few definitions by some of the most famous authors on the subject.

Harriet Lerner wrote a famous book entitled “The Dance of Anger” which has become a classic on the topic. She says:

“Anger is signal, and one worth listening to. Our anger may be a message that we are being hurt, that our rights are being violated, that our needs or wants are not being adequately met, or simply that something is not right.”

The American fiction writer Louis L’Amour says:

“Anger is a killing thing: It kills the man who angers-for each rage leaves him less than he had seen before- it takes something from him.”

Mike Fisher, the founder of the British Association of Anger Management (BAAM), says:

The Mental Health Foundation defines anger as:

“Anger is one of the most basic human emotions. It is a physical and mental response to a threat or to harm done in the past. Anger takes many different forms from irritation to blinding rage or resentment that festers over many years.”

“Anger is a feeling. It is just like any other feeling like sadness, joy, excitement etc. we are born with it.”

Roger Koster defines anger as:

“Anger is a response to a perceived threat – past, present or future.”

According to its dictionary definition anger is strong feeling of displeasure aroused by wrath or wrong done. It is a response to threat or fear or of being wronged or response to some unfair treatment.

Let Us Analyze the Definitions

In order to understand anger, let us break the definitions in to parts and look at each part separately. We will take parts from various definitions so that we can form a picture of the whole thing.

1. Anger is a Response

Response is a reaction to be alert to some external threat. In other words response is a reaction to something which may be happening around us. This means that when feel angry we are reactive rather than proactive.

2. Anger is a Signal

It is a signal to the brain that something is wrong outside and that we need to be ready for it. The brain in turns forces us to react in a certain manner to cope with the situation. Anger is like a red button on the dashboard of the car signaling that something is wrong and that needs to be fixed. Hence Harriet Lerner in her definition asserts that that it is something worth listening to.

3. Anger is a Feeling

Mike Fisher asserts that it is a natural feeling like other feelings of sadness, happiness, excitement etc. that we are born with. That means we cannot avoid anger altogether. We can manage it but cannot stop it completely.

4. Anger is Harmful

There is a lot of discussion and research on the dangers of being angry. However, not all anger is bad as we shall see later. Generally speaking anger is a negative emotion unless it is positively channeled and directed at something constructive. Or we can put this way that the harm of anger can be avoided when it is managed the right way.

5. All Anger is Not the Same

Anger can be of different types. It can vary in nature. It can be destructive. It can be constructive. It can be active, it can be passive.
Anger also varies in degree. It can be mild, moderate or intensive. It is easier to control mild or moderate anger. Intensive anger turns in to aggression and needs more attention.

Anger and Rage

When the response to a certain situation becomes inappropriate, this may be termed as rage. Rage is actually an intense form of anger which expresses itself in the form of an inappropriate response. Anger can be mild and positive, rage is not.
When we hear about road rage, the concept becomes clear.

Anger and Wrath

Both are the same feelings but the word wrath is often associated with intense anger. It is like rage. Other words used for wrath are outrage and fury.

Anger and Irritability

According to Dr. Jane Mountain, anger has a specific target while irritability has no focus.
Dr. William Davies thinks that “irritability is unjustified negative response to a situation” That means that irritability is always over reacting on some minor issues.

Dr. William gives two examples to explain the difference between anger and irritability. He says that if someone leaves a door open which otherwise should have been closed, and one shows a response that is bigger than the situation (unjustified) then this is irritability.

However, if some breaks your car windows to steal something, the response in this case may be termed as anger.

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