I’ve coupled anger and aggression, because anger is the emotion, which triggers aggression as an act. Anger is a feeling of extreme hostility toward someone or something. I see anger as extreme fear, which is violently projected outward. Anger is a temporary insanity, which isolates us not only from the facts but also from ourselves and from one another.
We’re never angry for the reason or at the person or thing we think we are. I, for instance, am always angry at myself for being afraid of circumstances and therefore feeling out of control, which has nothing to do with the person or thing at which I level my anger.
Unfortunately, this realization all too often follows my anger, which I’ve attempted to project onto someone or something else. I feel internal disharmony, which is fear of a circumstance in which I’m feeling out of control, and I’m angry about feeling afraid of the circumstance.
Unless I fully understand the above dynamic, I really think I’m angry for the reason and at the person or thing at which I level my anger. I therefore use my anger as a means of not having to deal with the circumstance I’m afraid of. Let’s suppose, for example, that I’m at a public meeting dealing with people from an agency who are presenting an issue of land-use planning and that I’m hearing things over which I have no control and with which I disagree. I get angry and start yelling. “You selfish, greedy bastards are out to rape the land, any idiot can see that! All you care about is the money!”
In the intensity of the emotion, I feel that I’m right in projecting my anger to those who seem to be in control, those who have “taken” control away from me. And in the grip of my anger, I’m unable to see beyond the end of my nose. Under such circumstances, I don’t perceive that I have a choice because I feel out of control, and I’m terrified of being out of control. So I’m really angry at myself for being out of control in the first place and being terrified in the second place.
Anger often translates into aggression, which, as I’m using it here, is the habit of launching attacks, of being hostile. If I show enough aggression toward the person or people I think I’m angry at, I’m coping with my fear by causing them to back away from me. Through aggression, I can avoid having to deal with “their kind,” which really means that I won’t have to deal with the circumstance in which I’m out of control and of which I’m afraid. But all I have really accomplished is to isolate myself from any understanding of the facts and from the people who are presenting them. If, on the other hand, I’d been patient, open-minded, and gently asked questions, then I may have been able to overcome my fear, because I would have found that there are no enemies out there—only other frightened people like me, people who may or may not have been able to answers to my questions.
Series on Resistance to Change:
Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.
This article is excerpted from my 1994 book, Sustainable Forestry: Philosophy, Science, and Economics. St. Lucie Press, Boca Raton, FL. 373 pp. It is updated in my 2012 book, Decision Making For A Sustainable Environment: A Systemic Approach. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL. If you want more information about this book, want to purchase it, or want to contact me—visit my website.